Amid the coronavirus pandemic, even as tourists stranded in India are trying to return home, a 74-year-old US citizen, who wants to settle in Kerala, has approached High Court seeking to convert his tourist visa into a business visa without having to leave India.
Johnny Paul Pierce had arrived at Cochin International Airport on February 26th on his 5th visit to India. In his five-month-long stay in the state, Pierce realized that healthcare is better managed in Kerala and now wishes to set up a centre for foreigners and explore the tourism potential in Kerala.
"My aspiration is to show a viable business model and get a five-year business visa. The easiest way to become a resident is to marry an Indian, but I am 74 and probably past that option," Pierce told The New Indian Express.
"I would recruit residents from the USA. Those who could afford to stay long term are generally the retired folks who are at the risk of contracting the virus in the USA," he added.
While Pierce's tourist visa is valid up to January 26, 2025, the guidelines of the Indian government permit continuous stay for only 180 days for foreigners on tourist visas. His 180 days will expire on August 24.
However, without leaving the country, he cannot apply for conversion of his tourist visa into a business visa. Through advocate Saju S Nair, he approached the HC to permit him to apply for conversion of his tourist visa into a business visa without having to leave the country.
"I am absolutely safe in Kerala where the entire state has only reported 25 deaths," Pierce said. "It's risky to travel to the US at the age of 74. It is chaos there. And I love Kerala. I don't want to go back and I would like to live here peacefully," he added.
Pierce is staying at Kandanadu in Ernakulam and is looking for a resort to lease near Wayanad.
"Actually, I am a hermit, so I have enjoyed the lockdown because I experience much more meditation. Right now is the time for preparation and establishing more contacts in the hotel industry. I have found that many resorts are up for lease at wonderful prices and I am looking for a resort to lease near Wagamon. I hope to find a place with several rooms that I could establish as a COVID-free zone," he said.
Recently, another US tourist, Terry John Converse, had also moved the High Court seeking a directive to allow him to stay in Kerala, stating that the state is adopting better measures to contain COVID-19.