India suspends visa services for Canadians


Those who have valid visas and other kinds of documents like OCI are free to travel to India – Indian External Affairs minister
BLS, the company that processes Indian visas in Canada, announced that visa services had been suspended until further notice. The BLS Indian Visa Application Center gave no further details.
“Due to operation reasons, with immediate effect i.e. 21 September 2023, Indian visa services in Canada have been suspended till further notice,” the BLS said on its website.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs later confirmed the news and said “security threats” faced by the Indian High Commission and consulates in Canada led to the temporary measure of halting visa issuance across all categories.
The suspension means that Canadians who don’t already have visas will not be able to travel to India until services resume.
However, Indian external affairs minister confirmed that those who have a visa or OCIs are free to travel. “The issue is not about travel to India — those who have valid visas and other kinds of document like OCI are free to travel to India — but the issue is of incitement of violence and the creation of an environment that disrupt the functioning of our high commission and consulates, that’s what’s making us stop temporarily the issuance of visas or providing visa services” Arindam Bagchi, the official spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs said at a regular news conference in New Delhi on Thursday.
The move will curtail Indian travel for Canadians, even if they apply in third countries, Bagchi said, adding that this temporary suspension will involve all visas, including e-visas. He said this situation will be reviewed on a regular basis.
The announcement was a big blow to many Indians or Canadians who are planning travel between India and Canada. Canadians are among the top travelers to India. In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited the country, according to India’s Bureau of Immigration.
To a question on possible reduction of Canadian diplomats stationed in India, Bagchi said, “Yes, we’ve informed the government of Canada that there should be parity in strength in our mutual diplomatic presence. Their number is very much higher than ours in Canada… I assume there will be a reduction from the Canadian side.”
He said that Canada has not given any specific information about its allegations of New Delhi’s hand in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, and they appear to be “politically driven”.
Addressing the media, he said: “Yes, I do think there is a degree of prejudice here. They have made allegations and taken action on them. To us, it seems that these allegations by government of Canada are primarily politically driven.”
“The complete ban (suspension of visa services) on Canadian citizens to visit India is not right. If someone is involved in some activity then it can be done but such an outright ban is not good,” said SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami.