India adds countries to e-Tourist visa program

1 May 15

INDIA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Canada and France are among 31 countries that will be added to India’s e-Tourist visa program, the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs announced this week.

What does the change mean? Nationals of 76 countries are now eligible for the program. While the expansion of the program eases travel to India for tourists, it is not recommended for business travelers.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: E-Tourist visas.
  • Who is affected: Nationals of 31 additional countries traveling to India for tourism.
  • Impact on processing times: Processing times for travelers from eligible countries will be improved significantly.
  • Business impact: The business impact is minimal. Although India technically allows “casual business” visits on e-Tourist visas, BAL does not recommend using the e-Tourist visa for business purposes except in extremely limited circumstances.

Background: India dramatically expanded its Tourist Visa on Arrival-Electronic Travel Authorization program, as it was previously known, in November, making it available to nationals of more than 40 countries. This week, The Indian government announced that it will extend the program to nationals of 31 more countries. Those countries are:

Anguilla The Dominican Republic Latvia
Antigua and Barbuda Ecuador Liechtenstein
The Bahamas El Salvador Lithuania
Barbados Estonia Macedonia
Belize France Montenegro
Bolivia Georgia Montserrat
Canada Grenada Nicaragua
Cayman Islands Haiti Paraguay
Chile Holy See (Vatican City) St. Kitts and Nevis
Costa Rica Honduras Seychelles
Dominica

Indian authorities say they would like to extend e-Tourist visa eligibility to nationals of 150 countries by March 31, 2016, the end of India’s financial year.

The e-Tourist visa requires travelers to apply online prior to travel; those who show up without electronic travel authorization will be turned away. In order to clear up confusion, the program was renamed “e-Tourist Visa” in April.

BAL Analysis: While the program makes tourist travel easier, only “casual business” visits are allowed. The definition of what constitutes “casual business” may be left to the interpretation of individual immigration officers. Because of the discretionary manner in which e-Tourist visas may be issued and the fact that eligible foreign nationals may only be issued two of the visas per year, BAL only recommends e-Tourist visas for business travelers who do not have enough time to obtain a traditional business visa and are traveling for a one-shot meeting or “look-see” visit.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in India. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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