Friday 28 October 2022 6:09 AM UTC
By A Staff Reporter
LONDON Oct 28: An online petition has been initiated by Keralites in UK addressed to the Indian High Commission to restart the e-visa service to the UK.
The online petition titled “Reinstate eVISA to India” has been initiated by Mini Raghavan, a community leader, and addressed to Vikram Doraiswami High Commissioner of India.
In the petition she wrotes: “As you are aware, it has become particularly challenging for NRIs to visit India by applying for a visa online because eVISA service to Indian has been suspended as a result of the COVID pandemic. The emergency visa application procedure is taking longer than usual this time, which causes another delay. People who work full-time find it challenging to visit VfS locations and file an application, which takes a day or two. If more documents are required to support the application, it can take longer.
“We now know that over 156 countries’ nationals are eligible to apply for an evisa to India. Only a small number of nations, including the UK, are excluded, which seems unfair given the sizable Indian diaspora in the UK. In order to assist with NRI applications for an eVISA, the NRI community is pleading with the Indian High Commissioner to immediately resume the eVISA service to India”.
The e-tourist visa facility – which was open to nationals of 166 countries, including the UK and Canada – was discontinued in the wake of the pandemic in March 2020. It was partially resumed late last year after a gap of 18 months, under air bubble arrangements and Covid-19 protocols. In March 2022, the Indian government restored the facility for 156 countries, but was not extended to countries like the UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, adding that they have been cited “security reasons”.
In a letter addressed to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Goa Chamber of Commerce GCCI president Ralph De Sousa last week stated that as per the current rules issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs, only paper visas are issued to UK citizens which means applicants have to visit the Indian Mission, Embassies and Consulates in-person. This involves additional travel costs for the applicants. Also, the expected lead time for appointments is anywhere upto eight weeks and paper visa processing by Indian missions is also time consuming.
The Indian High Commission denied making a last minute change, telling The Times of India: “Individual visa applicants are, and always have been, required to submit visa applications at the VFS centres in person.
“There is no change to the visa application process for individual visa applications. It has come to our notice that unauthorised agents and individuals are charging fees and collecting visa applications for submission at VFS centres, misleading applicants and misrepresenting the services that they can legally provide.
“This matter is currently being investigated. The High Commission of India emphasises that VFS Global Services is the only authorised outsourcing provider for India-related passport, visa and consular services in the UK.”
It added: “High Commission of India assures our friends in the UK that it remains our constant endeavour to improve the via services by streamlining the visa processes and to address any delays and shortfalls in services.”
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