Students, patients lament as India takes months to issue Visa

Posted by News Express | 20 November 2021 | 421 times

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•Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama

 

Hundreds of prospective travellers to India, for various reasons, have decried undue delay or denial of visas by the Indian High Commission in Abuja. 

Most of the applicants said they had paid a non-refundable fee of N104, 000 each and submitted relevant documents to justify the trip, but were either kept in suspense or denied visas, after needless delay.

Among the applicants are lecturers or instructors in various universities and polytechnics in Nigeria who want to go to India for postgraduate studies.

While some of them would be funded by the institutions where they teach, others secured scholarship from the Indian government.

Others were also granted 25 per cent, 50 per cent, 75 per cent or 100 per cent scholarship by some universities in India, with a caveat that they would process their visas here in Nigeria. This is where the problem lies as embassy officials are not forthcoming.

Some patients who have secured appointments in hospitals in India are also finding it tough getting visas to embark on the trip as some of them wait for six month and above without hope.

Daily Trust reports that India is one of the destinations of choice for many Nigerians seeking knowledge and medical attention.

“I am yet to come to terms with why the embassy is not willing to give me a visa after I fulfilled all the requirements.

“I got a 100 per cent scholarship from the school I want to go for studies but could not secure a visa,” an applicant who only gave his name as Mohammed said.

Aisha, a civil servant, said some patients died while waiting to get visas to India.

She said, “But I think it is our fault. I mean the fault of our governments at all levels, and rich people who have failed to make things work here.

“Our hospitals don’t have the facilities to attend to some complications, while our schools are always on strike. I think this is basically why we see health and education tourism as the last resort.”

Aisha, however, said the visa denial or delay was not unique to India.

“Many countries, some within Africa, look down on us because of how we cheapened ourselves. They reluctantly give visas to us. Even government officials are affected in some cases,” she said.

A diplomat said Nigerians should be blamed for the embarassment. “Many of our people dont have businesses going out but they want to go using dubious  means. That is why the embassies are strict,” he said.

“We should love our country – we can make things happen here through hardwork and patriotism,” he added.

Lamentations at embassy

When Daily Trust visited the Indian high commission in Abuja on Wednesday, some applicants were seen going in and out of the offices to get information about their visas.

Some of the applicants said most of the prospective travellers were going to India for studies on scholarship, medical trips, businesses and some other reasons, and the delay is impacting negatively on them.

At the high commission, it is a tale of gloom as many of them held on to a slim thread of hope to set foot in Mahatma Gandhi’s country.

Some prospective travellers who said they turned up early to be attended to before the issuance time of 4pm, decried that it cost them money, time and energy to visit the high commission every day, only to get the hopeless response of: “Wait for our call, your visa is not ready.”

One of the applicants, who didn’t want to be named, said that months back, the high commission was a Mecca of sorts, but as the visa officials continued to turn applicants back, the place was deserted.

He also insinuated that the low turnout at that time of the day (2:00pm) was because the commission was not approving most visa applications, and in some instances, reneging on receiving documents that were asked to be submitted.

Emmanuel Abael, who was at the commission on behalf of his sick cousin, said their application for a visa to India had been stalled since they applied in June.

He told our reporter that the country became a choice of destination as his cousin had an unsuccessful surgery for cancer in a Nigerian hospital.

He said his brother’s condition had gotten worse since the surgery and the family considered India as a saving grace. He, however, said the family had lost hope on their brother as the chances of surviving looked very slim.

“My cousin is bedridden due to the nature of the sickness.  We came from Kogi State but moved him to Abuja, hoping that the trip would be facilitated early. Despite the fact that the commission has not approved his visa, we are still hopeful that if he is still alive when it is approved, we will take him there, that’s why we decided not to withdraw his passport,” Abael said.

He said he visited the commission because he was called by a representative to bring a document, adding that it was not the first time he would be called to the place. 

He said they had not been able to see any of the officials at the commission to know the reason behind the delay.

