India may soon roll out a long-term multiple-entry comprehensive visa by merging tourist, business, medical and conference visas into one to attract more visitors and boost trade.
Tourists, businessmen or people coming for treatment or to attend conferences or even for film shoots can be covered under the proposed new category, which was first mooted by the commerce ministry following a suggestion by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to boost services trade.
The long-term, multiple-entry visa is likely to be given upto 10 years but under this category the visitor will not be allowed to work or stay permanently, a government official, who is part of the deliberations, said.
As per the proposal, if a foreigner is granted long-term, multiple-entry non-working or non-permanent stay visa and his or her stay is restricted to 60 days on a visit, the government may waive the visa fee as well.
However, the visitors have to give biometric details and fulfil certain security obligations, the official said.
The home ministry is working on the proposal and, hopefully, it will be implemented soon, the official said.
The plan is part of the commerce ministry’s initiatives to boost India’s services trade.
India is said to be missing out on a huge opportunity worth about USD 80 billion annually in terms of attracting foreigners and foreign exchange.
Medical tourism in India alone is estimated at USD 3 billion and projected to grow to USD 7-8 billion by 2020.
Foreign patients travelling to India for medical treatment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 stood at 1,71,021, 2,36,898, and 1,84,298 respectively.
Small countries like Thailand attract millions of people whereas tourists flow in India is far less.