Apply visa rules prospectively: oilmin

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 1 2009, 05:25am hrs
With the new guidelines for employment of foreign nationals threatening to derail oil and gas operations, the petroleum ministry has asked the home ministry to apply the new visa rules prospectively.

Worried about the inflow of Chinese workers, government had in October asked all expatriates working on business visas to leave the country by October 31 and return only when given employment visas. The deadline was extended to November 30.

As obtaining of employment visa would take around 60 days, the sudden removal of expatriates in the middle of their present assignments without the relievers in place would lead to close down of crucial ongoing operations, Oil secretary RS Pandey wrote to home secretary GK Pillai. Indian Oil and Reliance Industries had represented to the ministry saying refinery upgradation projects, pipelines and oil and gas exploration and production projects would be hit by the sudden withdrawal of foreign experts working on them as part of their collaboration with foreign process licensors.

Oil companies have entered into technical collaboration with various process licensors which require frequent visit of their professionals for providing technical expertise, Pandey said. Presently a large number of experts have come to India on business visa granted for varied periods based on the programme schedule worked out long time back.

He demanded that the new visa instructions may be made applicable prospectively ie from the date of expiry of the existing business visa of the foreign experts, presently on visit to various oil and gas projects in India.

Pandey said the petroleum ministry had received a large number of representations from both public and private oil companies bringing out the difficulties being faced by them in view of the unanticipated visa restrictions.

RIL executive director PMS Prasad had on November 6 written to Pandey saying the new directive was placing great difficulties on its operations as the sudden departure of expatriates working on rotation basis will severely harm ongoing operations.

The company wanted the scheme to be implemented on a prospective basis giving sufficient breathing time to implement the decision in an orderly and non-disruptive manner.

The Association of Oil and Gas Operators (AOGO) wanted the deadline for the expatriates to leave India be extended till February 28 and foreign nationals who are already working in India on business visa to apply and obtain employment visa while they are in India instead of their home country.

It also wanted a uniform guidelines for the employment of foreign nationals be issued and all Indian embassies informed of these.