India’s New Prime Minister Will Be Granted A U.S. Visa

Since 2005, the United States had denied Narendra Modi a visa on grounds of violating religious freedom.

AP Photo/Saurabh Das

Narendra Modi, who is set to become the new prime minister of India after his party’s landslide win in the elections, will be granted a United States visa upon taking office, said U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

Psaki said: “The Prime Minister of India will be welcomed to the United States. As Head of Government, Mr. Modi would be eligible for an A-1 visa.”

The heads of state and heads of government are eligible for A1 visas under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.

Psaki also congratulated Modi and the BJP, adding, “Once a new Government is formed, we look forward to working closely with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to advance our strong bilateral partnership.”

In 2005, the U.S. denied Modi a visa for his failure as a leader of the state of Gujarat to stop deadly communal riots that killed over 1,000 people, mainly Muslims. According to U.S. law, foreign officials responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” are ineligible for a visa. Modi was the only person to ever be denied a visa to the U.S. under this provision, the Wall Street Journal reported.

For nine years Modi did not meet with any high-ranking U.S. officials until his recent meeting with U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell, which was seen as an indicator of restoring U.S.–India ties.

However U.S. officials had remained noncommittal about Modi’s visa issue, even as it emerged that he was most likely to become the new prime minister.

Psaki told reporters on May 14 that while heads of state and heads of government are eligible for A1 visas, no individual automatically qualifies for a U.S. visa. Psaki had earlier said that if Modi did become prime minister he would be eligible for the A1 visa, but “this is not a reflection of any change.”

A state department official told CNN on Friday, May 16, that, “As PM, Modi’s eligibility for a visa is a “moot point.”

Speaking to reporters about Modi’s visa issue on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “Well, I would refer you to the State Department for general answers to questions about the issuance of visas. I can tell you that the prime minister of India will be welcomed to the United States. And I would also note that U.S. officials, including Ambassador Powell, have met with Mr. Modi, so he is certainly not unknown to us.”

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Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact this reporter at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com
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