A success in UK, Indian e-visa irks some over cost, reciprocity
India’s electronic visa scheme has been hailed by British travel agents – more tourists use the e-visa now than the regular one – but its success has raised issues about reciprocity as well as concern over fraud websites offering e-visas.
The United Kingdom is one of the countries where the e-visa was extended in 2015 at a time when there was some resentment among tour operators over every applicant needing to attend a visa application centre as part of the process.
The easier procedure and cheaper cost of e-visa has not only increased the number of tourists and other categories of visitors, but also affected the business model of VFS Global, India’s private partner that collects and delivers the traditional visa.
Official figures show that more e-visas were issued in 2016 than the regular visas through VFS Global: 2,39,410 e-visas and 1,50,652 regular visas. VFS Global has 13 application centres across the UK to receive and process visa applications.
The company did not respond to queries about the impact of the e-visa scheme, but sources told Hindustan Times that concern has been expressed since its operations are based on the number of application processed. Lower applications affect the model adversely.
India is one of the favourite destinations of British tourists and travel agents are delighted with the e-visa. A spokeswoman of the Association of British Travel Agents told Hindustan Times: “Experience with British travellers going abroad is that a visa process that is either costly or arduous can deter travellers from visiting a country and so ABTA welcomes measures to streamline the process for holidaymakers”.
“Feedback suggests that holidaymakers travelling to India have embraced the introduction of the e-visa. Around 800,000 British nationals visit India every year,” she added.
An e-tourist visa costs around 58 pounds (plus 2.5% transaction charge), while the fee of the regular one is 119.44 pounds. India now allows two entries in a 60-month period for e-tourist visa and e-business visa. Biometric information is obtained when visitors with e-visa land in Indian ports.
The visa obtained through VFS application centres is of a longer duration (six months) and multiple-entry, but tourism industry sources say that most tourists and visitors are happy with the duration (60 days) and visits (double entry) offered under the e-visa.
The e-visa’s success also raises the issue of reciprocity that is key to relations between two countries. It has made easier for British nationals to visit India, but there is no similar facility extended to Indian nationals visiting the UK, who need to cross several hoops for a visa.
Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs say that there is much concern over websites fraudulently offering e-visa to unsuspecting applicants. Indian missions face their ire when they have a bad experience of seeking the e-visa through such websites.