India tightens tourist visa rules

India tightens tourist visa rules

New Delhi: “India has tightened its rules for long-term tourist visas in a move that will hit thousands of foreigners living in the country or planning lengthy stays," a foreign ministry official said Wednesday.

Under previous rules, tourists on five- or 10-year visas were required to leave the country every 180 days. But many would simply fly to a neighbouring country such as Nepal for a brief stay before returning.

Now they will still face the same 180-day deadline, but will have to stay out of the country for two months before they can re-enter.

“We have changed the rules to prevent the misuse of the long-term tourist visa," a senior official at the foreign ministry said, asking not be named.

The new rules have been implemented since 4 November he said, although the US embassy in New Delhi said that the changes were being applied inconsistently and had caused problems for a number of its nationals.

In a posting on its website, the embassy detailed a number of tourists who had left the country to visit a neighbouring country for a holiday but who were then denied entry back into India.

“These new visa and registration regulations are being implemented inconsistently and are not finalized," the advisory stated.

Over 100,000 tourists apply for long-term visas a year, according to the foreign ministry.

Nationals from 14 countries are eligible for the visas and they are particularly used by US and British citizens who bypass the complicated process of acquiring a business or employment visa.

“We realised that most countries follow the two-month gap rule and India needs to do the same," the official said.

The ministry has made no change to short-term visa rules, which most visitors to the country use for their holidays, but it has recently tightened up business visa rules.

In October, India announced a crackdown on the misuse of business visas— short-term visas meant for a specific trip to India—which meant thousands of expatriate workers had to leave the country.

A final draft of the visa regulations for both long-term tourist visas and business visas is expected to be issued in December and will be made public by Indian embassies across the world.