Aiming to attract more tourists and boost trade, government today approved a new liberalised visa policy that include long-term multiple-entry comprehensive visa by merging tourist, business, medical and conference visas into one.
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also decided to extend the e-Tourists Visa to eight more countries, taking the total number of countries which are under cover the scheme to 158.E-visa will now have a validity of 60 days and can be applied for by foreign nationals up to four months ahead of the visit.
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for liberalisation, simplification and rationalisation of the existing visa regime in India and incremental changes in the visa policy decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with various stakeholders, an official statement said.
Tourists, businessmen or people coming for treatment or to attend conferences or even for film shoots will be covered under the new category of visa, which was first mooted by the Commerce Ministry following a suggestion by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to boost services trade. The long-term, multiple-entry visa will be given up to 10 years but under this category the visitor will not be allowed to work or stay permanently.
As per the proposal, if a foreigner is granted long-term, multiple-entry non-working or non-permanent stay visa and his or her stay is restricted to 60 days on a visit, the government may waive the visa fee as well. However, the visitors have to give biometric details and fulfill certain security obligations, the official said.
India is said to be missing out on a huge opportunity worth about USD 80 billion annually in terms of attracting foreigners and foreign exchange. Medical tourism in India alone is estimated at USD 3 billion and projected to grow to USD 7-8 billion by 2020. Foreign patients travelling to India for medical treatment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 stood at 1, 71, 021, 2, 36, 898, and 1, 84, 298 respectively.