India has decided to allow extension of business visa for up to 15 years and conversion of a regular visa into medical category in an emergency for a foreigner.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba said on Tuesday that the number of e-Visas issued has seen a tremendous growth during the last four years from 5.17 lakh in 2015 to 21 lakh till November 30 this year.
“Relaxation has been introduced in grant of internship visa which can be obtained by a student while still pursuing a course in the country without remuneration, extension of business visa beyond five years, conversion of visa into medical category in an emergency for a foreigner who is already in the country and permission for foreigners who are on long duration visas to attend conferences,” he said.
Later, another official said the business visa can be extended up to 15 years, for a period of five years at a time.
The Union Home Secretary, who was addressing the conference – ‘Streamlining of India’s Visa regime’, said that the government’s objective is to create a simple and hassle-free visa regime to facilitate arrival and stay of foreign travellers into the country.
Gauba highlighted various policy initiatives taken to liberalise the visa regime, taking into account the concerns and suggestions made by various ministries, including civil aviation, tourism, health, higher education, and other stakeholders.
Emphasising that India has the potential to become a global hub for education and tourism, Gauba called for a change in the mindset at the field level to make foreigners feel welcome in the country. “A friendly visa regime is also a part of ‘ease of doing business'”, he said.
At the same time, the Home Secretary said, security should also be strengthened using technology. Citing the recently launched e-FRRO module which provides 27 visa related services to foreigners, he said it has been very successful and has obviated the need for foreigners to visit Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) Offices for extending their stay, change of visa status etc.
The facility of e-visa now covers 166 countries and foreigners can obtain online visa within 72 hours for travel related to tourism, business, health, medical and conference purposes, he said.
Gauba said the number of visas issued through e-Visa system is now approximately 40 per cent of the total number of visas and the figure is soon expected to cross the 50 per cent mark, which is an indication of its popularity.
“Our e-Visa regime is one of the best in the world,” he said. Gauba said suggestions made at the conference will provide inputs for further reforms in the visa regime which is an ongoing process.
The conference was attended by senior officers from the ministries of home, civil aviation, tourism and information and broadcasting, security agencies and state governments as well as industry representatives.