The e-Visa scheme which was introduced to UK citizens in August of this year (see news, August 2015) will be extended it has been announced.
The intention is to help Indian attract one million UK visitors by 2020, up from 838,860 in 2014.
Speaking at the World Travel Market event this week, Mr Vinod Zutshi, the India Ministry of Tourism’s Secretary, said the intention was to extend the e-Visa’s validity from 30 to 180 days in 2016, raise the number of countries in which it is available from 113 to 150, and to allow multiple and double entry. At present a visitor who entered India, went on to another country such as Sri Lanka and then returned would not be able to use the e-Visa scheme.
“We are also suggesting that the application process should be extended. At present you can apply only 30 days in advance, which isn’t long enough" said Mr Zutshi. "So we have suggested this be extended to 60 days which will make planning a trip easier. In addition, at present it doesn’t apply to MICE tourists so we are taking this up with the government to suggest that the e-Visa should be open to that segment as well.”
Global tourism arrivals to India in 2014 were 7.68 million, up 10.2% over 2013.
Mr Zutshi said that one in three visitors arriving in India now was carrying to e-Visa, an increase of 800 percent over the previous year. Travellers entering India on an e-visa must arrive at one of 16 designated airports, which include Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. Biometric data, including fingerprinting, will be collected on arrival at the border.
The e-Visa process has seen the cost of visas dropping from £89.44 to £39, and has simplified the application, with most applications being processed within three days. It is not perfect. For a family holiday, for instance, each visa application must be made separately, and the process of collecting this biometric information at the entry port can be slow, with signage not always clear.
At Mumbai International Airport, for instance, e-Visa holders were unaware that they should queue at the “Diplomatic Passports” counter, for instance. There is also still some confusion about the status of “casual business travellers”, see 'Warning of new Indian e-visa', news, August 2015)
To see our piece on the increased use - and need for - visas, see Access Granted in our October 2015 issue.