India, Maldives reverse visa stand off

India, Maldives reverse visa stand off

Relief for expatriates, students and medical patients after 2018 freeze

India and Maldives on Tuesday exchanged an agreement to facilitate visas for travel between the two countries in a number of categories, easing a bilateral stand off which had resulted in thousands of Indian job seekers being denied work permits last year.

“This Agreement provides a very liberal visa regime for Maldivian nationals to visit India for tourism, business, education & medical purposes. It also makes it easier for Indians to travel to Maldives for business purposes,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement, announcing the exchange of diplomatic notes for the implementation of the “Visa Facilitation Agreement”. The agreement was signed in December of last year during the visit of Maldives President Ibu Solih.

Under the agreement, the government will free up the visa regime for Maldives citizens who travel to India for medical reasons and for education in particular. This will include allowing Maldives citizens who receive a visa on arrival in India to change their visa status to medical visas if they require hospitalisation during their stay.

For attendants

Medical visas will also be granted to attendants to accompany patients. The government has also agreed to grant visas for parents and other dependants to live in India while their children attend school here. The facilitation has been a long pending demand of the Maldives government, given the difficulties faced by thousands of short term visa applicants each year.

The agreement will ease visas on arrival for Indian businessmen, and bring cheer to Indians applying for work in the Maldives, as it stipulates that work permits will be issued within 15 days to Indian employees, and the visa fees will be paid by employers in the Maldives.

In another sigin of the improving ties, the Maldives cabinet passed a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) to be signed with India. The MLAT or extradition treaty will have to be ratified by the Maldives Parliament Majlis before being signed by the two countries.

Thaw after freeze

Last year, former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen had cited the problems faced by citizens as a reason to clamp down on visas to Indian expatriates. Between February and September 2018, the Yameen government imposed a virtual visa freeze on Indians who had been chosen for jobs in the Maldives. More than 2,000 applicants had been left in difficult circumstances as a result of the move, with many jobs at hotel resorts, hospitals, schools and colleges being advertised for “non-Indians only”.

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