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Visa norms rejig to ease foreign nationals’ entry

Date: 18-07-2019
Subject: Visa norms rejig to ease foreign nationals’ entry
The home ministry has liberalised India’s visa rules to simplify the entry of foreign nationals and give them greater flexibility in terms of permitted activities. 

The main visa categories, apart from those issued for long-term visits and to SAARC members and Overseas Citizens of India, have been scaled down to 21 from 26 by clubbing common groupings. 

These include combining the medical attendant and medical visas, project and employment visas, internship and research with student visas and sports with business visas. 

The number of visa sub-categories has been cut to 65 from 104 by merging segments, the tourism ministry said in a letter to travel associations on Wednesday, a copy which ET reviewed. “The ministry of home affairs has recently made amendments in various chapters of the visa manual… 

It is therefore requested to disseminate the aforesaid information among all the tourist interested groups,” the tourism ministry said in the letter. 
According to the letter, amendments have been made in specific provisions in the visa manual to facilitate the entry and stay of legitimate visitors from overseas. 

“These include permitting a foreign national on tourist visa to attend an international conference, and expanding other activities permitted under tourist and e-tourist visas, permitting a person of Indian origin, or spouse/children of an Indian citizen to undertake employment or business or studies or research without converting the visa to the appropriate category and bringing the requirements for a film visa at par with the business visa,” it said. 

Travel experts said the visa changes would boost MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) and medical tourism for the country and greatly simplify entry requirements. 

“Earlier, it was a struggle to get a conference visa, but now these changes will enable legitimate tourists to attend business conferences if need be, and a single medical visa will also do away with the need for a separate medical attendant visa,” said Subhash Goyal, member of the National Tourism Advisory Council. 

“We hope the government will also consider other measures suggested by tourism bodies like reducing the visa fee for tourists and bringing it down to $25 like neighbouring Sri Lanka and simplifying payment gateway procedures through tie-ups with other Indian banks.” 

Any changes that simplify procedures are welcome, said Rajeev Kohli, joint managing director of Creative Travel, which specialises in inbound travel. 

“There is a difference between visitors coming and visitors coming for tourism. 

The holistic numbers and the composition of tourists within those numbers is different. Any visa changes that simplify procedures and remove sub-categories are welcome. The system has become much easier,” said Kohli. 

Foreign tourist arrivals increased by 1.9% to 3.93 million in the first four months of 2019 after registering subdued growth in 2018, according to the tourism ministry. 

Certain provisions have been added for nationals of the Maldives. This follows the signing of an agreement on facilitation of visa arrangements between India and the Maldives 

Source: economictimes.indiatimes.com

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