“They keep on requesting for different documents, and we would give it to them. Apart from that, they are asking us to bring him for an interview, but we keep telling them that he is in the hospital and can’t be brought for that purpose,” he added.

While saying that the family is yet to inform him of the non-approval of his visa, he revealed that they deposited $2,000 to a hospital in India, with a promise of a refund if the trip is not successful.

 Similarly, Ibrahim Adam said his student visa was yet to be approved, even as lectures have begun in the school he applied to study in. He intends to read Pharmacy.

Adam said he had been visiting the commission for the past two months when he applied for the visa.

“It has been like a cycle for me. When I am called to submit a document I try to be in Abuja as early as possible from Niger State, but upon my arrival, I would be told that I would not submit the file in the morning, that I should wait till 4pm. But when the time comes, I would be told to come the next day because evening is meant for collection of visas,” he recounted.

He, however, said he was not treated this way when he paid the non- refundable N105,000 visa fee.

“When you come on the first day, the visa fee is the first thing they will collect. They will treat you well on that day and listen to whatever you have to say. An applicant is led inside the commission for an interview, but after that, you keep on waiting for when their next call would come,” he lamented.

Getting his admission on August 8, Christopher Ejike said he quickly applied for visa a week later, to meet up with the 75 per cent attendance needed to sit for an exam in the Indian university where he hoped to undertake his undergraduate degree.

When he was called for an interview at the commission, he was promised that his visa would be ready after five working days, but three months down the line, the visa is yet to be ready.

“They keep asking for documents. I have submitted some to them, which they misplaced. I came around because they asked me to bring a document that would show that my school is accredited by the University Grant Commission of India, which I had submitted before.”

With his password and other documents still with the commission as his application is being reviewed, he hopes his application would be granted before the school starts its mid-term examination, which is to hold in two weeks’ time.

“Without scoring 40 per cent in the examination, I won’t be able to write the end of semester examination. I am going there to read Pharmacy, and failure to get a 60 per cent pass mark will lead to my rustication from the school,” he said.

The applicants who spoke with our reporter called on the federal government to help look into the matter so that they would be able to actualise their dreams.

Another applicant who claimed that he was given a scholarship by the Indian government to study in one of their universities said he had spent over a year attending online classes due the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Now, the institution said we must be there in person or we forfeit our studies. In all conditions, I have completed the requirements needed by the Indian High Commission in Abuja, but since April, they have kept telling me to come back. 

“The last time I came, they asked me to produce something called “GAP,” which is new to me entirely. And nobody explained what the GAP means to me. So I left the embassy and returned home. 

“Looking at the fact that COVID-19 was seriously affecting them in India, there was no way for me to travel, but I intended to have the visa so that whenever time warrants, I would find my way. 

“After a while, I discovered that the Indian government relaxed restrictions for people to apply for visas. I returned to the embassy about a month ago, but prior to going there, a friend of mine who had written the GAP to the embassy gave me the format. I wrote mine and submitted. They directed me to mail it through their consulate address, which I did, and since then, they keep asking me to wait for their response. 

He called on the federal government to intervene and ease the suffering of Nigerians travelling abroad through legal means. 

At the embassy, those waiting to get update on their student visa applications were seen glued to their phones while others were chatting; and some were fast asleep, hoping to wake up to the good news of their visa approval.

One of the applicants who gave his name as Muhammad Abi was among the few people that got their visas after a long struggle.

He said, “In fact, what brought me this time was to withdraw my application because those of us on scholarship are more than 100 and the semester is about to end without any hope of getting the visas. 

“I am happy that I got the visa after seven months of delay, but it is very bad for the majority of us who could not get theirs.

“I have a friend who started his master’s in one of the Indian universities online due to COVID-19, and it came to a point that the university wanted them in campus. He has been pursuing the visa for several months now without success, while his academic time there is lapsing.”

Apart from those hoping to get visas, there are people who engage in petty businesses to tend to the needs of the applicants.

