Welcome to part 3 of our update on the new India Tourist Visa rules. Way back in January we heard about the new rule while reading the India Times.
New India Visa Rules, Our Re-Entry
As you probably know by now, India has stopped issuing multi-entry tourist visa’s. This is fairly straightforward, you are not allowed to re enter the country unless you have been out of India for at least 2 months.
You can read more about the rules in detail at our post New India Visa Rules.
The problem and confusion that it is causing, is to the people that have already been issued 6 month multi entry visa’s. People that have bought flights to places like Sri Lanka or Nepal and have return flights back to their home countries from Delhi.
India has been inconsistent on who they let back in and who they don’t.
You would think that they would allow the people that bought their Visa’s prior to the change in January to be allowed back into India, but that is not the case.
To find out what has been happening to others you can read our updated post at India Visa Rules, an Update. It has details on where you can also find more information and articles about the new rules.
So now that the recap is over…
How did we do?
We had been out of India for 31 days while visiting Sri Lanka. We knew all about the visa problems and were prepared to not be allowed back into India. We extended our Sri Lankan Visa just to be safe, however, we wanted to fly back to Delhi to continue our journey through India and on to Nepal.
It was 3:00 am
Our flight was leaving Colombo in the middle of the night and we stood in line preparing to act surprised and confused once we were told about the changes.
Really, how are we supposed to know about changes to a law mid stream? We bought our visas months ago and never had to think about it again.
As far as the customs official knew, we were just a couple of backpackers that haven’t read a paper or looked at the news in months.
The moment arrived.
We approached the counter and the attendant looked at our passports.
She said, “You have been to India already?”
We said. “Yes.”
She then said. “You cannot go back to India until the end of March.”
We looked at her with confused expressions and said nothing.
She repeated herself. “You cannot go back to India until the end of March.”
We then said, “I don’t understand.”
She then said, “India has changed their rules and we cannot go back until March.”
We shook our heads in confusion.
She Repeated again. “India has changed their rules, you cannot go back.” “It is a new rule.”
Dave did a great job looking completely dazed,
He said, “I don’t understand, we have a multi entry visa that doesn’t expire until April.”
I just stood there saying nothing. It is better if I don’t speak.
She just kept repeating that India has changed their rules and we just kept acting like we didn’t understand what she was saying.
That was when we were sent to another counter.
We were in line with the other foreigners that were freaking out about returning to India. Many had to get back to catch their flights to Europe and home and were starting to panic.
We went through the same routine of acting surprised and confused when told about the new rules.
The man at the next counter explained what was going on and asked us if we had an onward ticket.
We said, no but we are planning on going to Nepal. He told us that his hands were tied. If we had an onward ticket home, we would be allowed through, but because we are only flying back to India we could not go.
We looked shocked and confused and said that we didn’t know what to do because a flight from Sri Lanka is very expensive. “What if we buy an onward ticket right now to Nepal.”
“The ticket counter is closed and besides, your ticket must be back to your home country.” He said.
Yet another change to the rules.
I guess if you have a ticket back to you own country they are allowing people back in to India. Tell that to the two Canadians that were denied a couple of weeks ago. Read their comment on our post here.
Hmm, what could be done.
We stood there for a little bit, while he talked and dealt with the other foreigners that had return flights to their country’s.
He then told us to come and put our bags on the conveyor belt.
He said, if you get sent back, you will have to pay for the flight and the he is not to blame if we do. If we are willing to risk being sent back at our point of entry in Chennai, he will let us go as long as we don’t raise a hassle.
We promised that we would be willing to come back to Sri Lanka and thanked him profusely.
We had made it through step one!
We now had to deal with immigration before leaving the country. We were prepared to answer the question on why we had extended our Visa and ended up leaving on time anyway.
Lucky for us, we booked our return flight 31 days later. One day longer than our 30 day visa. We were going to tell them that we didn’t want to cause a problem at 3:00 am and decided to extend our Visa prior to leaving the country, instead of paying the fine at the airport.
We never had to tell them.
He didn’t even look at us and stamped our passport.
We made it past step 2!
Our final worry was in Chennai, India. The last thing we wanted to do was have to get back on a flight to Sri Lanka. We had read that many people have had that happen on India Mike’s forum and as we approached the immigration counter, we held our breath.
He greeted us with. “Hello welcome to India.” “Are you going to the Taj Mahal?”
Our Reply “Oh yes, Taj Mahal is number 1”
He then looks at our exit stamp with confusion. He stares at it for a while and then asks us something incoherent.
Dave answers yes.
I stand there smiling.
He looks at our passports again with a frown and then stamps them and tells us to have a nice trip.
As we walk away I ask Dave what the guy asked us, Dave says, “I don’t know, something about have you been to India before.”
Yes, must have been the right Answer because are back in India.