After easing visa norms for Bangladeshis, Indian government has introduced a new policy for Afghan nationals which allows them to stay in India on humanitarian grounds for two years at a time.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in its press release on 30 June, stated that the new 'liberal' visa norms would be effective from 1 July.
The revised visa norms will allow the Afghan nationals to stay in India on stay visa/resident permit for two years at a time. Minors below 12 years of age and senior citizens above 65 years of age will be exempted from reporting to police.
Relaxed police registration will not only benefit by minors and senior citizens; a certain group of Afghan nationals will also have a little liberation while reporting to police.
"There would be liberal provisions in relation to exemption from the requirement of police reporting under various categories, including for Afghan students, medical patients, short-term visitors, businessmen, scholars, eminent persons etc," reads the release.
In order to avoid any untoward consequences of introducing liberal visa policy, the government would set up a system to keep a record of biometric data and photographs of the Afghan nationals visiting India. The required facilities for the purpose have already been installed in Delhi's Foreigner Regional Registration Office.
The ministry believes that the modified policy would help simplify the procedures being implemented in the current visa policy.
Relaxed visa norms from earlier times
In 2011, India had relaxed the visa norms for Afghan nationals. The exit visas were withdrawn for those leaving India before the expiry of their visas. If Afghan nationals have already registered their Indian address with the Indian embassy at the time of applying for visa, they benefited exemption from both police registration and exit visa.
This was only applicable to those travelling to India on ordinary passports with a validity of 30 days or less. However, they need to have separate passports for individual family members.
In 2013, visa norms for Afghanistan, including other Prior Reference Category (PRC) countries, were liberalized for the nationals attending conferences and meetings in India. The exemption allowed the visitors attending conferences and meetings at public institutions, central educational institutions, Reserve Bank of India, United Nations and any affiliated organizations.
As per the changed norms, their visas need the approval of India mission/post and not from home ministry.
However, the norm for entry in the militant or terrorist affected areas is still the same. One requires to send in their applications 30 days prior to coming to India.
Unlike other times, India did not permit visa-on-arrival entry to Afghanistan and other PRC nations. 180 countries enjoys this new norm in the Indian visa policy introduced in the beginning of this year.
In another such provision, the 60-day gap rule between consecutive visits to India was lifted from all the other countries, except Afghanistan and PRC nations.