New Indian visa rules require British tourists to provide fingerprints
Posted on February 23, 2015
Tour operators fear that the requirement for biometric testing is an extra hurdle that will deter potential visitors, who will be required, from March 14, to show up at one of 14 new application centres around the UK.
Visa applicants will first have to book individual appointments at one of the centres online. “Each family member has to lodge an individual application,” said Darrren Bridges, director of visa agent Travcour. “There is no guarantee that the appointments will be one after the other, so you could have Dad, say, getting his at 9am; Mum getting hers at 10am and so on.”
His company, which arranges third-party visa applications on behalf of tourists, only found out about the new rules yesterday.
“Depending on where you live it will be a nightmare,” he continued, explaining that, although more centres are due to open, only three currently exist. “They left it incredibly late to tell us.” The extra centres will be in cities including Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and Belfast.
The changes are something of a surprise after India recently simplified its visa process for tourists from other countries, which included Australia, Germany, Finland, Japan and New Zealand, by offering them a visa on arrival in the country. Hopes that British tourists will also be able to get visas on arrival have yet to be met.
“This will almost certainly have a negative impact on Indian tourism,” said Steve McClarence, a Telegraph writer specialising in India. “Over the past few years, applying for Indian visas has become an exasperating process. I know of people who have found it too stressful and time-consuming and have abandoned their planned trip in favour of somewhere easier.
“The proposed change can only make things worse, particularly if you live a long way from one of the application centres. It will be no fun if you live in Cornwall or Norfolk, never mind the Isle of Wight or Orkney.”
The High Commission of India states on its website that, after outsourcing the process to a company called VFS, all applicants will need to be physically present at India Visa and Consular Services centres to submit an application and biometric data.
It said the Indian government has already rolled out biometric data collection for Indian visas in several countries. But Abta – the Association of British Travel Agents – is making an official complaint.
“We are writing to the Indian High Commission expressing our concern about the short notice given concerning this change to visa requirements, requesting that they either reconsider or delay its introduction,” said Nikki White, Abta head of destinations and sustainability.
“We are also expressing our concerns about the requirement for individual family members to book separate appointments which could cause considerable unnecessary inconvenience and have the unintended consequence of discouraging travel to India.”
Tour operators told Telegraph Travel that they were very concerned about the changes.
The Association of Tour Operators (AITO) said that, while the change in process was in “no doubt done for good reason from the point of view of the Indian authorities”, it is “an unfortunate move.”
“The cost of a visa to India was already very expensive,” he explained. At just under £100 per person, it “already discourages all but the most eager prospective visitor to India from choosing the country as their next holiday destination.
“For a holiday of between £1,000 and £2,000, the visa fee adds an additional 10 per cent to a modestly priced holiday, or 5 per cent to a more expensive trip.”
He said the requirement to visit application centres assumes that busy people can take time off work for a day, and that the change could not have come at a worse time, as most tour operators have been reporting a fall in bookings to India.
“In recent months, due to a combination of circumstances – not least the publicity over several rape incidents – the country has become a difficult destination to sell,” he said. “This latest move will only exacerbate the situation”.
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