The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has revised the tourist visa guidelines, following representations and objections from several quarters over the stringent tourist visa rules.
Those who raised objections included the tourism ministry, industry stakeholders, and diplomatic channels. The new visa guidelines gives reprieve to tourists visiting India. They can now re-enter the country three times within the visa period.
However, the cooling-off period of two months before a foreign tourist can be issued a new visa stays. But the restriction does not apply to foreign nationals coming on any other visa or People of Indian Origin (PIO) holding PIO or Overseas Citizenship of India cards.
The latest set of guidelines was issued by the MHA on April 26, asking the Indian missions abroad and the immigration authorities within the country for uniform implementation.
The P. Chidambaram-led home ministry had last year formulated “strict” visa rules for tourists after the role of terror suspect David Coleman Headley in Mumbai attacks came to light. The visa guidelines stipulated a cooling-off period of two months before a tourist could visit India again.
However, under the new guidelines, if a foreign national holding a tourist visa, after initial entry, plans to visit another country in the neighborhood and then wants to re-enter India within 60 days before finally exiting, he can do so up to three times.
This would help those tourists who plan to visit many countries using India as a transit point. Now, a tourist just needs to show his itinerary and ticket bookings to an Indian mission abroad, or if he/she had already been out of his/her country, then to the nearest Indian mission for availing facility of the three-time re-entry. The mission would issue an authorization to the tourist.
The revised rules even authorize the immigration authorities in the country to allow tourists to re-enter up to three times, even if they do not carry authorization by the Indian missions abroad. The tourists again need to show some documents supporting their travel plans and ticket bookings in different countries.
The visa rules also say the total period of stay during the three entries cannot exceed the stipulated period of 180 days or 90 days, as the case may be.
Coming back to the cooling off period of two months, the guidelines say if the tourist has availed the three re-entry chances or has completed the visa term, then there has to be a gap of two months from the date of final exit.
However, in emergency cases where the tourist needs to visit India within the cooling-off period, then he has to seek permission from the Indian missions abroad. The Indian missions can only issue a visa in emergencies such as death, serious illness in the family, non-availability of connecting flights, and on the basis of proper documentation. Even foreign regional registration offices can also allow entry in emergency situations.
Also, the Indian missions have been asked to be strict in granting a tourist visa for the purpose of recreation, sight-seeing, or casual visits. No other activity such as work or business is permitted on this visa.
Spouses or relatives of foreign nationals already on employment, or a business or research visa, can only be issued an X-visa and not the tourist visa. Similar rules will apply to PIO’s and foreign nationals married to Indians. They can only be granted an X-visa.