"We believe this sudden change is unfair to you"
According to reports, many British citizens have had to cancel their trips to India due to a last-minute change to visa procedure.
People travelling to India from the UK now have to attend visa processing centres in person.
The rule replaces the online process and it came after Home Secretary Suella Braverman said that Indians are the “largest group of people who overstay” their visas and that people didn’t vote for Brexit to have an open borders agreement with India.
Brits have now started to receive messages from their travel agents and third-party visa agencies warning that they have to make applications in person following an announcement from the Indian embassy.
This is extremely difficult for many people as India’s nine visa processing centres in Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Cardiff, Edinburgh, central London, Hounslow, Leicester and Manchester are fully booked for more than a month.
Now many are facing the prospect of cancelling their trips entirely, potentially missing important family events and losing money on flights and accommodation.
Before the reported change, Brits could apply for a paper visa to India via post.
Citizens of 156 other countries are able to do the process online, but the UK has been banned from this, along with the likes of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Lebanon and Pakistan.
Would-be travellers have expressed their frustration at not being able to travel.
One woman asked the Indian High Commission online:
“How are our UK friends supposed to book a visa appointment to attend my wedding in India if there are no appointments available at all and nobody is answering our emails or calls?
“We have been trying to contact you for three weeks now.”
Another unhappy customer added:
“We are due to fly to India this Thursday. Due to fly. We are not flying.
“They didn’t process our visas. £5,000+ holiday gone. I do blame Braverman.”
“I’m still £5,000 out of pocket. Travel insurance doesn’t cover this.”
The Times reported that Jeannette Findlay received a text from Visa Genie that read “effective immediately, the Indian embassy has advised that all applications must be made in person. We believe this sudden change is unfair to you and potentially very expensive”.
However, the Indian High Commission said that the visa rules were not changed at the last minute.
Instead, it claims that British applicants have always had to apply in person at VFS Centres and that third-party agencies had been collecting fees and then heading to the centres themselves.
The Commission said that the matter was being investigated.