The long-pending approval of Indian Government to progressive and liberal reforms to the visa policy is finally through and it is about time too! At present, Indian tourism is losing revenue worth around USD 80 billion every year in terms of foreign visitors and overseas revenue. In 2012 a total of 1,71,021 overseas patients arrived in India. The figures increased to 2, 36,898 in 2013 and again plummeted to 1, 84,298 in 2014.
By these reforms, foreigners will be saved the trouble of applying separately for different visas for vacation, conferences, film shootings, business and medical purposes. A single comprehensive visa will allow them multiple long term entries.
The Central Government is actively addressing the dire need for rationalizing, simplifying and liberalizing the visa regime in India, as it exists today. According to Indian Express, the Home Ministry, in consultation with diverse stakeholders, is also deliberating upon gradual modifications to the visa policies to facilitate foreign visitors.
Maintaining a foreigner-friendly posture, the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister also included eight more countries for providing E tourist visas, notching up a total of 158 nations. Waiving off visa fee at Government’s discretion is also on the anvil. Not only will these reforms enhance economic growth and boost the revenue accruing from foreign visitors, but are also expected to promote the Government’s flagship projects, such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’ and ‘Skill India’.
There are some riders to these reforms. For example, the long duration visas for multiple entries, valid for ten years, will not allow visitors to settle permanently in the country. Five-year multiple-entry visas for trade and travel will be given to those who are not eligible for ten-year visas. The multiple entry long-duration visas will also limit the stay in the country to 60 days.
The revenue from medical tourism itself is projected at 3 billion US dollars and is estimated to increase to seven to eight billion dollars by the end of 2020.