India is known for its notoriously difficult visa process that makes travel to the country a bureaucratic nightmare. But thanks to a new regulation, known as the Tourist Visa on Arrival program, nationals from 43 countries will now find it a lot easier to visit the Taj Mahal.
Up until now, India has only issued visas on arrival to nationals from 12 countries. Outside of that domain, foreigners would have to apply online and consequently, wait several weeks to find out whether or not their visa applications were approved. However, the Tourist Visa on Arrival program – inclusive of nationals coming from the U.S., Australia, and Germany among others – will grant 30-day visas for the purpose of “recreation, sightseeing, short duration medical treatment, casual business visit, or casual visit to meet friends and relatives.”
Although the program is called “visa on arrival”, tourists are still required to apply online at least four days before their arrival in India. Each person may be issued one up to two times a year, and must submit a copy of their passport, a photo, as well as a $60.00 fee in order to do so. Once approved, an “electronic travel authorization” email will be sent to the traveler, which should be printed and presented with a passport upon his or her arrival to India.
The new visa-on-arrival will now be available at nine major airports in India: Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Goa and Kocha.
The regulation is expected to boost tourism, which is currently a significant driver of economic growth for the country. This comes in light of the recent decline of visitor numbers, which many suspect is due to the country’s tough visa system. In 2012, for example, India received only 6.58 million visitors – fewer than other Asian countries, such as Thailand.
According to Mahesh Sharma, the India’s Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, the new system is aimed at sending “out a clear message that India is serious about making travel to the country easy.”
Just last week, in another attempt to boost tourist numbers, Sharma also announced a new regulation that would make it illegal for beggars and ticket touts to touch tourists.