India to extend Visa on Arrival to all senior travelers, pensioners

Foreign tourists  performing Hindu rituals at Haridwar
Foreign tourists performing Hindu rituals at Haridwar

In a decision that could increase foreign exchange earning from tourism for the country in future, the Planning Commission of India has recommended a comprehensive overhaul in the visa facilitation process for travelers intending to visit India. In a joint meeting of the officials of the related ministries of Home Affairs, External Affairs, Tourism, etc., it was recommended to extend Visa on Arrival (VoA) facilities to citizens of 40 more countries. The Commission also recommended VoA for senior citizens and pensioners from all countries, as well as setting up online visa processing system to enhance smoother facilitation of visas for overseas travelers.

The 40 countries which would be included in the list for VoA include the USA, UK, Russia, Germany, France, China, Canada, Brazil, UAE, Italy, Sweden, Holland, Austria, Denmark, Poland, Belgium and Ireland, among others. However, these recommendations would take some time to see the light of the day. For implementation, the Home Affairs Ministry has to amend the visa manual, which would require brainstorming at different levels. The Planning Commission’s recommendation is expected to speed up the processes required to ease the existing restrictions. The joint meeting has empowered Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Home Affairs to prepare a road map for infrastructure and manpower required for these services.

Tourism industry believes that the government’s move is timely and will help inbound tourism in a big way. The other significant move to increase the number of airports that will be allowed to issue Visa on Arrival is welcome as secondary  airports such as Goa, Gaya and Chandigarh receive international flights and  tourists who want to avail Visa on Arrival can fly directly to these secondary points, without the additional burden of landing in metro airports and then travelling to these destinations.

Visa on Arrival facility to tourists from UK, USA, France and Germany, which have been traditional source markets for Indian tourism sector and which contribute close to 40 per cent of our inbound arrivals will have a very positive impact both from a point of earning more foreign exchange but also help in the development of our inbound tourism whose share is less than one per cent of the total worldwide arrivals.

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