Durban - There’s good news and bad news for South Africans wanting to visit India in future – some visa restrictions have been lifted, but visas will soon no longer be free.
The earlier restriction in which a tourist to India could not return within a period of two months has been lifted, Indian High Commissioner Virendra Gupta told a gathering of travel agents and airlines at a tourism seminar, organised by the High Commission in Sandton last week.
“I think this is right because tourists use India as an entry point and from there make short side trips. We have been facing this difficulty and we have had to grant exemptions, so fortunately that will not be required any longer,” he said.
But Gupta also confirmed that the Indian missions in South Africa would soon be outsourcing the issuing of visas, which had been issued free of charge from offices in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town until now.
There will be a service fee to this when the service starts at a date to be announced.
“We have selected a company which will open four visa collection centres in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. We will start the services in Cape Town and our endeavour would be to streamline visa issuance and make it as easy as possible, so that anyone who applies for a visa should be able to get it within three or four days,” Gupta said.
“Tourists will typically get a three-month visa. However, we have an agreement with the government of South Africa that bona fide business travellers who are verified by our missions or recommended by the Chambers of Commerce will get one-year visas.”
Gupta also said he was unhappy that Jet Airways had withdrawn its daily direct flights between Johannesburg and Mumbai a few months ago.
“That was the only Indian airline offering this service and I hope Jet Airways will reconsider their decision and come back into the market.
“They should also consider the number of people who are using Johannesburg as a transit point into Southern Africa.”
Johannesburg travel agent RC Naik supported the call by Gupta: “It would be good to have an Indian carrier back in the country as travel between India and South Africa is growing in the wake of the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China- South Africa) initiative.” - The Post