India's visa revise spurs exit by laborers

08:50, November 03, 2009      

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A new visa policy by India has driven some Chinese workers out and a concerned Chinese government to call for more consideration of businesses and laborers situated in the South Asian nation.

The visa policy, issued in mid-July, mainly affects expatriates working in India on a business visa, which previously had been allowed for a wider range of occupations and employees.

Approximately 25,000 Chinese workers in such sectors as power generation, communication and petroleum in India will be affected by the clampdown, according to media reports in India. Chinese businesses in South Asia generated $18 billion in 2008, mostly in India, according to Chinese experts.

China's Ministry of Commerce voiced its deep concern about the new policy after it received many complaints from Chinese companies in India.


"We hope India will be considerate of the circumstances of Chinese firms there and provide more convenience for Chinese laborers and firms," said an official with the press office of the ministry who declined to give his name.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday also warned Chinese citizens heading to work in India to acquire employment visas first.

"Citizens can't be engaged in works that doesn't match with their visa category," said a notice posted on the ministry's website.

Experts said that India tightened its visa policy to help curb unskilled foreign laborers, who are mainly Chinese in the sectors of infrastructure.

Hu Shisheng, scholar on South Asia Studies from China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the financial crisis that struck India's labor-intensive industries was the last straw that compelled the government to tighten its labor policy.

"India has a huge population of young illiterate. They can depend on nothing but their labor to earn a living. So it's conceivable that the Indian government would want to protect its own labor force," Hu said.

Those who fail to meet the government's new criteria for the business visa had a deadline of Oct 31 to leave the country. They can return to the country to work only if they meet the stricter criteria for a full employment visa.

Many Chinese workers in India hold six-month visas known as a "Multiple Entry Business Visa". This has been the normal practice tolerated by the Indian government to save time on a visa application, a Chinese diplomat in India surnamed Li told China Daily.

To acquire a work visa, approval must be given by India's Home Ministry. It requires a more rigorous vetting process as compared with the process of acquiring a business visa, for which invitation by a "recognized Indian organization" is vital, Li said.

The Embassy of India in China also said on its website that business-visa holders can perform some short-term project work. Under the new rules, a business visa is only reserved for a smaller pool of senior executives, trade consultants and other specialists.

Under the amended rules, foreign clerical, secretarial and unskilled workers will not be given work visas in India, a nation that has high unemployment and under-employment levels.

Employment visas will not be "granted for jobs for which large numbers of qualified Indians are available," the Home Ministry said.

The number of Chinese workers applying for the new work visas is currently unknown and the Indian Embassy in China was unavailable for comment yesterday.

A manager surnamed Jiang with Huaxia Outbound Labor Service in Donghai county, Jiangsu province, where the largest number of workers in China goes abroad for work, told China Daily that about 20 native workers to India are on their way back.

"We are confident in their skills, but they had to return as they were not able to get a visa," he said.

Pan Xiaoyong, a technician with Huawei Technologies, a major Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier based in Shenzhen, said the firm is currently staging an urgent hunt for technicians holding India business visas to fill up the vacancies created by the new visa policy.

Ding Qingfen, Hu Yongqi and AFP contributed to the story

Source:China Daily
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