India’s Consul General for South Australia and New South Wales, Shri Sunjay Sudhir visited Adelaide to interact with members of Indian community, address their concerns and brief them on various new regulations on Visa, Consular and general policy matters.
Shri Arindam Banerjee, Vice Consul, Consular matters, accompanied him.
A meeting was held on 3rd February 2015 at VFS office in Adelaide, where several prominent members of the Indian Community, media persons and travel agents were present. Various general issues and concerns of the community at large were discussed. The Consul General also informed the audience about the following important changes:
i) Merger of OCI and PIO schemes: The PIO scheme has been discontinued w.e.f. 9th January 2015 and, henceforth, only OCI cards will be issued. There has been a revision in the guidelines for eligibility for OCI cards. The affixing of OCI visa stickers on foreign passports has also been dispensed with. All the latest revision in OCI rules will be updated on the VFS and Consulate’s website very soon.
ii) Introduction of TVOA-ETA scheme: The Government of India has recently launched the Tourist Visa on Arrival Scheme for Australian passport holders. It is a one-month single entry visa granted online in the form of an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). There is a separate website on this scheme, where all details in this regard are given. The Consulate’s website also has a link to the TVOA-ETA website.
iii) Introduction of appointment system: An appointment system has been introduced at VFS w.e.f. January 2015 for submission of applications for visa and other consular services
iv) Introduction of Biometrics: Capture of biometric finger-printing and facial imagery will soon be made compulsory for all visa applicants. The dates and procedure will be intimated soon.
v) Calls to VFS call centres could be charged: At present, all calls to VFS call centres are free of charge. However, it has been noticed that certain applicants are trying to even fill their entire application forms while holding on to a call. Other applicants with more genuine queries are made to wait in queue. In order to curb such misuse, the Consulate 4th February 2015 is considering introducing a system where the first 3 minutes of a call will be free and, thereafter, it would be charged.
vi) Feedback of applicants: The Consulate has, recently, made a lot of
changes on their website. It is important that regular suggestions and feedback are provided by the applicants based on their experience, so that the service being provided could be further improved.
There was another meeting on the same day where members of the India Australia Association of South Australia (IAASA) were addressed by the Consul General. It was a big gathering where all the above points were discussed in detail. Several members pointed out the lack of clarity and transparency in the rules of the Indian Customs with regard to import of currency and jewellery. Assurance was given that the Consulate is aware of the problems being faced by tourists visiting India and that the matter is already being taken up with the authorities in India.