India’s electronic visa system, introduced last November, has already significantly helped travelers obtain visas to visit the country, reducing the wait times usually associated with obtaining a visa and taking the guesswork out of applying. However, India’s ministry of tourism just announced that the program would be expanded to make the process of obtaining a visa to visit India cheaper and more accessible over the coming year.
The major changes that will be implemented involve making the e-visa available to citizens of more countries, extending the amount of time that the visa will be valid for, and allowing for multiple entries with one visa. Currently, an e-visa that allows entry into India grants a traveler a 30-day stay in the country. Under the new regulations, that stay will be extended to 180 days. Additionally, the new proposal would allow citizens from 150 different countries to obtain an e-visa, a significant increase from the current rules, which only allow travelers from 113 countries to obtain an e-visa.
An added provision would ensure that travelers would be able to enter the country multiple times on the same visa. These new regulations come as a part of the Indian government’s plan to increase tourism, especially from countries with deep ties to India, such as the United Kingdom. In 2014, India was host to over 800,000 visitors from the United Kingdom, and the government hopes to increase that number by 100,000 by 2020. The loosened regulations come in stark contrast to the earlier proposals from the Indian government regarding tourism. Some officials had proposed having all visa applicants submit biometric data before being allowed entry into the country, making fingerprints and facial imagery mandatory requirements for visa applications.
The e-visa process still has important regulations associated with it. Travelers using an e-visa must enter at one of the 16 designated airports, such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata, and the biometric data mentioned above will be collected upon arrival. The e-visa process is also not instantaneous – travelers must submit their visa application at least four days in advance of their intended arrival date. The e-visa process can still be fraught with confusion; however, independent companies such as iVisa offer services to help travelers obtain their e-visa. iVisa assists travelers by double checking e-visa applications for errors, offering 24 hour, 7 day a week support and simplifying the application process so that travelers can quickly obtain their visas.