India in visa row with Lanka

By Sunimalee Dias

India has expressed concern over Sri Lanka's new visa rules, particularly the US$ 50 processing fee, and urged that it be reduced. India's is Sri Lanka's biggest inbound travel market, followed by Britain.

During a meeting with Immigration Chief Chulananda Perera and an official of the Indian High Commission on Thursday a request was made to reduce the rate of the visa processing fee as a reciprocal arrangement for member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC).

Mr. Perera told the Sunday Times the Indian official had observed that the new visa processing fee of US$ 50 was "too high". Asked about the government's response to this request, Mr. Perera noted that as this was a government policy decision the department was unable to take a stand on the matter. But he believed that the government was likely to be flexible.

Several SAARC member states charge nationals within the grouping reduced rates for visa fees and entrance fees at places like museums and tourist spots.

SAARC nationals are offered this concession to promote people-to-people contacts. In this respect, India's visa fee charges from SAARC countries are considered nominal as in the case of a tourist visa for Sri Lankans being LK Rs 650.

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