2-month e-visas to facilitate tourism

The home ministry this evening announced that it would offer electronic visas to visitors for up to two months, instead of the current one month duration, as a part of India's efforts to attract more tourists.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 1.04.17
  •  

New Delhi, March 31: The home ministry this evening announced that it would offer electronic visas to visitors for up to two months, instead of the current one month duration, as a part of India's efforts to attract more tourists.

India already offers electronic visas to 140 countries, but these have till now been restricted to visas for tourists.

From April 1, when the new rules will kick in, India will also offer electronic visas for business and medical visits, the home ministry statement said.

"The liberalisation of the visa regime will considerably facilitate entry of foreigners into India for tourism, business and medical purposes," the statement said. "Consequently, the arrival of foreigners in India is expected to go up substantially in the coming years."

There will be three new sub-categories - e-tourist visa, e-business visa and e-medical visa - from tomorrow. In addition, two more new categories - intern or I-visa and film or F-visa - will be granted to foreigners seeking internship in non-government organisations, and those wanting to shoot movies in India, respectively.

Both business and medical visas will be granted within 48 hours of application upon urgent requests.

Electronic visas - popularly known as e-visas - are issued online, and are subject to verification at immigration check points when the visitor enters the country. If immigration officials are satisfied, they stamp the visitor's passport with a full-fledged visa on arrival.

India has traditionally held a reputation of notoriety for its bureaucratic procedures in offering visas - and travellers, businessmen and potential investors have for years complained about this roadblock to New Delhi's integration with the global community.

The e-visa project, started three years ago, has expanded swiftly, and is today available to visitors from most major countries that India does not perceive as a security threat.

But the fast expansion in the number of countries the facility is available to has also spawned concerns that India may have overlooked structural problems within the project. Many of the countries that have access to the facility send fewer than 100 tourists to India each year.

Till now, tourists could only apply for e-visas less than a month before their planned travel. This curbed the flow of groups of tourists that plan early.

Under the new rules, visitors can apply for e-visas up to four months before their planned trip.