UPDATE: On Nov. 22, India resumed issuing e-visas for Canadian tourists and business travellers after annoucing it would do so on Oct. 25.
India is temporarily suspending all visa services for Canadians in the wake of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bombshell allegation that New Delhi was involved in the killing of a Sikh leader in British Columbia.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi confirmed there is temporary suspension of all visa services for Canadians, including e-visas and visas issued in third countries.
BLS, the agency that processes visa requests for India, including for entry, tourist, student and employment purposes, posted on its website: “Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice.”
The move has sparked confusion as to what the suspension will mean for Canadians planning to travel to India.
Here’s what we know so far.
What types of visas are affected by the suspension?
All types of visas are affected, including for work, business and tourism. Applications through the online e-visa program are also suspended. According to Mr. Bagchi, any application that would have to go through the high commission of India in Ottawa or another Indian consulate are included in the pause.
Can I still travel to India if I already have a visa, or have a valid Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card?
Those who already have an OCI card, a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card, or a valid Indian visa of any kind can still travel to India, because only new visa applications are affected by the suspension. There are no flight or travel restrictions at this time for a person who holds valid travel documents.
“The issue is not about travel to India. Those who have valid visas, those who have other kinds of documents like OCIs are free to travel to India. But the issue is of incitement of violence and the creation of an environment that disrupts the functioning of our high commission and consulates,” Mr. Bagchi said in a news conference.
I’m a permanent resident in Canada. Can I still visit India?
There are currently no changes to permanent residency policies for Indian citizens living in Canada, and permanent residents can still travel to India and back. That means all Indian passport holders can travel without issues or restrictions. On Sept. 20, the Indian government requested all Indian citizens living or studying in Canada register with the high commission or an Indian consulate to “better connect … in the event of any emergency or untoward incident.”
I have recently acquired Canadian citizenship. Does the suspension impact new OCI applications or passport surrender services?
Kubeir Kamal, an immigration consultant, says that new OCI applications are expected to be affected by the suspension. BLS International has not been able to confirm if they will continue accepting new OCI applications at this time.
According to the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, India does not allow dual citizenship with another foreign country. A person is expected to surrender their Indian passport before they can apply for OCI or PIO card. Mr. Kamal says that Indian passport surrender services are expected to operate in normal fashion.
Will in-process visa applications also be affected?
Yes, in-process visa applications will also be delayed seeing that all visa operations have been suspended until further notice.
I have booked a trip to India in early 2024. Is it likely that Indian visas will be issued again before then? Should I cancel now?
According to Mr. Kamal, it’s too early to tell if a traveller with a flight booked to India in the early months of 2024 should cancel their trip. “There is no way to speculate when the situation will deescalate and visa services will return to normal,” he said. Instead, he recommends following the official Twitter account of the High Commission of India in Ottawa for updates on the visa services.
Are there any travel advisories in place for Canadians who plan to travel to India?
Global Affairs Canada is urging travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution” when visiting India. Canada updated its travel advisory on Sept. 24 to include safety and security warnings about protests in the region. It advises travellers to avoid non-essential travel in parts of Northeastern India such as Assam and Manipur, and to avoid all travel to Jammu and Kashmir due to the threat of terrorism, militancy, civil unrest and kidnapping.
How are Canada’s consulates in India affected?
Canada’s embassy in New Delhi remains open, as do Canadian consulates across India, said Global Affairs spokesman Jean-Pierre Godbout in a statement. However, the Canadian government is reducing staff levels at its diplomatic missions in India, citing fear for the safety of its employees. This reduction in staff will likely mean disruptions for members of Canada’s Indian diaspora who maintain business or administrative ties with the country, explains Mississauga, Ont., paralegal Bobby Sidhu. “It’s definitely going to affect the lives of many, many Indian-Canadian citizens,” Mr. Sidhu said.
With reports from Steven Chase, Robert Fife, Abigale Subdhan and the Associated Press
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