India to ease visa rules for British visitors

India is set to relax its visa regulations for 40 countries, including Britain, as part of efforts to attract more tourists to the country, according to a report by the Telegraph.

Under the proposed changes, British visitors will be able to obtain a visa on landing at several Indian airports after filling in a form online before arrival. Further details on the implementation of the new regulations, which the officials said would be introduced ‘as soon as possible,’ have not been disclosed.

The facility was introduced to residents of Germany, France, Spain, Russia and Poland earlier this year, but was not offered to British travellers. Indian authorities have been looking for a reciprocal system with the UK so that nationals of both countries benefited. However, with the focus on attracting tourists, India has decided to go ahead with the relaxation as tourists and tour operators have complained about the country’s tortuous visa process.

Last year, the cost of an Indian visa for a British traveller increased drastically from £38 to £82, not including a processing fee of £10.50.

Visitors to India from all nations totalled just over six million last year, less than a quarter of the number of visitors to Malaysia, and a tenth of those who went to China. The proposed relaxation comes as India’s tourism ministry is looking to double visitor numbers by 2016.

In addition to the introduction of visas on arrival, the different types of visa will also be reduced from 16 to 3, making the application process simpler.

The category of airports where the visa on arrival will be available will also be extended. So far, visas were only available at major international airports including Delhi, Chennai, and Mumbai. Now, the on-arrival visa facility will be available in other airports including Goa, Gaya and Amritsar, which attract significant numbers of overseas tourists.

British tour operators to India have welcomed the decision. Ashley Royston of Virgin Holidays said: ‘As India rolls out the red carpet and makes it quicker and easier than ever for foreign tourists to arrange their paperwork, we hope that this development will encourage Britons to visit this exciting and enticing destination.’

Tourism leader urges Britain to ease visa requirements

World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) president David Scowsill has urged the UK to ease its visa entry requirement and adopt the Schengen System that is common in most of Europe, if it is to avoid missing out on attracting tourists.

The Schengen visa allows visitors access to 25 European countries on one document, and although the UK is already in the process of easing visa restrictions for Indian visitors, Scowsill commented, ‘It is good to hear David Cameron is vowing to relax visa rules to allow more Indians to travel to Britain for work and study. Anything which allows people to travel more easily can only be a good thing, socially and economically, for the UK. But this is just one small step. The restrictive visa policies in place in the UK are making the country uncompetitive and the UK government now needs to loosen visa bureaucracy for other emerging markets like China.

‘China’s economy is growing faster than any other, Yet, the UK is currently losing out on thousands of Chinese tourists to our nearby neighbours because Chinese tourists face higher fees and have to complete a longer application form than if they want to visit most other countries in Europe. Chinese outbound travellers totalled 84 million last year and the UK receives only a small fraction of themIt’s time for Britain to become part of the Schengen system that offers Chinese visitors the chance to visit 26 countries in Europe on a single visa.

‘Cameron’s promise to loosen visa bureaucracy in India is all well and good, but if he really wants to make a difference to Britain’s economy and create jobs, he needs to fundamentally reform visa policies for booming economies like China too.’

The WTTC has carried out research that indicates that when a country eases its visa policy, tourist inflow can increase by between 5 and 25 percent, with a resultant increase in revenue and job creation.

UK travellers excluded from India’s improved visa rules

New, improved visa rules for visitors to India look like they will exclude British travellers.

While travellers from a number of European countries including France, Spain, Germany, Poland and Russia are expected to benefit from being able to buy a visa on arrival in India rather than having to apply for one in advance, UK visitors are still likely to be subject to the existing system, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

The nation’s exclusion from the simplified and more convenient process is thought to be a retaliatory move by the Indian government for the UK’s tightening of visa regulations for visiting Indian nationals. The Indian authorities have already increased the cost of visas for UK citizens to £82 from £38, as well as increasing the administration fee by £1 to a new total of £10.20.

The final decision has not yet been made according to a spokesperson for the Indian High Commission, Mr Shaibal Roy Chowdhury, but he told MailOnline Travel that, ‘For the UK nationals, to the best of our knowledge, as of now there is no such proposal on the table. Visa protocols and guidelines are usually on a reciprocal basis. Hence, visa on arrival for UK nationals will perhaps entail a similar facility for Indian nationals.’

While postal applications for an Indian visa can take up to 10 days to process, Mr Chowdhury insisted that for UK applicants most visas are processed within 3 days.

The newly added countries to India’s list of preferential visa applicants will join the eleven countries that already benefit from the perk, which include Japan, Luxembourg, Vietnam and Finland.

800,000 Britons currently visit India each year.