Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi warns of online visa scandal

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The website instructions ask users to pay service fee of 55 Pounds or 90 US Dollar or in equivalent Euros/Indian Rupees.

The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has blown the lid off an apparent online visa scam and has warned non-Indians against falling prey to scamsters operating a website that claims to facilitate Indian visas for foreign nationals.

In a Press statement issued on Thursday, the mission said “some unscrupulous elements had created a website similar to the Online Visa Application website of the Government of India and are deceiving people to pay service fee”.

The scam has come to light close on the heels of news that the Indian government has decided to extend visa-on-arrival and electronic travel authorisation to citizens of 180 countries, including the UAE — a move that is expected to significantly increase the number of tourists and other travellers to India.

While the official, authentic website for online visa application has URL address, the mission said: “Another website with the heading of Online Indian Visa Application Form and with URL address is available on the Internet.

“This website claims to have expertise in Indian tourist, business and long term entry visa. The website instructions ask users to pay service fee of 55 Pounds or 90 US Dollar or in equivalent Euros/Indian Rupees. This website is only charging service fees and is asking applicants to pay visa fee later when applying at the visa center,” the embassy said.

According to the statement, the mission had also been informed that a few applicants had turned up at different BLS International Centres, the visa service providers of Indian missions in the UAE.

Though the number of applicants who have been cheated in the UAE was not made available immediately, the embassy said the applicants had visited the BLS centres after filling up the online visa application on this website and paying the “service fee”.

When contacted, Indian Ambassador to the UAE T. P. Seetharam told Khaleej Times that the embassy had already notified the Indian Ministry of External Affairs about the matter.

“We will take all measures and pursue all options to prevent people from getting cheated,” he said, when asked if he would request the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of the UAE to block the site.

“This has happened in recent days. There have been some cases, not only here but in some other countries in the region as well. So, we felt giving maximum publicity to this is the best thing to do immediately so that we can prevent more people from falling prey to this.”

The number of non-Indian visitors to India is expected to increase significantly in the coming months as India’s Planning Minister Rajiv Shukla on Wednesday said the decision to extend visa-on-arrival and electronic travel authorisation was likely to be implemented from the next tourist season beginning October.

The extension will be implemented initially at nine airports, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Goa and Trivandrum. Foreign travellers can apply for a visa from home and receive an online confirmation in five working days.

Improving ties

Welcoming the decision, the Indian Ambassador said the Indian missions were awaiting official notification regarding the move.

Nevertheless, he opined that it will way pave way for not just more tourism and trade to India from the UAE, but will improve cultural ties between Indians and Emiratis as well.

“We want more young Emiratis also to travel to India,” he said.

Earlier at a private reception, the new envoy highlighted the need for boosting cultural relations between Indians and Emiratis, especially with the young generation.

“When many young Emiratis have not visited India and some have been there only for a couple of times, their older generation had been to India a hundred times. We need to focus on cultural exchange with these young Emiratis and encourage them to visit our country,” Seetharam said at the reception organised in Dubai by social worker and senior Indian expatriate Bharatbhai Shah.

He also stressed that senior community workers need to engage young Indians in community activities. The ambassador also recommended the Indian Business and Professional Council to start a junior wing to bring in young leadership to the fore.

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