Behind Orlando Bloom’s deportation, the story of India’s e-visas

According to MEA officials, Bloom had either landed in India without a confirmation e-mail on his e-visa application being cleared or had forgotten to check whether his visa application had been cleared at all.

Written by Sagnik Chowdhury | Updated: December 24, 2015 12:24 am
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On Saturday, December 19, Hollywood star Orlando Bloom was in for an unpleasant surprise when he arrived at the Delhi airport from London. His e-visa application hadn’t been cleared, immigration authorities told him, and he was promptly put on a plane back to London. At least from the photographs of a beaming Bloom with Amar Singh at the Taj Mahal, we know that this story didn’t end too badly — the Ministry of External Affairs intervened, his visa was cleared and he flew back to India on Sunday.

According to MEA officials, Bloom had either landed in India without a confirmation e-mail on his e-visa application being cleared or had forgotten to check whether his visa application had been cleared at all.

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But the visa scheme has had its share of troubles in the past. In fact, the government was forced to change the name of its ‘Tourist Visa on Arrival-enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (TVoA-ETA)’ scheme, launched on November 27, 2014, to ‘e-Tourist Visa’ scheme in April 2015. This was because the earlier name was misleading — tourists would land in India, presuming that they would get the visa on arrival, and then be told to go back.

In fact, India no longer gives visas on arrival. In 2010, the government had launched the ‘Visa on Arrival (VoA)’ scheme for citizens of five countries — Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Singapore — to attract more foreign tourists. The scheme was extended to six more countries — Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos and Myanmar — in January 2011. In 2014, the VoA scheme was extended to South Korea. That changed in November 27, 2014, with the introduction of the TVoA-ETA. So no more visas on arrival; tourists need to apply online for visa and do so at least four days before the date of arrival.

The “e-Tourist Visa” scheme is currently available to citizens of 113 countries arriving at 16 airports in India. It requires a traveller to apply online by uploading his photograph and passport page, pay the visa fee online through credit card or debit card, receive the e-Tourist Visa online and then fly to India. It takes a minimum of 72 hours and a maximum of four days for the visa application to to be processed, at the end of which it is either accepted or rejected. Applicants need to carry a copy of the e-Tourist Visa along with them at the time of travel.

The percentage share of the top 10 countries that availed e-Tourist Visa facilities last month were: UK (23.93%), US (16.33%), Russia (8.17%), France (7.64%), Germany (5.6%), Australia (4.82%), Canada (4.71%), China (3.26%), Ukraine (2.03%) and Netherlands (1.75%).

Of the 16 designated airports for entry under the e-Tourist Visa scheme last month, New Delhi airport accounted for 45.04%, followed by Mumbai airport with 17.72% and Goa airport with 14.62 %.

According to Ministry of Tourism figures, last month, 83,501 tourists arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 2,968 in November 2014, a growth of 2713.4%. Between January and November 2015, 3,41,683 tourists arrived on e-Tourist Visa, compared to 24, 963 in the same period last year, registering a growth of 1268.8%.

Many of them may have headed for the Taj.

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  1. Jai Kumar
    Dec 24, 2015 at 10:07 am
    The rich sometimes forget that they are bound by the same rules as lesser mortals. A whilte colleague of mine once landed at Karachi airport without even applying for a visa he thought as a member of the Ex Empire he did not need one. So grow up and put the blame where it blooms sorry belongs.
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    1. R
      Rob
      Dec 24, 2015 at 1:36 am
      True, Bloom is no God, but neither is he an ordinary person. He is a VIP and there should be some level of brain used by people at the airport otherwise they should all be replaced with robots who can do an equally mechanical job. Why use humans if human brain/intelligence is not to be used?
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        Nationalist
        Dec 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm
        Bloom is no God, just a human, who failed to adhere to the norms. And like every one who reaches an airport, he was duley deported back (well done to the authority for uphodling the law)
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          Manish Desai
          Dec 24, 2015 at 8:02 pm
          Our incompetent bureaucracy in action. I fortunately realized that my kids and wife (US citizens) needed confirmation back when this was called "Visa on arrival". Even with confirmation in hand, it took us several hours to get out of the airport in Mumbai. After they were processed, I waited in our Indian citizen line for another hour because the officer in the booth got into an argument with a co-worker and suddenly left for his tea break. No other booth was open by then so all of us in line had to stand there until his break was done (3AM). Indian government is a laughable joke. I have proudly kept my citizenship but this almost pushed me over the edge.
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            Hari Panicket
            Dec 24, 2015 at 4:22 pm
            Not many people know that it is the Home Ministry that finally decides on whether to issue a visa to a foreign national. The MEA has to follow strict security guidelines laid down by the MHA while issuing visas. However in the case of Bloom the Immigration Officer, who is from MHA went by the book and deported him for not having a proper visa, despite being an invitee of the UP Govt. The mix up happened because the UP Tourism officials did not check with the MEA or MHA to ensure that the visa had been cleared.
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