In a move aimed at boosting the growth of India’s tourism industry, the government will soon permit grant of multiple-entry long-term visas, valid for five to 10 years, to all tourists and other visitors from select foreign countries.
The proposal, which was being keenly pursued by the Tourism Ministry for quite some time, has been cleared in principle by the Ministries of External Affairs and Home.However, it will take some time for a formal decision on the issue to be officially notified.
Revealing this on Wednesday, Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni stated that the provision would contribute immensely towards increasing the volume of foreign arrivals in India leading to the growth of tourism sector.
She took up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a meeting where he reviewed the performance of the Tourism Ministry and discussed measures for accelerating the growth of India’s tourism industry that ranks among the largest employment generating sectors.
Soni had raised the issue with Home Minister Shivraj Patil earlier explaining to him that regular visitors to the country were discouraged as they faced many problems having to obtain fresh visas every time they wanted to come here.
Long-term multiple-entry visas to India are currently available only for certain categories of visitors such as businessmen, students or researchers - and that , too, from select nations.These are valid for a maximum period of six months at a time.This condition will apply to the new scheme as well.
According to Tourism Secretary AK Mishra, under the new arrangement, the long-term visas will be available for all tourists and other visitors who are nationals of countries that have a reciprocal arrangement with India. Among these are countries such as the US, UK, Canada, France and certain South East Asian nations.
The clearance for such visas had been held up for long due to security considerations raised by the Home Ministry, a senior official said.However, Home Secretary VK Duggal wrote to Mishra informing him that the proposal had been finally given the go-ahead and the External Affairs Ministry could now proceed with the scheme.