The E-Visa scheme of the Indian government has become a hit with tourists visiting India. In October this year, the government opened its “E-Tourist Visa” facility to 113 countries. This resulted in over 2,700% increase in the number of tourists opting for e-visas over the standard visa.
The Tourist Visa on Arrival (TVoA) enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), and currently known as the E-Tourist Visa scheme, is available to citizens of 113 countries arriving at 16 airports in India. A total of 83,501 foreign tourists arrived in the country with e-tourist visas in November 2015 as compared to 2,968 in October 2014. Tourists from UK occupy the top spot among people availing of the e-visa facility, followed by the US, France and Germany. Between January and November 2015 a total of 341,683 tourists arrived on e-tourist visas, as compared to 24,963 during January-November 2014, registering a growth of 1,268.8%. This high growth is possibly because the e-tourist visa has been introduced for 113 countries as against TVoA, which is meant for only 12 countries.
“The government has eased travel to India. This has resulted in an increasing number of tourists visiting the country. And now over 2,700% more tourists are using e-visas, over the standard visa from the same time last year. The growth has been phenomenal. It’s only natural that with time, this will become the preferred option for all tourists. A centralised online system allows for better monitoring of inbound traffic and is also better in terms of security,” Rakesh Sharma, an official from the Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs, told The Sunday Guardian.
The scheme has been a hit as it saves time and provides a hassle free way of obtaining a visa.
“E-visa and visa-on-arrival are essentially not the same in every country. In some countries, you reach and then apply for a visa, pay the fees and you get to enter if you satisfy the norms and conditions. In other countries like India, you need to apply for the visa beforehand. Now it can be done online. I applied online, paid the fees and got the confirmation. I carried a simple printout of the visa. It saved me the hassle of actually standing in line and waiting for the week long visa application process when you physically apply at the embassy. It is silly that you have to wait for a week just to get a visa to visit the Taj Mahal. It is much more convenient now and I think the e-tourist visa is a simple and convenient way to obtain travelling documents to India which only makes the experience less cumbersome,” said Linda Hart, a Canadian citizen visiting India.
A lot of work still needs to be done as e-visas can be processed only at 16 airports in India and are not meant for overland travellers. For tourists, the only drawback of the scheme is that the e-visa in India is of a single-entry category and offers a maximum stay of up to 30 days; an individual can apply for two e-tourist visas to India in a calendar year. A multiple-entry-visa allows a tourist to enter India several times within the validity period of the visa. A regular Indian tourist visa allows the tourist multiple entries and is valid for a stay of up to 90 days.