A visa facilitation agreement between India and the Maldives will come into force on March 11 after diplomatic notes were exchanged and legal formalities were completed on Tuesday.
The agreement was signed during President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s official visit to India in December, which was hailed as the beginning of a new era of diplomatic relations after historically close ties were strained during the pro-China administration of former president Abdulla Yameen.
Thousands of Maldivians travel to India for education and medical treatment every year.
Described as “very liberal visa regime for Maldivian nationals,” the agreement allows for multiple-entry student visas and facilitates a 90-day visa for Maldivians travelling for tourism or business purposes.
Parents of students under 18 years of age would also receive multiple-entry visas for the duration of their child’s student visa.
In cases of medical emergencies that require longer stays, Maldivians who enter on tourist visas would be able to obtain medical visas for themselves and dependents without leaving India.
Maldivian who travel for long-term treatment would also be eligible for six-month visas issued by the Indian embassy in Malé. Based on circumstances, the medical visa could be issued for up to one year and six months.
The agreement also makes it easier for Indians to travel to Maldives for business purposes.
As relations soured between India and the Yameen administration last year, there were reports of India refusing dependent visas to Maldivians living in Kerala. In an apparent retaliation the Maldives government stalled work visas for Indians.
With about 22,000 residents, Indians make up the second largest expatriate community in the Maldives, including construction workers as well as doctors, teachers and other skilled professionals.