The government’s ambitious scheme of giving visa on arrival for tourists from 44 countries is facing an identity crisis since it has no provision to provide visa on landing and requires travelers to apply for an e-visa at least four days before their arrival.
According to sources, officials in the tourism ministry will soon be writing to the home ministry to re-name the scheme titled Tourist Visa on Arrival enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), which was expanded last November. It could suggest replacing ‘visa on arrival’ with a phrase that translates to e-visa.
Internationally visa on arrival means you can just land in a country and get a visa stamped on landing. But in India, applicants of the eligible countries have to apply for the visa online minimum four days before the date of arrival with a window of 30 days. There is absolutely no provision for a visa on landing.
Experts in the travel and tourism industry confirmed that certain travelers had landed in India expecting a visa on arrival but had to return from the airport. Most of these travelers were from the countries where visas were handed on arrival at the airport.
“A friend, who is a citizen of New Zealand, faced a similar problem. He had to turn back," Subhas Goyal, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators told HT, adding that he had written to the tourism ministry to amend the scheme’s name. “We have also suggested that there should be a parallel system of granting both visa on arrival and electronic visa to countries that had been covered (by the scheme) initially.”
The visa on arrival scheme was launched in 2010 for travelers from five countries. In 2011, six more countries were added to the scheme. In November last year, it was expanded to cover 44 countries but came with a rider — it was enabled by electronic travel authorisation (ETA).
The original scheme of visa on arrival at the airport to travellers was discontinued on January 29 this year, after which it became mandatory for these travellers to seek an electronic travel authorization. But the same has not been clarified on any website.
The government plans to expand the scheme to 150 countries in a phased manner. Official sources said 50 more countries could be added to the list by June this year.