The Indian government is planning to extend the e-visa scheme to more countries in a bid to boost the number of foreign arrivals in the country. The Ministry of Home Affairs is also looking at increasing the number of departure and arrival counters at major airports in the country.
The government is committed to strengthen and smoothen the twin processes of immigration and visa for Indian citizens and foreigners, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on July 6. Singh was addressing the Parliamentary Consultative Committee meeting on Immigration Visa Foreigners’ Registration & Tracking (IVFRT) at Kochi in Kerala.
“We need to facilitate safe and convenient entry inside the country to legitimate international travellers. We also need to provide all visa related and consular services to foreigners staying in India in a faster and convenient mode,” Singh said, according to an official statement. “We also have to keep in mind the security aspect while facilitating easier immigration. At the same, there is need to track the movement of foreigners already present in the country,” he added.
The e-visa scheme ensures that foreigners do not have to meet any Indian official before their arrival at the designated landing port. The Indian government has decided to increase the scope of this scheme to include e-conference and e-medical attendant visa as well.
The number of foreigners availing the e-visa scheme has increased over the years, from 517,417 e-visas issued in 2015 to 1,901,309 in 2017. About 11,16,985 e-visas have been issued until July 5 this year, Singh said.
“It is expected that in few years time the number of e-visas issued by MHA’s Bureau of Immigration would overtake the number of regular visas issued by all the Indian missions abroad,” he added.
The e-tourist visa scheme, launched in 2014 in 44 countries, has now been extended to 165 countries. The Home Ministry is now working to extend it to more countries in a planned manner after consulting all the stakeholders, with an aim to promote tourism, business travel and health tourism in the country.
The government has installed e-visa processing facilities at 25 airports and 5 seaports in India. Over 90 percent visas are issued within 72 hours of application submission since the e-visa scheme was introduced. The government has also done away with Embarkation and Disembarkation cards for Indian citizens and foreigners to streamline the immigration process.
The ministry has also introduced e-FRRO services for foreigners living in India who need services like visa extension, visa conversion, exit permit, registration, change of passport details, and change of address.