Common sense comes to India

 making it easier for people to travel abroad.

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.

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5 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. woollyliberal December 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm -

    It cost me £600 to obtain two 1 year business visa for India recently. I notice the UK is not on the list thank you Mr Farage, and your like.

  2. CA-Oxonian December 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm -

    This being India, upon arrival the traveler will discover that entry to the airport itself is forbidden without a visa so you can’t actually get to the visa desk to get the entry visa. After bribing the necessary officials, the traveler will then discover the visa desk is closed. After bribing yet more people the traveler will receive a scribbled note (not legally valid) and suggestions regarding the best way to get from airport to city. En route the taxi will collide with another vehicle traveling on the wrong side of the road and, though escaping serious injury, the traveler will be detained by the police (rapidly appearing only 97 minutes after the incident) because s/he doesn’t have a visa. After paying yet more bribes the sensible traveler will give up, head back to the airport, and go somewhere less chronically misgoverned.

  3. RajSwamy December 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm -

    Good heavens. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed ? He died in *1977*. If people want to criticize, at least use examples from recent memory, not from what is effectively prehistoric times as far as international travel dynamics are concerned. I don’t see anyone complaining they couldn’t apply for a US visa because of JFK’s funeral (which was a lot closer to 1977 than today is).

    For CA-Oxonian and the ilk who seek to mock India without any justifiable basis and solely because of their own pettiness, there’s a functional visa on arrival system for years now. The new rules are merely an ETA system that’s been added for some more countries.

  4. LOOIRIie December 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm -

    If that is the criteria for common sense, then the rest of the world would happily testify that it is yet to come to the west…. (Not that India shouldn’t do it, but perhaps author would recommend the same to his home country)

  5. Aleen Robert December 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm -

    If only everyone could experience the immigration bureaucracy of their own country, the world would be an easier place to travel around (or at least more humble in talking about others)…