E-visa mandatory for all Afghans

The Indian embassy and all consulates in Afghanistan were closed in the last two months.
Crowds of people wait outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.(REUTERS)
Crowds of people wait outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.(REUTERS)
Updated on Aug 26, 2021 04:55 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Union government on Wednesday cancelled with immediate effect all previously issued visas to Afghan nationals who are currently not in India, and announced that they can now travel to the country only on an electronic visa or e-visa.

A government order said that the introduction of the “e-Emergency X-Misc visa” last week has streamlined the visa process, and officials aware of the matter pointed out that the decision was taken after intelligence agencies received reports that several Afghan nationals issued physical visas misplaced their passports, suggesting that they may either not be able to use the visas, or that the visas could be misused.

The Indian embassy and all consulates in Afghanistan were closed in the last two months.

“Owing to the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan and streamlining of the visa process by introduction of the ‘e-Emergency X-Misc visa’, it has been decided that all Afghan nationals henceforth must travel to India only on e-Visa,” a home ministry spokesperson said.

“Keeping in view some reports that certain passports of Afghan nationals have been misplaced, previously issued visas to all Afghan nationals, who are presently not in India, stand invalidated with immediate effect. Afghan nationals wishing to travel to India may apply for e-Visa at www.indianvisaonline.gov.in,” the spokesperson added.

As HT reported on Wednesday, intelligence agencies have alerted the government that some unidentified Urdu-speaking men forced their way into an office in Kabul dealing with visa distribution on behalf of the Indian missions there, and seized and unknown number of Afghan passports with stamped visas.

The incident took place on August 15, the day Taliban captured Kabul.

People familiar with the matter said that Indian agencies suspected the men who seized Afghan passports stamped with Indian visas had links with Pakistan, and the passports could be used for anti-India activities.

Those who have lost their passports in Afghanistan and wish to travel to India will now have to get a new passport in Kabul, and then apply for an Indian e-visa, said one of the people. He added the e-visa applications will be examined and processed in New Delhi.

The “e-Emergency X-Misc visa” will initially be valid for six months, and all Afghans, irrespective of their religion, can apply for it.

Afghanistan nationals were so far not eligible for e-visas for India because the country came under the Prior Reference Category (PRC) for grant of visa. Under PRC, people travelling to India have to be cleared by home ministry first. People covered under PRC include nationals from Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan, foreigners of Pakistani origin, and stateless persons. China is in the PRC category only for employment visas.

India has so far evacuated 800 people from Kabul, including its embassy staff, Indians who lived there, several Afghans, including two members of parliament, and Hindus and Sikhs who faced threats from the Taliban.

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