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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

India makes it easier to get visas on arrival
~~Himanshi Dhawan
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NEW DELHI: The government has put in motion a series of measures that will drastically liberalize the visa regime in the country and ensure a significant boost in foreign tourist arrivals. Not only has the government extended the facility of visa on arrival for individuals from four to nine airports in the country but also given its nod for VoA option for a group of foreign tourists (four or more) using air or sea ports to enter the country.

The group VoA facility has been extended to all countries excluding Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan and foreigners of Pakistani origin.

In effect from April 1, the measures mean that a family of four, or a group coming from any part of the world except for the countries on the negative list, can use the VoA facility. This significant measure has put India even above China in its liberalized visa regime. China has introduced a visa-free regime for 60 countries from January 1 this year.

India received about 6 million foreign tourists in a year which is a fraction of the world share in tourist arrivals. However, the growth of tourists arriving under the individual VoA scheme has been encouraging. In 2011, 12,761 VoAs were issued which increased by 26% to 16,084 in 2012. In January-March 2013, 5744 VoAs have been issued.

The move has been cleared by the inter-ministerial coordination committee for the tourism sector constituted by the PMO following tourism minister K Chiranjeevi's intervention. In December last year the government had waived off the 60-day period between two visits to the country.

Individual VoA was earlier accepted in airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata which has now been extended to Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kochi, Trivandrum and Goa.

According to a notification issued by the ministry of home affairs, foreign tourists in groups of four or more, arriving by air or sea, sponsored by Indian travel agencies approved by the tourism ministry will be granted a collective landing permit for a 60-day period with multiple-entry facility. The tourists will have to submit their personal details, itinerary and apply for visa online. The travel agency will have to submit a complete list of group members to the FRRO, 72 hours in advance. The travel agency will also have to take responsibility for the group.