Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Consulate General of India

I had the pleasure of listening to the Mrs. Susmita G. Thomas, Consul General of India, San Francisco when she came to visit Denver. As there have been increasing security concerns worldwide, it is nice to know that India is keeping pace by securing their borders. Part of the increased security measures is to clarify visa requirements to make sure travelers to India are appropriately using visas.

I have travelled to India several times and always on a tourist visa. However my visits are not necessarily tourism as 75% of my stay will be visiting family and 25% being tourism. My travel to India would more likely fall under an entry visa. This visa has certain caveats as well. A particular one that causes grief is that once leaving India, you should not return in 60 days except for an emergency. This makes sense to me as only unscrupulous users of an entry visa would be travelling in and out of the country every two months.

The Government of India does make an exception for persons of Indian origin to receive a 15 year or lifetime visa that has significantly fewer restrictions. These are classified as a PIO (15 year) or OCI (lifetime) card that is issued by the Government of India after your Indian origin is vetted by the Consulate. Indian origin is currently defined as a former Indian national, their children and grandchildren.

The Consul General was in town to answer questions regarding the process and timelines for receiving standard visas and clarifying requirements for unique visas. It seemed that most of the questions were in regards to policy decisions by the Government of India rather than the implementation by the Consulate. However a large part of the discussion was spent clarifying rumors that were widely circulated on the internet and not part of official communications. Fortunately hypothetical situations like if the visa requirements would change in the future was not discussed.

The event was well organized and it was a pleasure to see the Consul General make herself available in person in addition to fielding telephone calls and e-mail communications.

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