Government won’t ease strict tourist visa rules (Lead)

January 13th, 2011 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) The government has no intention of reviewing its strict visa rules aimed at preventing “misuse” of the tourist visa that stipulate that foreigners travelling to India have to give a two-month gap before they can re-enter the country.According to the latest home ministry circular issued last week, the home ministry has clarified that the visa rules were applicable to all foreigners travelling to India on tourist visa.

The clarification comes in the wake of tourist trades demanding review of the visa policy which they maintain is strangling the inflow of foreign tourists, particularly in Goa, a tourist state that has a repeat clientele.

Foreign tourists arriving in Goa usually make it their base for a period of five to six months and visit surrounding winter holiday destinations like Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia, before returning to Goa for the remainder of their holiday.

However, due to the tighter rules tourists are having to restructure their holiday plans by shortening their stay in Goa.

But the government says the new visa regime was aimed at curbing the misuse of tourist visa.

“It has come to the notice of the government that there has been abuse, misuse of tourist visa. With a view to curb the abuse, misuse of the tourist visa, (new) instructions have been issued imposing restrictions,” the new circular says.

However, the circular adds: “If any foreign national is required to visit the country again within a period of two months of his last departure (in emergency situations), (he or she) should obtain special permission from the mission concerned. It may be considered on merits of each case.”

The new visa rules allow foreigners — who after initial entry into India plan to visit another country on account of neighbourhood tourism related travel and re-enter India before finally exiting — to have two or three entries.

“But (this is) subject to their submission of a detailed itinerary and supporting documentation (ticket bookings).”

India issues tourist visas to a foreigner who does not have a residence or occupation in the country and whose sole objective of the visit India is recreation, sightseeing and casual visits to meet friends and relatives.

The government disallows other activities other than recreation on tourist visa.

“No other activity is permissible on a tourist visa. The tourist visa is non-extendable and non-convertible,” the order says.

A person holding a tourist visa cannot indulge in any business project and “if a person holding tourist visa is found to be involved in business activities or found working, action may be taken for visa violation”.

Foreigners who return regularly to India for onward medical treatment have been exempted from the two-month gap.

“For persons coming for medical treatment, there is a separate category of medical visa. Foreign nationals coming for medical treatment will have to come only on medical visa and not on tourist visa.”

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