Problems with India’s new two-month exit rule

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India has a new rule, enacted after the discovery that a naturalized US citizen born in Pakistan used multiple reentries into India for reconnaissance for the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai. Under this rule, anyone entering India with a tourist visa, when they leave, must stay out of India for two months.

This rule caused much trouble with many India visitors, and was soon modified to add exceptions, so, for example, someone traveling to India, then using India as a base for doing business in South Asia was allowed two reentries during the two-month period. This rule was recently changed to add a third visit.

This rule seems to not take into consideration the many Westerners who are long-term residents of India (and who have the Residency Permits issued by the local Police Office). This is the category in which we fall. For these people, India is their home, and the long visits out of India present hardships and extra expenses that add real difficulties for some.

This year we had planned to go to the US to visit friends and family, and attend spiritual events at the SAT temple. We tried to find out how the new rule was actually being enforced and how the exceptions were treated. We had no luck talking to local authorities, like the Foreign Registration Officer at the Tiruvannamalai police office. I tried to find out on line, but what I found was not clear to me. So we planned a two-month trip to the US.

Plans sometimes do not work out, though. I could not leave when planned due to a medical emergency (three kidney stones were found, and needed to come out before I could travel). I delayed my trip, while Carol, my wife, left as planned.

Now in the US, I did find out from the local Indian consulate office web site that there is an application process to apply for exceptions. This needed to be done with a third party, Travisa, who has been contracted by the consulate to handle these matters. I emailed this office, and called, without response. I sent a message to the consulate, who told me that I must work through Travisa.

Since the Travisa office did not reply to my email and phone call, we decided to go in person. What a disaster! First, when we walked in the office I was carrying my laptop in a computer case. The lady attending the line would not listen to what we had to ask and yelled at us to take the bag out of the office, and yelled again when we were not fast enough doing this. Then she asked me if I had an appointment. When I said “no,” she sat me at a computer and set the screen to some place that had absolutely nothing to do with me. I looked and looked, but could not find anything relevant. After a bit, she came to see what was taking me so long. Finally she let me tell her what we were trying to do, and that we had a visa and were residents in India. She asked to see my papers then. I found Carol and my case, got the papers, and stood in the line again. When we got to the front of the line, she reviewed my papers, and then asked if I had my birth certificate. I did not. Do you take this with you when you travel? We asked if there was someone else at the office we could talk to. She said, “No,” and sent us away.

We then drove to the consulate, hurrying to get there before they stopped seeing people (12 noon). When we got there, we saw another long line, snaking out the door. I stood in the line and Carol went to the front to see what we could do. She was told that we MUST deal with these issues through Travisa.

So we were stuck, and no one would even listen to our story, so we couldn’t ask for an exception to the two month rule.

When I got home, I reviewed the rules on the website, and found this statement:

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From it, it seemed that people traveling from India and reentering could do so without a permit. Does this apply to me?

I do not know what to do. If I try to board a plane as originally scheduled, so I can travel with my family, will they even let me on the plane? If I do board the plane, will they let me enter India when I get there? Does anyone have any experience with this?

I talked to a friend who came to India earlier this year after the new rules were set. He was going to visit Nepal, and applied for and was granted an exception. Others traveling with him were not. One person went to Nepal with him, and was allowed to reenter India without the exception permit.

Again I ask, does anyone have experience with this? Can I just board the plane, and show my papers in India that show my original plans, and the medical emergency, then the rescheduled trip? Please, I need help in this.

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