Page last updated at 12:24 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

India visa move brings complaints

Indian flag
The new rules have not gone down well with many countries

India has tightened rules for long-term tourist visas, barring visitors from returning within two months of leaving.

Under previous rules, tourists on long-term visas had to leave the country every 180 days. Many simply paid brief visits to neighbouring countries.

Some countries have protested against the new rules, with the US saying they are being applied inconsistently.

India's move follows the arrest in the US of a man charged in connection with the 2008 Mumbai (Bombay) attacks.

David Headley, a Pakistani American, is said to have travelled to India several times last year to help identify targets for the attacks, which left more than 170 people dead.


India's new regulations effectively also make it much harder for people to use long-term tourists visas to work in the country.

Prior guidance and procedures that allowed re-entry to India after stays of up to 180 days are no longer in effect
US embassy in Delhi

The government has yet to formally announce or provide details of the new rules, but Home Minister P Chidambaram set out the case for tightening regulations on Tuesday.

"The gaps in the visa system have been exposed in a number of cases, the most notable among them being the case of David Headley. The compelling need to create a fool-proof system cannot be overstated," he said.

In a posting on its website, the US embassy in Delhi said the "new visa and registration regulations are being implemented inconsistently".

"Travellers have reported being denied re-entry after exiting India for business or family emergencies, or for tourist travel to nearby countries, even if their initial visit to India was for only a few days," the statement said.

Tourists in India
Many tourists say the two-month gap is too long

"The US mission has received confirmation that foreign passports are now stamped on exit to indicate that the bearer cannot re-enter India within two months of exit unless special permission is obtained from an Indian embassy, consulate, or high commission abroad, regardless of the validity of visa or length of stay in India."

On Tuesday, visiting British Business Secretary Lord Mandelson raised the issue with Mr Chidambaram.

"I can understand the motive for the new visa arrangements but we have to be careful not to make, create general restrictions," Lord Mandelson was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

"I think, for many tourists, a two-month gap is too big."

A spokeswoman at the British High Commission in Delhi said: "There is no real clarity over the details of the proposals or how they might be implemented. We understand that the Indian government is reconsidering its plans."

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