India may ease visa rules for Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka

 India relaxing visa rules for Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka

The government of India is mulling relaxing visa rules for Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka entering India, said Indian government officials.

The existing visa rules require monks from Sri Lanka visiting India to work in monasteries and temples to pay $150 visa fee every year for an employment permit.

According to the officials, more than 55,000 monks visit their neigbouring country every year to work in monasteries located in Dharamshala, New Delhi, Varanasi, Bodh Gaya and Kushi Nagar. As of now, they can extend up to five years the one-year visa. After it lapses, they need to back to Colombo to apply again, officials added.

Sri Lanka is said to have sought relaxation of visa regulations and also pressed the Indian authorities to exempt the visa fees for these monks.

The Economic Times quotes a senior official as saying that the monks come to India to for religious purposes and they more often work on a token basis. The government of Sri Lanka has thus requested the Indian government to do away with the visa fees. It also has mooted that the five-year stay ceiling for monks be replaced by long term visas.

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