In the wake of the prevailing situation in Afghanistan where the Taliban have seized power, India has introduced a new category of e-visa for Afghan nationals to fast-track their applications for entry into India. These visas will be valid for six months only and will be granted only after security clearance, sources said.
“MHA reviews visa provisions in view of the current situation in Afghanistan. A new category of electronic visa called “e-Emergency X-Misc Visa” introduced to fast-track visa applications for entry into India,” a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Tuesday.
Sources said the visa is being granted to facilitate the stay of Afghan nationals fleeing Afghanistan for six months in India. There is no clarity yet on what will happen after this validity period expires. India does not have a refugee policy and grants shelter to foreigners facing persecution in their countries on a case-to-case basis.
“India already provides X Miscellaneous category visa to foreigners whose purpose of entry into India does not match with any prescribed category. In the case of Afghanistan, the e-visa facility was not extended to the nationals of that country until now. However, since our mission is now shut in Afghanistan, people are being allowed to get online visas. All these applications, however, will first be cleared by security agencies,” a home ministry official said.
According to MHA’s visa policy, foreign nationals applying for a visa for a purpose, which is not specifically covered under any visa category, may be granted ‘X-Misc’ Visa for appropriate duration.
“Such a visa may be granted only with single entry and for the specific duration taking into account the purpose of visit. If the visa is granted for a period of stay exceeding 180 days, the foreigner will have to register himself/ herself with the FRRO/ FRO concerned within 14 days of arrival. This visa will be non-extendable and non-convertible to any other type of visa,” the MHA policy document on X-Misc visa says.
X-Misc visas are granted in general either independently or in conjunction with other visa categories such as to a dependent child of a medical visa applicant.
India has in the past granted long duration visas to Afghan nationals — of all religions — facing persecution in that country and a large number of Afghans who fled the country during the first Taliban takeover and during the two decades of war after that continue to live in India.
Stay Visa/ Residential Permit for one year at a time is granted by FRRO/ FRO to such Afghanistan nationals on a case-to-case basis with prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
This is, however, available only to those facing persecution and not to economic immigrants. These permits are also State/UT specific with movement of such Afghans being restricted to the State/UT where they are permitted to stay.
For visiting any place in any other State/UT, such Afghan nationals have to seek prior permission of the FRRO/FRO concerned.
Grant of Stay Visa/Residential Permit is also subject to police reporting every year at the place where the Afghan national is allowed to stay.
Notably, Afghanistan already falls under the Prior Reference Category (PRC)
countries for grant of visa to India. This means that to visit India for any purpose, an Afghan national has to take clearance from MHA. Other foreigners in this category include those from Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, foreigners of Pakistani origin and stateless persons.