Around 30 countries are likely to be cleared for electronic travel authority (ETA) or the e-visa system, which India is working on, in the first phase. ETA will allow foreign travellers wanting to come to India to apply for visa online and receive a confirmation within five working days. The first list will include a couple of countries each from various regions of the world, an official close to the development said. An announcement on this is expected soon.
In the first phase, the US, Brazil, Argentina, besides a few countries from Europe, Africa and Asia are likely to be named in India's e-visa list. This is in addition to the 11 countries that are offered visa on arrival.
However, the UK, which makes up for 11 per cent of the total foreign tourist arrivals into India, might not make it to the first list, due to "technical reasons", sources indicated.
Currently, India gives visa on arrival to travellers from Finland, the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Luxembourg and New Zealand.
The previous government had in February announced e-visa for all countries except eight - Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Somalia. It had set 2014-end as the deadline for a full roll-out.
However, the new government has now decided to introduce the scheme in phases. The ministries of home, external affairs and tourism are working together for the initiative, aimed at easing the entry of foreign tourists into India and attracting foreign exchange. Also on the cards is extending the visa on arrival scheme to 180 countries where India has a diplomatic mission, in phases.
The ETA portal is being developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). "The software has been undergoing trial runs for close to a month now," said an NIC official.
"About 40 countries account for 90 per cent of the foreign tourists coming to India. Including those countries would have been the most beneficial for tourism growth," said an official with the tourism ministry.
Foreign tourists during January-October 2014 were 5.8 million, showing a growth of seven per cent compared to 5.4 million during the same period last year.