India will soon offer visa-on-arrival (VOA) to citizens of almost every country in the world, authorities have revealed.
The country’s much-maligned tourist visa processing system will be completely overhauled, in an effort to allow the country to achieve a greater share of global visitor arrivals.
Announcing the decision in Delhi late on Wednesday, planning minister Rajiv Shukla told reporters; “We have decided to extend the visa-on-arrival facility to tourists from 180 nations.”
This marks a major upgrade from the an original plan mooted in October last year, which suggested the VOA scheme could be offered to 40 countries, including the UK, US, France, Germany, China, Russia, Brazil, Australia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Under the expanded plan however, tourists from almost every nation on Earth will be able to apply for VOA to India. The only major exceptions are Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq, which have been omitted on security grounds. Bangladesh is among the countries included.
According to Shukla, the intention is for India to benefit more from the rapid rise in global tourist arrivals. In the first 11 months of 2013, only around 6.8 million international tourists visited India – about a quarter of the numbers achieved by other Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia, which currently offer widespread VOA systems.
“The facility will provide a major boost to the country’s tourism sector. This is historic,” Shukla said
Under the new rules, visitors will be able to apply online and receive approval within five days. They will then pick up their visa on arrival at India’s international ports.