Taken from: The Economic Times
NEW DELHI: The tightening of visa rules may impact India’s fledgling medical tourism industry. The guidelines, to be notified next week, specify that foreigners in India on a tourist visa, who have stayed in the country for over 90 days, will need to take a two-month “time-out” before returning.
This rule is bound to hit medical tourism, say experts from the sector. Explaining the drawback, a person associated with a prominent hospital, said, “Most of the patients and their relatives from nearby countries come here on tourist visas for treatment. After the surgery/treatment is done, they return to their respective countries but come back on the same tourist visa for review or further examination. But the new rules banning them from entering the country for at least two months is a major hurdle in their treatment process. This will only benefit our competitors such as Malaysia”.
He said that certain treatments require patients to stay a little longer than two months. Edris Foshanzee from Afghanistan is facing the same problem. Waiting for his turn at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in R K Puram, he said, “I have been trying for an extension for the treatment of my 50-year-old mother for the past 14 days. The hospital said that my mother needs a surgery for which we need to stay longer. Why are visa norms getting stricter?”
Nods 86-year-old Hazi Mohammad Azim from Afghanistan, who was waiting in the long queue since 9 am. After a back-breaking wait of five hours, he fumes, “There’s still no clarity. I am suffering from throat problem and tomorrow my visa will expire. But I need an extension to continue my treatment.”
The changes have been introduced after the arrest of US national and terror suspect David Headley, who allegedly used his multiple-entry visa to the country, for terrorist activities. The US Embassy, meanwhile, has put up several complaints on its website. “The US Embassy and consulates in India have received reports from individuals about inconsistent implementation of the new rules which have not been widely publicised and are subject to change,” said the US mission here.
The confusion is palpable at the FRRO. A fundraising advisor and capacity builder with the National Trust, Michael J Rosenkrantz, was seen waiting since 9:30 am for an extension of his work visa — earlier the tourist visa doubled up as work visa. “Although so far I am not facing any problems, it would definitely affect tourists. I hope the Indian government takes some measures to ease entry for tourists and patients,” said Rosenkrantz.
Tourists too have started encountering hurdles in registration. Anahita Izadi from Iran said, “I was in India two years ago. Things are getting worse and tougher. Rules are not clear. I was in the queue for three hours and now to get to the next counter it will take another three hours.”
FRRO officials, however, said that the rush is due to the holiday season.