Archive for December 23, 2009
Britain and the US have lodged a diplomatic protest with India after the government in Delhi introduced rules barring tourists from returning to the country within two months of any visit. The new visa rules, which also apply to other foreign nationals, are apparently a reaction to the arrest in the US of a Mumbai terror suspect, David Coleman Headley, who had entered India on a multiple-entry visa. The British high commission in Delhi has urged the Indian government to rethink the policy, which is expected to hit tourists planning to use India as a base for touring the region. It will also be a blow to thousands of Britons living in India on long-term tourist visas. Many foreigners living in India prefer to use tourist visas rather than go through the complicated process of trying to secure a visa that would grant them the right to residency. Some apply for six-month tourist visas and then travel to nearby countries, such as Nepal, to renew them. Those on longer-term tourist visas, for five or 10 years, are also required to leave the country every 180 days and tend to fly out for a couple of days before returning. Under the new rules, that would no longer be an option. Many British passport holders with Indian origins use tourist visas to visit relatives in India rather than tackling the bureaucratic minefield involved in applying for a Person of Indian Origin card, which would allow them entry into the country. The Indian government has apparently sought to defuse the row by giving consular officials the power to grant exemptions in exceptional cases, although there is as yet no clarity on how that might be applied. Ironically, the clampdown comes as the country attempts to boost its tourism industry. Last week the home minister, P Chidambaram, announced the trial introduction of a visa on arrival scheme for citizens of Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Finland and said a country the size of India should be attracting at least 50 million visitors a year. About five million tourists visit India every year. A final draft of the visa regulations is expected to be issued next month but in the meantime a number of embassies in India have notified their citizens of the changes.
Canada has started issuing tourist visas at its embassy in Prague, as a result of which the Czechs travelling to Canada will no longer have to apply for visas via Vienna. The visa department is being opened in Prague almost half a year after the reintroduction of visas for Czechs by Canada in mid-July. Canada reimposed visa requirements on Czechs on July 14 because a high number of Czech citizens, mainly Romanies, applied for asylum after arriving in Canada. In Prague, Ottawa’s decision caused displeasure. The Czech Republic will continue calling on other EU countries to help it press on Canada that reintroduced visas for Czechs even after Canada opens a visa office in Prague. Canada has not stated so far when the visa would be lifted. The EU has threatened to introduce visas for Canadian diplomats unless Canada facilitates the issuing of visas for Czech citizens and sets clear conditions for the renewal of visa-free relations. Brussels set the end of 2009 as a deadline for Ottawa in this respect.