20 March 2014


The government of India has said it is going to replace it’s antiquated and cumbersome and inefficient tourist visa system, which can take weeks and sometimes more than a month, with a brand new electronic visa.

Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla and Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi announced the plan to include 180 countries in a new e-visa / visa-on-arrival scheme, and to have it running in time for India's peak tourist season in October 2014.

Canadians will be able to use this system, and it will save everyone a lot of time and money. The best news is that we will no longer have to surrender the passport in order to apply.

The basic idea is that a foreigner seeking a visa to India will apply for the visa on-line from the comfort of their home or office. The passenger will type in personal and passport details and details of the planned journey. They will also pay for the visa on-line using a credit card. The government of India will review the application and inform the applicant within five (5) days of the decision to issue (or refuse) the visa. The traveler then prints out their authorization and gets on the flight to India. Upon arrival in India tourists will undergo a biometric scan such as fingerprints or iris scans. Then they will receive the 30-day visa. The visa will be issued into the passport by immigration officials in the arrivals hall at the airport in India.

The e-visa-on-arrival will eventually be available at 26 major airports in India and would be valid for a stay of up to 30 days from the date of the tourist's arrival in India. In the first stage of implementation, tourists can get the visas at the following airports including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Goa and Trivandrum. The remaining of the 26 airports will be added as investment permits.

The Tourism Ministry expects the whole project to be in place and functional by the end of 2014. Planning Minister Shukla said he expected the rollout to be completed sooner: "It will take five to six months for the respective departments to put the required infrastructure in place. We hope to implement this from the next tourist session beginning October."

Some Indian officials said the system would be modeled on the Australian electronic travel authority (ETA), but would take three-to-five days in India rather than the immediate ETA issuance by Australia's immigration department.

This would overnight catapult India into the ranks of the top five countries with e-visas and visa-friendly policies. Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi said the move would encourage visitors to India, which currently suffers from very low tourism rates despite being a desirable destination in terms of culture, food, geography, history and facilities. India receives less than a quarter the number of tourists seen by Thailand or by Malaysia in any given year. Those two countries have visa-free entries.

The only countries specifically excluded from the scheme are Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Somalia, which have been categorized as sensitive for security reasons. However, Pakistan may be removed from the list, as Indian officials said only the reluctance of Pakistan to grant most-favoured trading nation status to India stood in the way. Interestingly, the Indian External Affairs Ministry, and the National Security Advisor as well as related agencies have supported the new e-visa plan.

Of course in the near term the real problem is investment, infrastructure, computers, manpower and training. Officials in India conceded that the new scheme hinged on more money and on significantly more staff at airports. So the world remains to be convinced that this will happen on schedule.

However, while we wait for this great day to come, Canadians and everyone else will still have to apply for a visa the hard way. Click here for India visa information.