The number of Canadians, mostly of Indian origin, visiting India has shown a big spurt during the past two years. The Indian consulate general in Toronto alone issued a record 71,000 visas last year.
In fact, the Indian mission in Toronto has become one of the busiest abroad like those in New York and London.
"I don't know the figures at New York and London, but Toronto is one of the busiest Indian missions now. This year, we are going to cross the 71,000-figure by at least seven to eight per cent," Consul General Satish Mehta told IANS.
"In addition to the visas, we have also issued 20,000 Overseas Indian Cards (OICs) during the past two years. On an average, we issue 700 to 800 OICs each month. Indian visas are in big demand."
Mehta said November and December are the busiest months for the mission, as most Indo-Canadians prefer to visit India to avoid the severe winter here and spend time with their extended families.
"We have been issuing over 11,000 visas during the month of November for the past two years. December, of course, is the peak month for us. But we also saw a huge demand in October this year when over 10,000 visas were issued, up from 6,500 in October 2006," he said.
Mehta put the rise in traffic to India down to a combination of factors.
"First, India is booming as is the India-Canada trade, and so you have lots of business people and delegations going to India. Most Indian companies have set up offices here," he said.
"Second, the Indo-Canadians are pretty prosperous now. Those who came here in the 1960s are retired, financially well off and free now. So they are going to India quite often to reconnect with their roots. Third, tourism is picking up very fast as India's image abroad has undergone a sea change in recent years. This positive image is making even Indian-origin youth born here go and see India," Mehta said.
Better air connectivity between the two countries, he added, was another factor that gave a fillip to traffic to India. "The recently introduced Jet Airways flights to India are almost going full."
Accordingly, Mehta said, the workload at the Toronto mission will go up sharply in the coming years. "Already, we work on Saturday to dispose of the backlog."
To avoid inconvenience for visa seekers from distant places and overcrowding at its offices, the Toronto mission has introduced a visa-by-post scheme under which applicants send their passports only by post.
"Except for emergencies, you have to send your visa application and passport by post. Within two days, the visa is issued and the passport sent back. We have an excellent tracking system to locate where your passport is at any time. This system has worked very well and there have been no complaints," said Mehta.