Indian group visa holders barred from China travel, immigration silenttext_fields
Groups of people who were scheduled to travel to China from airports in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Delhi airports were stopped from boarding their planes on October 31, after immigration authorities allegedly deemed their visas invalid without adequate explanation.
Some of these travellers were en route to attend the All In Print China 2023 exhibition in Shanghai, scheduled from November 1 to 4. Intriguingly, a group from Hyderabad was able to travel to China on October 28 for the same exhibition, using the same type of visa that was denied to those who encountered issues three days later.
Mujeeb Ahmed, a member of the Governing Council of All India Federation of Master Printers (AIFMP) and one of the travellers who were stopped, said that this was a peculiar incident and they were given no notice about why their visa was ‘invalid’ reports The News Minute.
Delegates participating in the exhibition received a ‘group visa’, similar to a tourist visa but with a few notable differences.
A group visa is a type of single-entry visa specifically issued to two or more groups travelling to China for tourism purposes. This visa option has been available for nearly 15 years and stands out for its distinctive feature – applicants do not have to submit biometric data or physically visit the Chinese embassy to obtain it.
Some rules to be followed by group visa holders are:
- All members of the group must enter and exit China on the same day.
- Members holding the visa must enter either through Beijing or Shanghai.
- This is a single-entry visa for tourist purposes and the stay must not exceed 30 days.
Mujeeb emphasized that the sudden entry denial was a costly inconvenience. Travel plans and hotel bookings had already been arranged, with each traveller investing approximately Rs 1,60,000 in the trip. Concerns also arose about the possibility of refunds, especially as airlines might label their absence as 'no show.'
Following the incident, AIFMP lodged a complaint with the Bureau of Immigration on October 31, outlining the situation. They also requested permission to attend the exhibition, though they received no response.
Raveendra Joshi, another affected traveller, recounted the situation at Mumbai airport on October 31, highlighting that the issue arose during immigration procedures. Authorities demanded 'stamped visas,' which the travellers lacked.
Despite asserting the validity of their visas, they were denied passage and received no government circular or notification justifying the rejection.
Raveendra now fears the impact of the 'cancelled' mark on his passport on future visa applications and travel arrangements. He advocates for an official letter from the government to exonerate the passengers and safeguard their travel plans.
Tushar Dhote, who was also set to travel, noted this was the first time his group visa had been rejected, and immigration officers suggested applying for a 'proper visa' at the Chinese embassy. He argued that without a government circular explicitly prohibiting group visas, their travel should not have been halted, especially as they had received boarding passes.
U Tourizmo, a Noida-based travel agency, arranged the trip for one of the affected groups. Kunal Sood, the director, explained the issuance of group visas and expressed concern about the lack of prior information regarding their supposed invalidity.
He disclosed the convenience of group visas, the potential loss of business opportunities, and the financial liability borne by travel agencies when faced with sudden visa denials.