VAGARIES OF THE INDIAN VISA

Since it’s always moving the goal posts without telling anyone, thank heavens India doesn’t play soccer on the international stage.

The latest in a long line of examples I have about the subcontinent’s desire to secretly change the rules will be of interest to anyone who is thinking about visiting India. I am currently only eligible for a tourist visa for six months, so I checked to see if I could renew my six-month visa in Thailand when the first six months of this year’s twelve-month stay in India expired. Back in March this year the official website said I could. And, after checking the same website a few days ago before leaving India to ensure nothing had changed, and thankfully nothing had, Kuldip and I happily packed our bags for The Land of Smiles.

Before coming to the Thailand, I had had over fifty Punjabi lessons and tell you it is a misnomer that swears words are usually the first ones you learn in a new language. Before yesterday, I was proud that I knew not one swear word in Punjabi, but I regretted not knowing any when informed, in Bangkok that I could only renew my Indian visa for three months not six. When challenged about what was presently stated on the website, we were told that the rules changed about two months ago. India had moved the goal posts, yet again, and hadn’t bothered to update the website.

Nowadays, a traveller to India can only be granted a tourist visa for the maximum period of six months if they apply for a visa in their country of residence. What this means for us, is that I must now leave India within three months to apply to go back again for another three. Grrrrrr! The way I feel about India at the moment is that the country should change its identity slogan from Incredible India to Inept India!

As a foreigner, trying to get to India can conjure lots of words that comprise four or more letters and include the letter ‘f’ such as infuriating, frustrating and futile but I love the place and I keep going back for more. I have visited India every year since 2011, and while this isn’t the first time I’ve had problems getting there, it is the first time I have been fingerprinted for a visa application, anywhere. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come.

After Kuldip and I have been married for twelve months, I can apply for a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card, which will allow me to visit India, at will, for several years. I live in hope that this will still be the case when I apply for a PIO card when I return to Australia in January.

While the vagaries of Indian visas persist on the official website, all is not lost once you get your visa especially if you arrive at the recently opened Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi. The new terminal is well designed and a far cry from the old one, which struggled to cope with its thirty-seven, or so, million passengers per annum.

Note: India will not extend an existing tourist visa whilst you are still in India unless you are too ill to travel. You must, therefore, leave India in order to renew your visa. Also beware that the clock starts ticking as soon as your visa is issued as opposed to when you set foot in India.

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