Indian business visitors seek end to ‘restrictive’ German visa policy

March 22nd, 2009 - 11:44 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Manik Mehta
Berlin, March 22 (IANS) Indian business visitors to Germany have called for a “level playing field” in visa arrangements between the two countries, complaining they are only issued visas for limited periods while German visitors to India are easily given long-term, multiple-entry visas.

“It’s an uneven playing field. Businesspeople from India can get five- or 10-year visas for the United States but they get visas for Germany for a limited period of time, usually a few days, within which they must complete their business and leave,” K. Sridharan, an executive of an Indian tour operating company, told IANS.

If the visitors cannot leave the country by the specified date because of some reason, they face all kinds of problems with German immigration officials, he added.

Sridharan’s call for creating a “level-playing field” was echoed by many Indians at the five-day International Tourism Bourse, the world’s largest tourism fair, in Berlin, which ended March 15. The demand comes as the growing number of Indian business visitors to Germany question why India issues long-term, multiple-entry visas to Germans when the facility is not reciprocated.

“The argument that India needs German tourists does not hold much water… India lacks the will to push the German side to be more accommodating to Indian visitors,” said Rajendra Patel, a businessman from Surat, who has visited Germany several times to attend various trade fairs.

“Many Indian businesspeople are even acquiring German corporate assets. The German authorities cannot treat all Indians as potential refugees who want to apply for asylum status in Germany,” said a Mumbai-based Indian businessman, who preferred to remain anonymous because of his “delicate business interests”.

Many Indian visitors complain that the German government perceives every Indian coming to the country as a potential illegal immigrant despite the visas being issued after a rigorous screening process, adding they feel humiliated at the high-handed manner in which German officials treat them, particularly at airports and border crossing points.

According to the Indian visitors, the problem lies partly with the Indian government’s “soft approach” on the issue, which has already been raised with the German government in various bilateral exchanges, including during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Germany nearly four years ago, but without success.

It is time India made another - and stronger - representation to the German government to relax its “restrictive” visa policy and allow Indian businesspeople to visit Germany as many times as their business requires, they added.

(Manik Mehta can be contacted at mehta7780@yahoo.com)

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