Friday, September 19, 2014

India redefines "reciprocity"; Israeli professionals pay the price

After a few years of employment at the Indian School of Business (in 2010 as a visitor and later as a tenured SRITNE Chaired Professor of Data Analytics), the time has come for me to get a new Employment Visa. As an Israeli-American, I decided to apply for the visa using my Israeli passport. I was almost on my way to the Indian embassy when I discovered, to my horror, that the fee is over USD $1000 for a one-year visa on an Israeli passport. The more interesting part is that Israelis are charged the highest fee compared to any other passport holder. For all other countries except UK and UAE the fee is between $100-200.

The India visa website lists the official reason:
Note: Since consular fees are fixed on the basis of reciprocal arrangement/or special agreements between governments, the fees could differ for citizens of different countries.
If you're familiar with Indian signs, forms and websites you might think: "typo!". So I checked on several other Indian embassy websites (in Israel the fee is even higher, at NIS5200=$1430 - an arbitrage opportunity?). And I inquired with the Israeli embassy in a couple of countries. The answer was: not a typo.

My next investigation was figuring out the reciprocity business. Are Indians charged this amount for an employment visa in Israel?

Israel Employment Visa fee for Indian Passport: Gratis

Absolutely not. It's free for Indians. I confirmed with Israeli embassies. This is therefore not a "reciprocal arrangement". It must be a special agreement. A very special agreement. An outrageous agreement that is very much to the disadvantage of India. Israeli experts are more than welcome in almost any country. They are in top positions in academia and industry worldwide and many have significant contributions to their host country.

Does India really want to keep Israeli professionals out?

From my personal experience, Indian academic and business organizations embrace Israeli experts and make efforts to attract them. While jokes can be cracked about Israeli bargaining skills, I'm posting about this important issue to raise awareness and hopefully fix it. The "special agreement" might be a legacy mistake or a political decision, but Narendra Modi's India is now on a bout of change, and this is a change worth making.

Note: This post has implications for business and technology, not to mention for business analytics in India.

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