British citizens visiting India will have to attend an application centre and provide biometrics in order to get a visa under new rules that appear to be a response to increasingly stringent rules for Indians visiting Britain.
British passport holders will be required to provide fingerprints and other biometric data at one of 14 new application centres dotted around the UK before Indian missions in the UK can issue a visa.
Beginning 14 March, each visitor will have to make individual appointments prior to visiting the centres.
The move has surprised many as the new regulations come even as India eases visa rules for other Western countries as well as for visitors from countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
One source told the UKAsian that the move is in response to increasingly stringent rules imposed by Britain not only on Indian students but business travellers and tourists from the sub-continent.
The news comes even as the Indian Ministry of External Affairs suggested that the UK could be one of a half dozen new countries that may be included in India’s visa-on-arrival scheme in the future.
The new application centres include three in London and locations in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Belfast, Bristol, Bradford, Newcastle, Cardiff, Liverpool, Leicester and Glasgow.
Some tour operators and tourism promoters have warned that the new regulations would hurt tourism to India at a time when the industry has been hit by the negative publicity arising from a string of attacks on female foreign tourists.
British passport holders of Indian origin also expressed concern given that the visa application process at the Indian mission is already a long drawn-out process.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) is reportedly making an official complaint to the Indian government saying that the new rules will cause confusion for those who have already made plans to visit the country.
Nikki White, head of destinations at ABTA, told the Daily Telegraph: “We are writing to the Indian High Commission expressing our concern about the short notice given concerning this change to visa requirements, requesting that they either reconsider or delay its introduction”.
“We are also expressing our concerns about the requirement for individual family members to book separate appointments which could cause considerable unnecessary inconvenience and have the unintended consequence of discouraging travel to India.”