In an attempt to boost tourism, India has decided to extend visa-on-arrival facility to tourists from 180 countries, including Bangladesh, with effect from October.
Eight countries have been kept out of the single-entry visa-on-arrival facility, meant for purposes other than paid employment and education with a one-month time limit. Those are: Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Somalia.
Junior Minister for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajiv Shukla told reporters that the proposal was cleared at a Planning Commission meeting in New Delhi yesterday, our New Delhi correspondent reports.
Deputy Chairman of the Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and other senior officials attended the meeting.
"We have decided to extend visa-on-arrival to tourists from 180 nations. It will take five to six months to put the infrastructure in place,” Shukla said.
"It is a major move and we hope it will boost tourism in a big way. We hope to implement from next tourist season starting October,” said the minister.
The facility is currently available to 11 countries, including New Zealand, Singapore, Luxembourg, Japan, Vietnam and Finland.
The decision is expected to provide a major boost to inbound foreign tourists, according to a government official.
The country's total foreign tourist arrivals in 2013 stood at 6.84 million and foreign exchange earnings from tourism grew 2.2 per cent year-on-year to $18.1 billion.
The facility could later be extended to business visa seekers, Shukla said.
To begin, around 26 airports in the country, including Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, will have the infrastructure to provide the facility.
Tourists will just have to a fill a simple form and pay the prescribed fee, after which they will be issued electronic travel authorisation within three days.
On arrival in India, a simple biometric identification will be done at the airport. To extend stay beyond 30 days, the tourist will have to get another visa from the embassy.
A separate website would be set up for extending the facility to foreigners intending to visit India as tourists.
To get a visa, they would need to apply on the designated website along with the required fees. They would be granted an electronic version of the visa within three days.