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INDIA: Revised Tourist Visa Guidelines

The Ministry of Home Affairs recently revised the guidelines on tourist visas in a notification dated November 23, 2012, and published on December 4, 2012. The Indian government has lifted the two-month gap between two consecutive visits to India by foreign nationals. However, nationals of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Bangladesh, foreigners of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, and "stateless persons" are exempted from this new rule and the two-month gap rule will continue to apply to them.

The above exempted nationals will still need to apply for a re-entry visa if they wish to visit India within two months from the prior visa. This permit is granted only if the need is urgent, and not for business activities or employment or for pursuing studies/research. "Urgent" within the tourist visa category could mean something like coming back to look after a sick relative. It should be a compelling and emergent reason that requires the tourist to come back to India within two months. It will only be granted to one who has already received a tourist visa, has traveled to India, and now wishes to enter India again within two months as a tourist.

If the visa holder is traveling to neighboring countries of India for tourism on the same itinerary, no permit is needed as long as the trip follows the itinerary exactly. The visa holder must carry a copy of the itinerary to show the Immigration Officer.

The tourist visa restriction was introduced in November 2009 in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks when it was found that Pakistani American David Headley had breached security norms to visit India several times over a period of three to four years. A fall in tourist inflow led the government to rethink its decision and issue the new notification in December 2012.

In the order announcing this change, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated, "the provision relating to the two-month gap between two visits of a foreign national to India on a tourist visa has been reviewed by the government. It has now been decided…to lift the restriction of two-month gap on re-entry of foreign nationals coming to India."


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