Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced e-visas for Chinese tourists to India. Divya A explains e-TV, the procedure, facts and concerns
What is an e-tourist visa?
E-tourist visa, or e-TV, is an electronically obtained travel permit that a tourist visiting India can apply for, without having to visit the concerned Indian Embassy or High Commission. Visitors are required to carry a print of the authorisation note received electronically, to be stamped at the immigration checkpoint while entering India. The earlier ‘visa-on-arrival’ for citizens from 12 countries — which meant a tourist could obtain a permit to enter the country after landing at the airport — has been phased out.
Who can avail of e-TV?
International travellers visiting India for recreation, sightseeing, or casual visits to friends/ relatives may apply. Short-duration medical treatment or casual business visits are also covered. Travellers of Pakistani origin, or those holding diplomatic passports, can’t get e-TV. Applications must be made at least four days ahead of travel, and costs a total $ 62.
When was the scheme launched?
On November 27, 2014, with 43 countries including Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Palestine, UAE and the US. An e-TV is allowed for a single entry, for a maximum of two visits in a calendar year. The scheme, launched as ETA (electronic tourist visa-on-arrival) was renamed e-Tourist Visa (e-TV) last month.
How many countries have been granted this facility?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week announced e-visas for Chinese tourists, making it the 77th country to get the facility. But China remains non-committal in reciprocating the gesture. Around 2 lakh Chinese tourists visited India last year, while over 6 lakh Indians visited China. Next month, the government is likely to extend the facility to 31 more countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. By March 2016, e-TV could be available to visitors from 150 countries.
How succesful has the programme been in attracting tourists so far?
The project is just a few months old, and it is probably still too soon to talk about its contribution to FTAs (foreign tourist arrivals). As per Tourism Ministry figures, more than 1 lakh tourists have availed of the facility since its launch. American citizens are on top, but the US has always been No. 1 in FTAs in India. Experts from the travel and trade industry feel that on e-TV, an obsession with quantity, rather than quality, may not be helpful. It may not make much sense to extend e-TV to countries like Soloman Islands or Tonga, which have negligible FTAs. Also, e-TV is not beneficial for countries with poor Internet penetration.
Are there any concerns over e-TV?
Critics and some security experts oppose the easing of visa norms for tourists from high-risk countries, including China. It is argued that due diligence is not possible with the foreign individual already here, and it makes it difficult to send back anyone after having granted him/her a visa.
Does an e-TV allow entry at all Indian airports?
Only nine so far: Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram. The facility is likely to be expanded to seven more airports: Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Gaya, Jaipur, Lucknow, Tiruchi and Varanasi.
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