One of them, who simply gave her name as Mimido, said she also worked as an agent for some Indian hospitals.

“There are people who don’t know which hospital to go to for medical tourism in India. I help them,” she said.

 Asked how she was able to do that, she said some hospitals usually sent representatives to Nigeria and give agents like her proposals for patients, who would in turn be referred to the commission.

India shouldn’t take Nigeria for granted – Envoy

A former Nigerian ambassador to Kuwait, Haruna Garba, said Nigeria had been among the countries helping the economy of India; therefore, they should not take Nigerians for granted.

“India should treat anything that concerns Nigeria with urgency because, apart from medical tourism, Nigerians patronise India for businesses. Their visas to Nigerians should be very fast. 

“To me, the number one interest every country should look at is patronage. Is our economy benefitting from that country? If yes, why not allow them to come? 

“To be candid, if this delay is happening, I don’t think it is fair to Nigeria. And it is wrong for India because we are not going there to take their economy. 

“Look at it from the number of Nigerians that go to India. If 100 Nigerians go to India, you hardly get 50 Indians coming here. In a nutshell, they have a balance of trade advantage over us,” he said. 

He advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take the matter up with the Indian Embassy and make case for Nigerians.

All efforts to speak to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Esther Sunsuwa, were not successful as she did not respond to calls or reply text messages sent to her. 

Why there’s delay in processing student visas for applicants — India

 The High Commission of India in Abuja has explained the reason some applicants, especially students, experience delays in getting their visa processed. 

It said, though visa processing was time bound, some applications were delayed due to the applicants’ inability to submit required documents on time. 

Vipul Mesariya, the High Commission’s First Secretary (Political, Information & Education), in an emailed response to Daily Trust Saturday, said the mission insisted on these documents to save students from getting enrolled in an unrecognized university.

According to him, over 1,500 Nigerians were admitted into various Indian universities for the year 2021-2022, which further increased the number of Nigerian students studying in the Asian country currently. 

This, he said, further increased the number of student visas issued by the High Commission in Abuja and Lagos.

He said, “Our visa processing is transparent, time bound and based on long established procedures.

“Sometimes visa processing time for a few applicants may be longer than others, purely because of the applicants’ inability to submit required documents for specific categories of visa on time. 

“In case of student visas, applicants need to submit educational qualifications certificates such as  school certificates, mark sheets, diploma, birth certificate, etc., admission letter from an Indian University/school or higher education establishment approved by UGC, rating of the admitting institution by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) of India, an official admission letter from the concerned Indian university/college/institute communicated directly to the High Commission, confirming the admission, along with other required documents from local authorities in Nigeria. 

“We insist on these documents as we don’t want students to get enrolled in a university which is not recognized, as it will only impact adversely upon the student’s future as well as India-Nigeria’s educational cooperation.

“As you would be aware, India has been an attractive destination for Nigerian students for pursuing higher education since 1955.  

‘The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR)’s scholarship programme, fully funded by it, became the main vehicle for Nigerian students to study in India since the 1960s. 

“Over the years, India as an education destination has become popular owing to its high quality at affordable costs.  

“Currently, thousands of Nigerian students are studying in various Indian universities. 

“In March 2021, the Government of India launched the ‘Study in India (SII)’ portal, which is giving a further fillip to the interest among deserving Nigerian students willing to join renowned and recognized Indian educational institutions. 

“For the year 2021-22, around 1500+ Nigerian students gained admission into various universities in India under the SII programme, as a result of which the number of student visas issued by the High Commission of India in Abuja and our Office in Lagos has increased even further.

“We would like to inform all visa applicants, through the Nigerian media, that if they have any doubts about their visa applications/documents/university, etc., they are always welcome to contact the High Commission of India, Abuja or our Office in Lagos, by email at cons1.abuja@mea.gov.in/ cons.abuja@mea.gov.in and cons.lagos@mea.gov.in/ visa.lagos@mea.gov.in respectively.”

 

(Adopted from Daily Trust)

 


Source: News Express

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