Tuesday, January 06, 2015

It's so easy for Indians to get a visa to come here, right?

And this is just the beginning...
I spent a slightly frustrating afternoon on Sunday, applying online for a visa to visit my family in Mumbai at the end of the month (this is, I acknowledge, surprisingly early for me to do this but that's Ros's influence for you...). A vast series of questions are asked, and data regarding my parents, my spouse, my job, where I've travelled in India (ever) and internationally (in the past ten years!) is required. It is, compared to most places where a visa is required, a bit of a marathon.

However, it is done, and now all I have to do is deliver the original form to London, with the right photographs, and a visa should be mine.

My frustration would have been much greater had it not been for the fact that I know what an Indian national has to do to get a visa to come here to make a similar trip. You can fill in the application form online. Unfortunately, you then need to supply;
  • passport
  • two photographs
  • evidence that you have enough money to support yourself during your trip, eg bank statements or payslips for the last six months
  • details of where you plan to stay and your travel plans
  • a letter of invitation from the family member you are visiting
  • evidence of their financial and employment circumstances, eg bank statements or payslips
  • evidence of their immigration circumstances in the UK showing they’re permanently settled or have asylum humanitarian status in the UK, eg a valid visa or immigration stamp in their passport
But it does get better. You then need to get your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre - there are thirteen, in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Jalandhar, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai (2) and Pune (you have to pay extra to use the one in Goa). There are parts of India that are a very long way from these.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceThere is no guarantee that your application will be accepted, as I have discovered - in the current environment, the Home Office are not minded to be generous.

The price is, interestingly, broadly similar to the amount that India charges UK nationals for a tourist visa - 8715 Rupees for a visa to visit the UK, £82 for a visa to visit India. The Indian High Commission in London are rather more efficient than the British counterparts, with a three working day turnaround, compared to the British target of ten working days.

From a personal perspective, I could see that India has a rather greater incentive to make the acquisition of a visa rather easier - it is a real deterrent for potential tourists, and given that tourists have choices, anything that puts them off is undoubtedly harmful to their economy.

But, nonetheless, with the emergence of an Indian middle class who are discovering travel - and you see more and more Indian tourists in places they weren't found ten years ago - it may become an issue for the British tourism industry too...

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