Journalist Visa

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#1 Feb 8th, 2006, 05:21
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#1
So I made the mistake of writing "editor" as my occupation on my visa form today. I was questioned thoroughly as to the nature of my work, and had to sign a form stating that I would not be engaged in "commercial/journalistic/photographic/film-making" work during my stay in India and that I was not a "journalist." (I work primarily as an editor for an ad agency and a medical journal, but I also do some freelance writing. I only informed the consulate folks about my editing clients.)

I had assumed the journalist visa was for people who were making the trip solely for work purposes, so it hadn't occurred to me to consider that option. And from the way I was interrogated at the visa counter, I got the impression that asking for the journalist visa was a bad thing, and hence kept my mouth shut.

My primary purpose for traveling to India is my honeymoon, but I do plan to do some research while I'm there--both for travel articles and for a nonprofit documentary film org. However, I wouldn't actually be "engaged in journalistic work" (ie, sending pitches to publications or collaborating with the film org) until I'm back home.

My question is: What's the purpose of the journalist visa? And should I be at all concerned about getting "busted" if somewhere down the road I publish an article or my name appears on a film credit?
#2 Feb 8th, 2006, 06:01
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#2

Be a cook (like I am) . . . a student . . . anything but

a journalist. Hard to imagine what's going to happen. Maybe everytime your passport is scanned a little red light pops-up on the computer screen.

I don't think I'd worry too much about your printing a story . . . I just think you'll always be starred now . . . red-lighted . . . or maybe like my father: he "smuggled" some Cuban cigars in from London to the States (Cuban products are, of course, a no-no) . . . they wrote something in the amendments section of his passport . . . every time he passed through customs from then on, he was searched.

By the way, what was the final outcome at the visa office?

Have a good trip.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure - Marianne Williamson
#3 Feb 8th, 2006, 08:58
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India--just like the United States, unfortunately--reserves the right to limit the access of foreign journalists. They are also prickly about people engaging in any sort of activities not permitted by the visa. Typically they bust Christian missionaries who evangelize on tourist visas. In practice, the consular people who decide whether or not to issue specialist visas are different from the ones who decide on tourists, so there's an added layer of bureaucracy if you are something other than a tourist.

But in the end, it just doesn't matter. I have worked as a journalist (formally and informally) on a tourist visa plenty of times. The only time you would want a journalist visa would be when you needed access to some region or person, or were working in a sensitive area, like Kashmir. Being an accredited, credentialed journalist (you're supposed to have papers from your employer) can save your life, or it can be a big hassle. It all depends on what you're doing, where, and whom you'll encounter. If you are doing something that involves officialdom or the military, it's probably best to be on the journalist visa.

But if you are just wandering and writing and taking pictures, regardless of what you ever do with those materials, a tourist visa is fine. Besides, the journalist visa is three months and the tourist is six.
#4 Feb 8th, 2006, 22:26
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#4
Thank you both for your helpful (and comforting!) responses. Darmabum, thanks for the good-trip wishes! As far as I know, everything's OK with the visa. They took my $60 and I'm picking it up this afternoon--during the oh-so-convenient daily pick-up time frame of 4:00-4:45 p.m.!!
#5 Feb 8th, 2006, 23:56
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#5
Thanks for the reminder of this; I've added it to the Visa FAQ post.
~

Currently mobile browsing... have turned off pics, etc. Will try to catch up with all the birds, food, etc, in a week or two!
#6 Feb 9th, 2006, 00:15
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I don't think you should be concerned about doing your journalist research in India if it does not involve questioning of Indian officials - anyway from them you will not know much sense to seek their appointments.
The policy of making obstacles for journalists, editors, researchers and writers is usual for India and for many other countries in the world, concerned with their perception abroad, and may be overcome with useful connections - French are most notorious in this.
Just recently relationship between India and France had been deteriorating because of visa row - denial of visa to French national, cinematographist, who while making documentary on Ladakh last time overstayed his visa and (or) used tourist visa for this purpose. Indian officials knew about his activity from his overstaying of visa, it was his mistake. Then French requested to grant him new visa - Indians refused or dragged the matter. In response France refused to issue visa to all Indian officials who want to visit France. The speaker of Indian parliament fell vicitim of this diplomatic war when he was forced to cut short his visit to Europe and dodge from cross fire of contradicting statements of Indian and French officials.
#7 Feb 9th, 2006, 00:57
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aterciopelada, although it is possible to do some amateur journalism on a tourist visa it can get very very unpleasant if you are caught. If you are caught working as a journalist/reporter you will be detained and your passport will be impounded and your file is sent to Delhi. The local cops have zero input in the matter and bribing them will not help you in any way since it is the IB(Intelligence Bureau) which handles these type of issues.
#8 Feb 9th, 2006, 18:07
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To GoanCanuck who seems to be in the know

I am shooting a doco in delhi for BBC UK. It will involve interviewing some official people probably. When I went to my embassy in my country they actually suggested I apply for a business visa and get a sponsor in India which I did - I am in co-production with a very prestigious film company.

If I am shooting in India and 'get caught' with a business visa - is that ok?
#9 Feb 9th, 2006, 18:08
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#9
ps can you be imprisoned?
#10 Feb 9th, 2006, 21:04
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Cate, you should not rely on anyone here to give answers on which your business or even your freedom might depend. If you are in partnership with an Indian company, then you should be able to rely on them setting up the paperwork. But.....
#11 Feb 9th, 2006, 21:26
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If you shoot for the BBC, why would you not get a journalist visa? It's not a matter of getting caught with the wrong visa. It's a matter of following the law and having those laws protect you when you need them. If you are a working journalist, you should get a journalist visa. If you are a tourist who takes pictures and writes, but who is not on assignment from a media company, get the tourist visa.
#12 Feb 9th, 2006, 21:30
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#12
Right. Well put. Nail hit on head.
#13 Feb 10th, 2006, 00:18
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#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cate ps can you be imprisoned?
Yes you can be imprisoned. Since you will be interviewing officials you should be very careful before proceeding. Take the opinion of the senior most person in the visa section of the embassy in Canberra
#14 Feb 10th, 2006, 07:12
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thanks all I will check with my embassy again

I did initailly try to apply for a journalist visa and was 100 % upfront about what I was doing. I even had an interview with the top person there in my city (not canberra) and they suggested that I go on a business visa. Just as the others said - you even mentioned a 'journalist visa' and they started shaking their heads in disagreement...

Its only reading this site that I think I should go back to the drawing board... thanks
#15 Feb 10th, 2006, 09:19
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Check with the BBC people--they are surely expert at these things.
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