Large rise in visa applications to the Netherlands from India
Applications by Indian citizens for a visa for the Netherlands are growing by 15 per cent a year, with over 32.000 applications received from across the country in 2013.
"The maximum requests for visa is for business travel, followed by tourism and student-exchange programmes," said Alphonsus Stoelinga, Netherlands' ambassador to India.
The rapid growth has led to the expansion of Visa Facilitation Services for the Netherlands, with a new one opening recently in Ahmedabad to complement those already in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai.
"In just three weeks of our opening the centre, we received more than 40 visa applications. We expect 45-50 applications every month," said Stoelinga.
Dutch-Indian business ties
The choice of Ahmedabad is in part because, as well as tourism, the Netherlands has strong business ties with Gujarat province, where Ahmedabad is located, with over 150 Dutch companies operating in the state.
According to Stoelinga, India and the Netherlands are very important economic partners for each other. "India is the fifth largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Netherlands, while the Netherlands is the fifth large source of FDI in India," he said.
India's exports to the Netherlands are around 10 billion euros a year, while its Dutch imports are nearly 3,5 billion euros a year, a trade imbalance the Dutch government is hoping to reduce.
Indian students in the Netherlands
Universities in India are also looking at greater collaboration with Dutch institutions. A spokesperson for MS University in Baroda, Gujarat, said that they had explored collaboration in the performing arts, life sciences and nutrition.
"Also, our faculties have proposed to establish faculty and student exchange programmes along with joint research activities with universities of Netherlands," he said, which reflects the growth in student exchange visa requests.
Dutch universities are growing in popularity with Indian students, with Indians forming the third-largest group of students interested in studying in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands itself is in fact the third most popular search destination for international students, according to a study by StudyPortals analysing the search behaviour of visitors on MastersPortal.eu and BachelorsPortal.eu. The number of foreign students in the Netherlands has greatly increased in recent years.
The Dutch government has also recently released plans to encourage foreign students to stay in the Netherlands after they complete their studies, hoping that they will find employment and use their new education to boost the Dutch economy.