Visas on Arrival Proposed for 40 More Countries; Will Benefit Some Business Travelers

18 Oct 13

INDIA

IMPACT – Low

What are the changes? India has stepped up planning for several reforms to the visa system that will make it easier for tourists and benefit some business travelers.

What does the change mean? The proposed changes will expand the number of countries that qualify for visas on arrival (VoA) for tourists, reduce the red tape for those attending conferences and simplify the visa system for business and employment visas. Under the proposed plan, visitors from 40 additional countries will be able to get single-entry VoAs good for 30 days.

  • Implementation timeframe: Has not been announced.
  • Visas/permits affected: Tourist visas; if systemic changes are implemented, employment and business visas will also be affected.
  • Who is affected: Business travelers attending conferences; tourists; students on cultural programs.
  • Impact on processing times: No immediate change.
  • Business impact: No immediate impact.

Background: The suggested plans aim to increase tourism and simplify the visa system, and could benefit some business travelers. In addition to expanding VoAs, a government planning commission also proposes to reduce the number of visa categories from 16 to three (business, employment and visitor), create a simplified online visa application system, and relax rules for conference attendees.

“There has to be a change in mindset towards the way we treat foreign tourists. All representatives of government agreed on extending visa on arrival to 40 countries and initiating an online system as soon as possible,” government planning minister Rajeev Shukla told the Times of India.

Currently, VoAs are available to travelers from 11 countries including Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Luxembourg, Finland and New Zealand arriving in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru or Thiruvananthapuram. VoAs cannot be extended or converted to another visa type in India, and strict rules prohibit business activities on a tourist visa. They may currently be used for tourism, visits with friends and family, short-term medical treatment or very limited, casual business visits.

The reform would add 40 countries to the list, including the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, China, Brazil, Australia, Saudi Arabia and most countries in western Europe including Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

BAL analysis: The proposed changes will benefit tourists, students on cultural programs, and “casual business” visitors from VoA-eligible countries, who would no longer need to apply for tourist visas ahead of traveling. However, business travelers should be aware that they can be denied entry on a VoA for any activity that the Indian border officer decides is outside the definition of “casual business.” Casual business typically means a one-time meeting or a “look-see” tour to decide whether to work in India.

Because VoAs are issued at the discretion of Indian immigration officers, business travelers should generally obtain a business visa before travelling to India rather than risk being denied entry. Also, please note that the proposed changes are in fairly early planning stages. Historically, it could be a number of months, and probably a year or more, before any of the proposed changes are implemented.

This alert is provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in India. For additional information, please contact GlobalVisaGroup@balglobal.com.

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