Moscow: The much-awaited Indo-Russia easy visa agreement to ensure greater business and people-to-people exchanges will come into force from December 1.
    
On its entry, the deal inked in December last year during President Dmitry Medvedev's Delhi visit will put behind the bitter chapter in ties, when India was blacklisted as the "illegal immigration risk" and Russia had insisted on a 'readmission pact' binding India to take back its illegal immigrants trying to sneak into EU via its soil.
   
"An agreement on facilitation of Russia-India visa regime will come into force on December 1, after that tourists will be issued a six-month visa and the procedure for businessmen will be simplified," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich here announced.
    
He said after the completion of ratification procedures by both houses of Parliament and signing of the "Inter- Governmental Agreement on simplification of requirements for mutual travels of certain categories of citizens" into law by Medvedev, the Indian Embassy had been notified on November 1 about its entry into force 30 days later on December 1.”
   
"In line with Article 13 paragraph 1 of the Agreement, it is coming into effect 30 days after the note has been received by the embassy of India, thus it will be on December 1", Lukashevich said in his regular weekly briefing.
   
Signed in Delhi on December 21, 2010, the pact provides for simplified visa process for official delegations, businessmen, members of the chambers of industry and commerce,
persons involved in scientific, cultural and creative professions, sister-city exchanges, school children, other students, their group leaders, research scholars and tourists.
   
India has already started the implementation of the accord from June 12 after the ratification of the treaty by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).  "To further encourage business contacts and promote tourism between India and Russia we are now already issuing multi-entry business visas valid for one year against six months single or double entry in the past and tourist visas valid for six months with multiple entries," Indian Ambassador to Russia, Ajai Malhotra, said.
   
The Indian diplomatic missions in Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostok have streamlined issuance of business and tourist visas within three working days against 14 days in the past.
   
According to Malhotra, the Indian missions in Russia had issued about 110,000 visas to Russian citizens during 2010.
   
"I expect this number to increase by about 25 percent this year", he hoped.
    
The individual citizens and organisations will no longer need an invitation or a tourist voucher to travel to Russia or India and will be able to directly apply for visas.
   
For the first time since the Soviet collapse, the two sides are also considering the issuance of one year and five -year multi-entry visas, allowing the citizens of the two countries holding valid national passports to stay on the territory of the other country for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days from their first entry.
   
This limit is explained by the international practice that after staying in a foreign country for more than 180 days, he becomes the tax resident of that country.
   
The pact also provides for easier process for returning to their respective country in case of loss of travel documents and 'gratis' (free) extension of their visas in case of need.
   
Many Russians jailed in India for overstaying due to loss of their passports or expiry of visa will benefit from the new law along with an unspecified number of illegal Indian immigrants duped by agents.

(Agencies)