Visa agencies are warning business travellers to exercise caution over using the new Indian e-visa.
The e-visa, which came into force earlier this week (see news, August 18), allows travellers to avoid the need to make an appointment at the Indian embassy.
Instead, they pay a reduced fee for a tourist visa, down from £89.44 to £39, and submit “biometric data”, where fingerprints and facial imagery are collected at one of 16 designated entry points.
The reduction in price is even more striking when compared with a business visa, which according to vfsglobal.co.uk costs £107 for up to six months, or £277 for up to two years.
However, Edward Carnell, Visaswift’s managing director, has warned there is uncertainty over the definition of “casual business travel”.
He said: “The senior high commission people in India have made clear that while this process is being rolled-out they are going to keep a close eye on e-visas.
“We are warning our clients that there is nothing particularly clear as to what the idea of ‘casual business’ means. What we do know is they will penalise people who are repeated visits, or even a second or third since they obviously have regular business in India.”
The details on the High Commission of India’s website stipulate that the “e-Tourist Visa (eTV) is allowed for a maximum of two visits in a calendar year” and “once issued on arrival is only single entry, non-extendable”.
Carnell said: “What we don’t know is what are you allowed to do in business terms when you get there and what happens if you return within a year.
“We have been warmed that there is going to be ‘rigorous control’ but since that can’t happen once you are in the country it must mean at the border.
“Our advice is to still apply for a business visa, either single entry or multiple. It saves uncertainty on arrival, and possibly will save you delay as well.”
Business Traveller has contacted both Indian Visa Online and the High Commission of India for clarification of what is covered by the definition “casual business travel”, and will publish any response here.