This is an era of globalization and digitalization where you get everything online, from garments to grocery, cooked food to medicine, travel tickets to visas even. The new policy of the Indian government regarding online permits has made a notable impact on the ever-expanding tourism industry of India. Apart from that, it has also impacted significantly on the Indian economy in general.
However, according to experts and economists, there is a need to look into the policy of granting visas online by the Indian Government.
- Few of these experts feel that there is a need to extend the time window of issuing these e-visas. Currently, it is thirty days before the tour, but the experts think that there will be a more significant impact in Indian tourism if this window is extended to 180 days at least.
- Others even go a step ahead and suggest the need for multiple entry e-tourist visas in place of the single entry at present.
- Few want an extension of the duration of stay according to these e-visas from thirty days currently to sixty days at least.
- It is also felt that there is a need to make the biometric facility available in the major ports and airports to help the passengers getting an e-tourist visa easily.
- Apart from that proper display at these e-tourist visa counters are also demanded by a few with an increase in the number of such counters as well to prevent delays.
- Another significant reform suggested is the e-visa facility for medical tourists and
- Increase in the number of biometric locations all over so that the biometric processes for the overseas mission are further streamlined.
Experts suggest that with these bold, clear and effective steps there will be a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting India in the recent years.
However, it is not that the Government of India is sitting tight on their old visa policy and sticking to it. There have been significant and strategic decisions taken to easy the e-visa policy and provide flexibility and relaxation in it. There are a few concerns on the shortcomings that such a large country is bound to have and the government is taking active measures to make the feature more user-friendly and the e-visa policy more effective to attract more and more foreign tourist to India.
Concerns and shortcomings
The most significant concern about Indian visa policy is that in spite of the e-tourist visas the growth rate in TFTAs is not very encouraging. Though the e-tourist visa facility has proved to be a major factor in the modernizing and uplifting of the tourism industry of India, the system is currently restricted to a handful of international airports and major tourist destinations only.
Apart from the issues such as the 30 days validity from the date of arrival in India, e-tourist visas also have limitations such as a maximum of two visits in a calendar year.
These issues need to be addressed by the government immediately as all these factors play a significant role in forcing a tourist to prefer traditional visa over e-tourist visas as the conditions and rules governing the conventional visas are more relaxed and liberal.
Other concerns and issues include:
- Issues such as e-tourist visas once issued on arrival will be for only single entry, non-convertible and non-extendable, not valid for visiting any restricted, protected and cantonment areas are also a few major concerns.
- Apart from the above, the cost of the e-tourist visas is also a point of concern to some of the foreign countries. For example, the cost of an e-tourist visa for a US citizen for 30 days only will cost about $ 120 for two visits as visa fees. On the other hand, the same citizen can enjoy multiple entries holding a traditional tourist visa for just $ 100 as visa fees.
- Moreover, in this type of tourist visa, the period of stay is usually a maximum of up to six months for each stay from the date of arrival. There is also no need for a re-entry permit, or there is no restriction regarding the desired gap visits to India of at least two months between two separate visits.
Ambiguity in instructions
Experts have also found out a few ambiguities in the instruction provided by the authority regarding the e-tourist visas. According to the instructions furnished it states that all applicants must carry a copy of their e-tourist visa along with them throughout their time of stay and travel in India. However, it also includes specific terms such as, “e-tourist visa issued on arrival.”
This is where the ambiguity lies and raises two important questions:
- Is it the policy of 'e-tourist visa' or the 'visa on arrival enabled through electronic travel authorization' and
- Whether the issued electronic copy of the e-tourist visa provides the Immigration Officer with the discretion of not issuing the same when the traveler arrives at the designated airport without it.
These ambiguities gave rise to discrepancies in the practice and a lot of other questions and raised eyebrows or crown in the forehead.
Legal formalities and other complications
There are a lot of complications as well as legal formalities in the e-tourist visa system that has also caused serious concerns amongst the visitors.
- Firstly, the eligibility criteria allow international travelers are visiting India with an objective of sightseeing, recreation, casual visit to friends and relatives, casual business visit or short duration medical treatment can avail e-tourist visa facility but does not address or say anything about the special Medical Visa category required for people coming for medical treatment.
- Secondly, if any person holding a tourist visa is found to be engaged in any type of business activity, then necessary actions will be taken under visa violation rules. This is another ambiguity that needs to be clarified so that people carrying e-tourist visa and visiting India for short duration medical treatment or casual business are not held for visa violations, which is not their fault after all.
If these issues are not addressed immediately, Indian tourism is sure to take a hit.
Published by Karen Anthony