Washington, DC: If you ever thought that you could go to India and seek a visa at the airport to be a tourist in India, you may be in for a shocking surprise. Addressing “misunderstandings” over its Visa on Arrival scheme, the government of India has renamed the tourism initiative “Visa Online.”
The visa on arrival was intended to be sought and obtained upon arrival at select international airports in India. However, the government seems to have wrongly coined the term, as per reports here. The Visa on Arrival scheme allows visitors from about 44 countries to apply for a visa four days before the date of arrival. Because of its name, however, international visitors were given to misunderstand the scheme and assumed that they would receive their visas on landing in India, officials said. Since they hadn’t applied in advance, they had to return home.
Fewer travelers to India were expected to have used the visa outsourcing service of Cox and Kings Global Services following a new initiative launched in November that guarantees a 30-day visa on arrival to visitors from the U.S. and 43 other countries.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced the “Tourist Visa on Arrival enabled with Electronic Travel Authorization” plan Nov. 27, 2014 in New Delhi, noting that the new plan was designed to positively impact India’s economy. K.J. Srinivasa, deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, told India-West that the new visa application process was designed to ease the bureaucratic process involved in short-term travel to India, adding: “Indian Americans are the target for this scheme, which was designed to promote tourism.”
Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister of Tourism and Culture, in announcing the new initiative, said: “The implementation of TVoA enabled with ETA will send a clear and powerful message that India is serious in making travel to the country easy.” Speaking to reporters at the launch, the minister noted that India has a unique advantage in the tourism sector, owing to its geographical location. He also assured that his ministry would ensure a safe and secure environment for visiting foreign tourists.
Forgoing the often-cumbersome process of applying for a visa through Cox and Kings Global Services, the Indian Embassy’s visa outsourcing service in the U.S., tourists and “casual business” travelers to India can apply online for a 30-day visa.
The Tourism Ministry approached the Home Ministry and asked for the name change to end the confusion. “There is a question about the terminology on whether it is e-visa or visa on arrival. I think this issue should be addressed in a different manner. “We declared it as Visa on Arrival. (But) basically it is Electronic Travel Authorization,” Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of “Visit Kerala 2015.”
Tourism Secretary Lalit K. Panwar said: “Now, we will be calling it as Visa Online. If you call Visa Online, there will be no confusion because you will get visa online in your inbox. So, we can call it as Visa Online,”
Prospective tourists must apply at least four days before the visit to India, and submit a $60 fee. The process also requires the applicant to scan his/her passport and submit it through the Web site as well as uploading a photo. An “electronic travel authorization” is then sent to the traveler’s e-mail address, which must be printed out and carried.
The ETA can only be used at nine airports in India: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Goa. It is valid for 30 days after the date of arrival. The three-page application is located at: indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html.