Minorities of India’s neighbours to be given 5-year visa

New Delhi

Members of the minority communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh will be given five years visa instead of one-year as part of government’s effort to address their grievances and according citizenship in future.

“The central government has decided that henceforth the long-term visa will be granted initially by the Home Ministry for five years at a time on the specific recommendation of the state government or union territory administration instead of one year at present,” a Home Ministry statement said today.

Powers have been delegated to Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) and Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) concerned to grant extension for a period up to six months on the short-term visa of the minority nationals from neighbouring countries applying for long-term visa.

A time-line of one month for FRRO and FRO and 21 days for the state government and union territory administration has been fixed for processing of such applications.

Children of minority nationals from neighbouring countries staying on long-term visa can now take admission in schools, colleges, universities, technical and professional institutions without any specific permission from the state government or union territory administration, the statement said.

Only an intimation is to be given in this regard to FRRO or FRO concerned. The state governments and union territory administrations have also been empowered to grant permission to minority nationals from neighbouring countries staying on long-term visa to engage themselves in employment of purely private nature.

State governments and union territory administrations have now been empowered to grant a maximum of two additional places at any given point of time, in addition to the place of stay, grant of return visa for a maximum period of 90 days at a time and permission for change in mode of travel and port of exit in respect of minority nationals from neighbouring countries living in India on long-term visa or whose such proposal is under consideration.

The central government has been constantly reviewing the hardships faced by the applicants from the neighbouring countries especially the minorities in those countries for grant of Indian citizenship and long-term visa, the statement said.

In continuation of the efforts, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the above measures to streamline grant of long-term visa and facilitate the stay of minority nationals from neighbouring countries on long-term visa, especially the minority communities from Pakistan.

There are about 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in Rajasthan’s cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur. Many Sikh refugees live in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

There are thousands of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh in West Bengal and Assam.

According to an estimate, about one lakh minority community refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan live in India.

As BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi had, during campaigning for Lok Sabha polls, said at rallies in Rajasthan, West Bengal and Assam that Pakistani and Bangladeshi Hindu refugees would be treated like other Indian citizens if he became Prime Minister.

“We have a responsibility toward Hindus who are harassed and suffer in other countries. Where will they go? India is the only place for them. Our government cannot continue to harass them. We will have to accommodate them here,” he had said at a rally in Silchar in Assam in February.

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