Various steps have been taken to increase the number of inbound tourists to India, which includes relaxing the e-visa process.
With a hope of making travel to India, especially for business, tourism and medical purposes, easier, a simplified and liberalised visa process was kick-started on April 1.
According to an official statement, the Union Cabinet had approved on November 30, 2016, various measures for liberalisation, simplification and rationalisation of the visa regime in India and these are now ready for implementation.
Now, citizens of 161 countries will be able to get e-visas at 24 airports, up from 16 airports earlier, and three ports at Cochin, Goa and Mangalore. To tap the potential of cruise tourism from different countries, Mumbai and Chennai seaports will be added shortly.
E-visas will be granted under three categories of tourist, business and medical purposes. The window for application under the e-visa scheme has been increased from 30 days to 120 days, and duration of stay on e-visa has been increased from 30 days to 60 days with double entry on e-tourist and e-business visa and triple entry on e-medical visa. There have been separate immigration counters and facilitation desks set up at New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports to assist medical tourists.
“Multiple entry tourist and business visas of five-year validity will now be available to nationals of most of the countries. 94 missions have bio-metric enrolment facilities that started giving five-year validity tourist and business visas from March 1. The remaining missions will be providing this facility in due course,” said a government statement, adding that business visa and medical visa will be granted within 48 hours of application upon urgent requests.
New categories of visa, like the intern, or ‘I’ visa, and the film, or ‘F’ visa have also been introduced. The intern visa is being offered since March 1, to a foreigner intending to pursue internship in Indian companies, educational institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The conditions for this type of visa include that the period of visa is restricted to the duration of internship programme or one year, whichever is less. The intern visa will be granted immediately after completion of graduation/post-graduation. In case of internship in NGOs or internship, involving visits to protected and restricted areas, the intern visa will be issued with prior clearance from the Home Ministry.
Film visa is another new category introduced with maximum duration of one year with multiple entry facility.
The minimum salary limit for grant of employment visa has also been modified, which is presently USD 25,000 per annum. This will help foreign nationals engaged as teaching faculty by the Central Higher Educational Institutions.
Welcoming the new rules, Debjit Dutta, Chairman, IATO West Bengal Chapter, said, “IATO welcomes this new scheme which will largely help the Indian travel trade. E-visa is an important tool and this new scheme will also boost inbound traffic. This new scheme will help the eastern part of India as it will boost the cross border tourism. It will become a gateway for the foreign tourists to the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal or Bhutan. It will also help circuit tourism.”
Some of the other steps that are taken to increase the number of inbound tourists are development and promotion of niche tourism products; generating sufficient manpower to meet the requirements of the tourism and hospitality industry; launch of 24×7 toll free multilingual tourist helpline; providing Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments/Union Territory Administrations for various tourism projects including fairs, festivals and tourism related events as per the relevant scheme guidelines; Ministry of Tourism is offering free pre-loaded SIM cards for tourists on e-visa at the ITDC counter at Indira Gandhi International Airport.