South African travellers to India will now have to go to an application centre to be fingerprinted and photographed for a visa.
Visa applicants will have to first book an appointment online.
VFS Global‚ the outsourcing and technologist services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide‚ said from July 17 biometric enrolment‚ comprising of fingerprints and facial images‚ will become mandatory as per a directive from the High Commission of India in Pretoria.
Those applying for visas via the centres in Johannesburg‚ Durban and Cape Town will have to submit the biometric data in person.
Those using the E-visas service will be fingerprinted and photographed by immigration authorities upon landing in India.
“As this process may be time-consuming‚ applicants can instead enrol biometrics in South Africa itself at the India Visa Application Centres‚ which will ease out the travel process‚” VFS Global said.
Saimel Travel and Tours travel manager Kriss Naicker said most of his clients — as many as 600 a month during peak periods — already opt for the E-visas which are valid for two months.
“They are fine with the waiting period time in India for biometrics because the visa is free and cost effective when processed by a travel agent rather than to obtain the six-month visa which requires a lot of documents‚ such as a three-months’ bank statement‚ for submission and costs more. Also, you have to schedule an appointment for this visa which is time-consuming for most of the clients‚” he said.
One Stop Travels & Tours’ Ameen Mahomed said travellers applying at the centres would have to follow the rules.
“There will be some people who would not mind going to centres because they don’t want to stand in the long queues in India‚ and there will be those that would prefer E-Visas. It’s up to the individual but the rules have to be followed because they are mandatory‚” he said.
Mahomed said India was a popular destination for South Africans.
“Last year we filled just one flight to India with 250 of our clients. That should tell you how many clients we assist a month.”
By Nivashni Nair