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Britain, US protest new Indian visa rules
London, Dec 22 (IANS):
Published on 22 Dec. 2009 11:49 PM IST
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Britain and the US have officially protested changes to India's visa regime that bar tourists from returning to the country within two months of a visit, a report said Tuesday. The new rules, which also apply to holders of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards and all foreigners, have prompted the US and Britain to lodge diplomatic protests, the Guardian reported. Britain has reportedly urged New Delhi to rethink the rules, which are said to be in response to the case surrounding suspected 26/11 terrorist David Headley, who made nine visits to India on a multi-entry business visa. A spokesman for the British High Commission in New Delhi said: "We have discussed this matter with the government of India. As yet there is no real clarity over the details of the proposals or of how they might be implemented. We understand that the Indian government is reconsidering its plans." "We shall keep a close eye on this as it develops because it has the potential to impact on a large number of British nationals." Although details of the plans are yet to be published, the paper said people of Indian origin living in Britain may be caught up in the rule change, as they will also be subject to the no-return-for-two-months rule. It said the New Delhi has apparently sought to defuse the row by giving its visa officers abroad the power to grant exemptions in exceptional cases, although there is as yet no clarity on how that might be applied. The final draft of the new 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. The Indian embassy in Berlin has also posted the rule on its website, noting that "a minimum gap of two months is mandatory between visits as tourists to India". The Guardian said the rules will affect Britons living in India on long-term tourist visas, who are currently allowed to stay for a maximum of 180 days at a stretch, and generally fly out for a couple of days at the end of the period in order to renew their visas. This will no longer be an option. Some British holders of long-term visas have found themselves stranded and unable to return to India after visiting neighbouring countries. The paper said India has also cracked down on thousands of business visa holders, informing them they must return to their home countries and prove that they meet much stricter criteria before new visas will be issued.

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