India cuts visa red tape in effort to boost tourism numbers

Tourists travelling to India from 43 countries, including the U.S., will no longer have to queue at their local consulates to obtain visas after New Delhi on Thursday announced a long-awaited easing of border controls. Tourists from countries including Australia, Brazil, Germany and Japan will now be able to apply online and receive the green light within four days, before getting their visa at an airport on arrival. Most foreigners currently have to wait several weeks before learning whether they will be allowed to enter India after submitting their applications at visa processing centres, a major deterrent for potential visitors. Under the scheme, tourists will be able to pick up their visas from nine Indian airports. Tourists can apply twice a year for 30-day visas which cannot be extended. Tourists must also have a return ticket.

This scheme… is a dream come true for the entire tourism industry of India and is bound to positively impact the economy.

Mahesh Sharma, Indian tourism minister

Plans for the overhaul were announced by the previous left-leaning Congress government which was thrown from office at elections in May. The scheme will eventually be expanded from the list of 43 countries that also includes Russia, Singapore and South Korea. Britain, India’s former colonial master, is not included on the new list. Under the old scheme, citizens of 12 countries were eligible for a visa on arrival. Despite its cultural attractions, beaches and mountains, India attracts relatively few holidaymakers — 6.58 million in 2012, a fraction of those who go to popular Asian destinations like Malaysia and Thailand. India came in 65th out of 140 countries in a World Economic Forum ranking on travel and tourism competitiveness conducted in 2013.