Visa myths debunked by the Indian Consulate

Are visas not being issued? Can an OCI holder be left stranded in India? With much confusion about travel restrictions to India, Nandakumaran Konnat of the Consulate General of India (Sydney) sits down with PAWAN LUTHRA to offer clarifications

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Visa myths debunked by the Indian Consulate

UPDATE:

All travel between India and Australia has been banned until further notice.

INTERVIEW

There are no visas being issued for people wanting to travel to India. How long is this restriction in place?

That’s not true. Visas are being issued to people who want to travel to India. The aim is to restrict it. We’re not sure if we’re at the threshold of controlling (coronavirus cases), so it’s best that we restrict travel.

In case of emergencies and compelling reasons, we are issuing visas.

For Indian passport holders, there are absolutely no restrictions on travelling back to India.

So if you have an Indian passport, you can get onto the next flight to India. But do OCI holders need a visa?

Valid visas, whether it’s a sticker visa or any other visa issued prior to these restrictions, are all held in obeyance.

This travel restriction is till the 15th of April. Until it is revised, individuals will need to apply for a visa and get a fresh one issued. And it will be issued based on their compelling reason.

Anybody can come to the VFS office, fill up a manual form, provide documents that prove there is an essential reason to travel, and we’ll take a clearance and issue it.

How long will it take between filling the form and being issued a visa?

That depends. We have issued some emergency visas in 24 hours.

If there’s a wedding in the family in India and someone wishes to travel, would that constitute a special clearance visa?

You can’t completely define ‘compelling reason’, but some are: family emergencies, death of a family member, unavoidable business meetings, marriages (keeping it restricted within blood relatives and the bride and groom’s families), major sporting events, and minors holding foreign passport of parents with Indian passports.

For parents holding an Indian passport with dependents like children who are OCI holders, there’s an ability for the child to get special clearance to travel with them in case it’s an emergency or a special requirement – is that correct?

That’s correct. If the parents want to go, it’s taken that the children travelling along have a compelling reason, and the visa will be issued.

Do you need any special visas in case you’re travelling to Dubai or London transiting through, say, Delhi? Do you need special clearance, or can you board the plane?

Transiting through India if you’re not leaving the airport is not a problem. If you are transiting through another location and reaching India, you should be prepared for a medical screening.

If you spend time in, say, Singapore, for a four-hour layover and you’ve been outside, there is a reason for you to be medically screened when you get out of the airport.

That is if you have a visa to stay in India and not transiting through India?

Yes, it applies if your final destination is India.

What has been the experience in case someone has an Indian passport and they test positive once they arrive in India?

They will be taken to a medical facility for further treatment and analysis. If you’ve travelled through destinations and haven’t tested positive, you are supposed to self-quarantine. I request anyone who travels to keep updated on advisories issued on the Bureau of Immigration website.

Things are changing quite rapidly…

Yes, it’s very dynamic. The advisories issued are till 15th April. A lot of people ask what will happen after that, but it’s hard to predict. Everyone has to remain updated on the situation. The Consulate is more than willing to handle queries and questions within our reach.

If an OCI holder or someone with a special visa is visiting India and there’s a lockdown on people coming back, what happens if the visa expires? Can they get it extended?

Every district in India has a Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) that is meant for this reason. Contact them to request for an extension. They may ask for some documents, and as long as you provide the correct documentation, the visa will be extended.

Anything else you want to add?

Earlier today, Prime Minister Modi said that we should prepare, but not panic. If you can avoid travel, avoid it. At the Consulate we get a lot of anxious queries… Know that we aren’t stopping anyone from going. If there’s a genuine reason you should go, we’ll allow it.

Australia should be alert but not alarmed, that seems to be mantra of the day!