India may relax visa norms for 55k Sri Lankan monks

monks-sri-lanka-bcclDays after the visit of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Indian Government is examining a proposal to relax the visa regime for Buddhist monks from the island nation, the Economic Times reported.

More than 55,000 monks visit India every year on employment visa to work in monasteries at New Delhi, Dharamshala, Varanasi, Kushi Nagar and Bodh Gaya, said officials.

As per the rules, monks are required to pay a visa fee of $150 for employment permit every year.

The one-year visa can be extended up to five years after which they are required to go back to Colombo and apply fresh, added officials. Sri Lanka has not only sought in relaxation of rules for these monks but has also urged the Indian authorities to waive of the visa fees.

A senior government official told ET, “They are in India to follow their religion and work mostly on honorary basis. Therefore, the Sri Lankan Government has requested us to waive off the visa fees.” Colombo also proposed that the 5-year stay cap be replaced by long term visas to these monks.  (Colombo Gazette)