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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Why should we pay for VISAs?

Off to USA again this Saturday and I have plans to visit Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China as well; this brought back thoughts on VISAs and immigration checks. Hong Kong and Macau are one of the few places in the world that award Indians VISAs on arrival. Even Singapore, whose economy depends to some extent on the inflow of Indian tourists, have started the VISA requirement for us. A visit to the foreign office websites of countries would reveal that most of them have enforced VISA requirements for citizens of developing countries while waiving the same for citizens of developed nations. And often developing countries themselves have similar stipulations. I don't have a major problem with countries enforcing a differential VISA regime. But I do have a problem with the fact that it costs to acquire a VISA. When we pay the fees to get a VISA for a country X while the citizens of say USA don't need a VISA for the same country, doesn't that mean that we are bearing the bulk of the cost of country X's consular operations worldwide?
The scale and the impact of this may be small compared to robberies like agricultural subsidies, but I think something needs to be done about this form of apartheid.


Kaps said...

I used to wonder about all this but never got to write about it.

Hong Kong used to give 3 month visa (on arrival) earlier. However lot of Indians & Pakis went there on 3 month visas and started working there part time to cover the airfare. By doing so they were able to cover the airfare and make some money out of the trip. HK authorities got wind of this and hence reduced the visa period to 14 days.

Because of terror threat and all that S'pore doesn't want to take any chances. Hence it has a visa procedure which is fast and efficient. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand also give visa on arrival for Indians. Malaysia has different visa fee structure for nationalities of different countries. Indian nationals pay quite a high visa fee whereas some of the western nationals pay very little. This is clear is an indirect way of saying that we are not welcome.

I applied for a US tourist visa 2 years ago and i had to pay a special additional fee of $75. This charge is applicable only for Indian nationals. The visa officer said that India charges high visa fees for US citizens and hence US also wants to reciprocate the gesture.

I also feel that India should stop discrimnating betweens Indians / foreigners at our tourist destinations. some of our tourist attractions charge 10 times the normal fee if the person is a foreigner.

Reuben said...

The visa fees and requirements are generally imposed under the rules of the Hague convention. You'll be surprised to hear that a lot of places that charge Indians visa fees and insist on Indians having visas is because India has imposed these requirements on citizens of those countries. At that point, the reciprocity clause kicks in.

Mind you, Indians could travel to lots of European countries without a visa in the 60's. Then the Indian govt imposed visa restrictions on citizens of these countries and they retaliated. So, it's hardly apartheid, but just our own stupidity coming home to roost.

Even today, India lets in nationals of about 2-3 countries without a visa. Even countries that dont require a visa of Indians have to have visas to enter India. So, if anything, its India doing the discrimination. I have for the longest time held that Indians should drop visa requirements for about 30-40 countries unilaterally. In the best case, under Hague reciprocity, they'll do the same for us. If not, we'll still benefit from an upsurge in tourism.

Shivaji said...

thanks for the comment, reuben...
I didnt have this knowledge...
sure serves us right then...
But please, lets bring purchasing power parity into picture while deciding visa fees...And i don't understand why we Indians are so finicky about national security when it comes to VISAa when our borders are largely open with Bangladesh etc.

Reuben said...

I wish we could take purchasing power into account, but no, that's not how Hague convention rules work. If India charges a U.S. citizen $100 for a visa, the U.S. will charge an Indian $100 too. That's just how the reciprocity clause works, unfortunately.