RED TAPE is the bane of frequent business travellers. Many places in the world require arduous and expensive visa applications for even the most routine travel. I have two passports just so I can juggle concurrent applications when necessary. But the best policy, for business travellers and tourists alike, is a less-restrictive visa regime. The Schengen Area has proven a huge boon to European travellers; this blog has long supported making it easier for people to travel abroad.
Now there’s some good news. India, a nation notorious for bureaucracy and red tape—not to mention the long queues outside its diplomatic missions of people hoping to visit the country (see picture above of India House in London)—has dramatically loosened its visa policies. Travellers from 43 nations, including Germany, Japan, Russia and America, will now be able to receive visas upon arrival. There are, unfortunately, some restrictions:
- You have to apply online four days in advance, pay a $60 fee, and upload a passport photo and a scan of your passport.
- It only works for the international airports in nine cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Goa.
- It is valid for 30 days, and you can only get two per year.
Narendra Modi’s government has referred to the changes as being for a “tourist visa”. But the announcement makes clear the visa can be used for a “casual business visit”, and many Gulliver readers may decide that’s good enough for them.
The new policy is far from perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction and one that travellers should applaud. It will “send out a clear message that India is serious about making travel to the country easy,” Mahesh Sharma, the country’s tourism minister, said in a statement. That’s an encouraging attitude. If Mr Modi’s government can pull off more changes along these lines, travellers—and the Indian economy—should benefit greatly.