Getting into India as a tourist is about to get easier. The much-awaited visa-on-arrival program is likely to be rolled out Thursday for citizens of 43 countries visiting India as tourists, according to an official at the Ministry of Tourism.
The United States, Australia and Fiji are among the countries whose citizens are eligible for the expanded program, said Subhash Goyal, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, a member-based organization that lobbied the government for the program. The United Kingdom is likely to be included in a later phase, he said. The full list of countries covered by the expansion is not yet available.
“I’ve been fighting for this [type of visa] for 20 years,” said Mr. Goyal. “This government’s response has been unbelievably fast,” he said, referring to the new administration run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who came to power in May and has since been traveling the world from the U.S. to Australia to Fiji promising easier access to India for tourists, businesses and people of Indian origin.
In February, India announced its intent to extend the visa-on-arrival program to tourists from 180 countries, including the U.K., U.S. and China, in a bid to accelerate slow growth in tourism.
This single-entry tourist visa is valid for 30 days, and a traveler may apply twice in a year. Business visas are not covered in the current phase of the scheme, but might be included at a later date. The visa on arrival will cost $60.
Here’s what you need to know: You submit an online application, which must include a copy of your passport and a photograph. A screening process follows, andwithin 72 hours, you will know if your visa application has been approved.
Once that’s done, print a copy of the “electronic travel authorization” you receive via email, and take it with you to present when you land at one of nine international airports across India. At the airport, an immigration official will take your fingerprintand, everything being in order, you’ll be cleared to enter the country.
“All procedures will become faster,” said Mr. Goyal, adding that India currently offers visas on arrival for a handful of countries, but with only 2 or 3 counters to process these visas, travelers spend a long time at the airport. With the electronic travel authorization, a visitor can go straight to immigration — which has more counters.
Until now, the program, which was launched in 2010, has only been available to citizens of 12 countries, including Finland, Singapore, South Korea and Japan. These visas are valid for 30 days. Citizens from other countries could get multi-entry tourist visas valid for six months but had to apply to an Indian embassy to do so.
The visas on arrival encouraged more tourists to visit India, said the tourism ministry in a statement. From January to October in 2014, almost 22,000 visas on arrival were issued, a 39.5% increase from the nearly 16,000 for the same period in 2013.
Indian Visa-On-Arrival Expands to More Countries: What You Need to Know
Posted on November 28, 2014