With a view to stimulate economic growth and to increase the earnings from the export of services like tourism, medical value travel, travel on account of business, the Union Cabinet has announced approval of various measures for liberalisation, simplification and rationalisation of the visa regime in India with effect from April 1.
These measures are intended to make India an attractive destination for foreign direct and portfolio investment.
These include liberalisation of the e-Visa scheme, tourist, business, medical and employment visas and an introduction of new categories of visas such as Intern Visa and Film Visa.
With effect from April 1, 2017, e-Visa has further been sub-divided into three categories i.e. e-tourist visa, e-Business visa and e-Medical visa.
The e-Visa facility has been extended to the nationals of 161 countries for entry through 24 airports (e-Visa service was earlier granted through 16 airports) and three Indian Ports i.e. Cochin, Goa and Mangalore to tap the potential of cruise tourism from different countries.
As per the new measures, the services can be utilised from Mumbai and Chennai seaports shortly.
The window for application under e-Visa scheme has been increased from 30 days to 120 days and duration of stay on e-Visa has been increased from 30 days to 60 days with double entry on e-Tourist and e-Business visa and triple entry on e-Medical visa.
Separate immigration counters and facilitation desks to assist medical tourist have been provided at the Indian airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
It adds to the multiple entry of Tourist and Business visas for a period of five
years, which will now be available to nationals of most countries.
Upon urgent requests, business visa and medical visa will be granted within 48 hours of application. 94 Missions having bio-metric enrollment facilities have started giving five-year long-term Tourist and Business Visa w.e.f. March 1, 2017. The remaining Missions will be providing this facility in due course.
In case a foreigner is intending to pursue internship in Indian companies, educational institutions and NGOs, subject to certain checks and conditions, then there has been a new category of visa titled Intern (I) that has been rolled out with effect from March 1, 2017.
The period of visa is restricted to the duration of internship programme or one year, whichever is less. The intern visa will be granted immediately after completion of graduation/post graduation. Intern visa, however, will be issued with prior clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs in case of internship in NGOs or internship involving visit to protected and restricted areas.
Another new category of visa titled Film (F) Visa has also been introduced with maximum duration of one year with multiple entry facility.
The minimum salary limit for grant of Employment Visa, which is presently US dollars 25,000 per annum, has also been modified. This will facilitate the foreign nationals engaged as teaching faculty by the Central Higher Educational Institutions.
The liberalisation of the visa regime will considerably facilitate entry of foreigners into India for tourism, business and medical purposes.
Consequently, the arrival of foreigners in India is expected to go up substantially in the coming years. This will in turn give a boost to the tourism, medical and business sectors resulting in substantial increase in direct and indirect employment in these sectors.