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The tens of thousands of Israelis who visit India for business or pleasure every year are finding travel arrangements increasingly difficult after the country altered its entry visa conditions.
In an effort to cut down on illegal employment by foreigners and boost the local job market, India has announced a 60-day waiting period on re-entry for anybody who has lived there for six months.
In recent years, India has become a popular destination for both travelers and businesspeople, but problems arose when it turned out that many people, not just Israelis, mixed up the two and worked there illegally while possessing only tourist visas.
Visitors who leave the country must now wait two months before applying for a new visa. The same goes for people with multi-entry visas, often businesspeople who travel to India regularly.
Attorney Tsvi Kan-Tor, from the Ramat Gan-based Kan-Tor & Acco law firm, which specializes in global relocation, said several Israelis have already been barred from entering India because of the new rules.
“The regulations went into effect in January but only started to be enforced in the last few days,” said Kan-Tor. “Israel is not alone and is far from being a factor in the decision, but because of the relatively large amount of Israelis who travel there, it is important that Israelis know about the change.”
He said the new regulations would affect three major groups of travelers: backpackers who stay in India for long periods; people who operate businesses from India, but who don’t have work permits; and employees of Israeli and international hi-tech companies who work out of the various technological hubs around India.
“The first group is made up of several thousand Israelis, mostly young people after the army. These people are primarily there to travel, but often work or operate small businesses to finance their stay,” Kan-Tor said.
“The second group, which includes several hundred people, are the backpackers who decided to stay. These are people who finished their travels and now own businesses, exporting things like furniture, artwork and the like. They took advantage of the lax regulations that existed until now, but from now on, they will no longer be allowed to enter with a tourist visa,” he said.
“The third group, which includes most of my firm’s clients, number between 1,000 and 2,000 people. These are employees of Israeli companies that have development centers in places like Bangalore and Mumbai. The new regulations mean that the companies will no longer be able to keep large numbers of Israelis on staff in those places.”
S.M Visas, a travel company that is licensed to operate visa application services, said it is possible to gain re-entrance without a waiting period in special cases, but that India requires applicants to provide advance notice if the traveler is forced to leave and re-enter the country.
“Consideration will also be given to people who had to leave because of an emergency,” said the company’s spokeswoman. She said the new regulations shouldn’t affect people who were genuinely interested in going to India for tourism purposes and were staying for shorter periods.
An executive of an Israeli hi-tech company with extensive operations in India said the new regulations were a burden on the company. “We had to hire a law firm to sort out the issue and enable our workers to enter and work freely. It took us three months, but things have finally been ordered. Frankly I don’t understand why they chose to toughen their stance.”
Kan-Tor said that India, like many other countries that were affected
by the global economic crisis, was looking to protect its own workforce.
“Every year 600,000 people graduate from their universities and they
have to find jobs for them. They don’t want them to have to compete
with people working there illegally,” he said. “Israel is the least of
their concerns. They are more worried about the 400 million residents
of neighboring countries who look to the slums of Mumbai as an
improvement to their standard of living. Israelis should be
understanding. Even with the tougher restrictions, they treat us much
better than we treat them.”