CITIZENS of 40 countries will be able to apply online for visas to enter India beginning December.
As part of the initiative, a dedicated website is being designed. Applications for visas filed online will be responded to within five days and, if approved, valid for 30 days on a single entry from the date of arrival.
The list of 40 countries has not been finalised by the Ministry of Home Affairs as yet, but TTG Asia e-Daily understands phase two will extend the facility to 109 countries in total.
According to a press release from the prime minister's office, the government has given the nod for phase one to be introduced. India earlier this year announced it will implement an online system for visa issuance in a major initiative to liberalise its visa regime (TTG Asia e-Daily, February 6, 2014).
Jyoti Kapur, director, New Delhi-based Vietrade Tours & Travels, said: “Ease of acquiring visas is a crucial factor in increasing inbound tourism. Electronic visas will ensure a 20 per cent jump in visitor numbers from 2015 onwards.
"More importantly, both FITs and MICE businesses will get a boost as visa approvals prior to departure will make it easier for tour operators and DMCs.”
Meanwhile, India is opening its doors to Afghan nationals and now allows them to stay for up to two years on humanitarian grounds. A Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson said: “A system of biometric enrolment and photography will be introduced to ensure that such facilities are not misused by unscrupulous elements.”