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.’