The Terminal 3 or T3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Citizens and residents of the UAE will, starting April 1, be “issued as routine” five-year multiple-entry business visas to India by Indian missions in the UAE, India’s ambassador to the UAE announced on Thursday.

Navdeep Singh Suri made the announcement at the Indian Consulate in Dubai during a wide-ranging discussion with the media.

He said the five-year multiple-entry business visa is “going to be the norm” for any “bona fide” business applicant — Emirati or expat — from the UAE. Also, in the “next few months”, the five-year multiple-entry tourist visas to India will start being issued similarly.

He said “technically, citizens and residents in all GCC countries” are eligible to apply for the five-year multiple-entry business visa. However, Suri added, it was up to the Indian missions in the other five GCC countries to announce when they will be ready to issue such visas.

Outsourcing contract

The business visa referred to by Suri costs around Dh1,500, a consulate official said during the event.

Suri said among the requirements for the visa was a submission of biometric data, “at least for the first time”, or an interview in person.

“Instead of coming to us four or five times a year, you apply once and you’re done for five years. For us, it’s also less traffic at our doorstep,” Suri said. He added that the move followed “a request from the UAE side and to facilitate trade”, in line with India’s push as a business-friendly destination.

Suri pointed out that the business visa he referred to “is not a visa on arrival” — travellers would have to apply beforehand, with all details to be found on the websites of the Indian missions.

The ambassador also said the process of awarding a new contract for handling Indian passport and visa applications to an outsourced company would be finalised in the coming weeks after a bidding process.

Currently, BLS handles the applications. It may or may not be awarded the contract again but it is anticipated that a new company will take over.

Suri said he had made a “surprise inspection” of a BLS centre on Thursday morning and found “all the counters were manned”. He added that the centre was busy but pointed out some applicants had showed up with family, adding to the number of people present at the centre.

Travel warning

Suri also warned Indians from going or sending workers to Yemen and other conflict zones, as reiterated by the Indian government.

“Despite all the warnings, Indians keep putting themselves in harm’s way by going to Yemen and other conflict zones. We have advised that it’s risky. Yes, you can make some extra money but is it worth risking your life?” Suri said.

“The Indian government has to take enormous risks to rescue them. It’s wrong, it’s irresponsible and it’s dangerous to go into conflict zones when there is clear government advice. But you are potentially endangering the lives of others to get you out, and the message to companies taking people to Yemen is that you are also at fault by putting lives at risk.”

The ambassador was flanked by Anurag Bhushan, the Indian Consul-General in Dubai. He said a new consul-general — identified only as Vipul — would be taking his place soon.