Number of Britons opting for Indian e-visa sees exponential increase
The number of Britons opting for e-visas to visit India has seen an exponential increase since it was first introduced in the United Kingdom, jumping from 82,751 in 2015 to 327,798 in 2017.
At the same time, the number of people applying for the traditional, in-person visa has correspondingly dwindled from 233,005 in 2015 to 103,233 in 2017.
The e-visa has been welcomed by tour operators and others who resented earlier rules that stipulated every visa applicant must appear at an appointment at one of the 13 visa application centres run by VFS Global, India’s private partner that collects and delivers the traditional visa.
An e-visa costs around £53 (excluding a 2.5% bank transaction charge), while the fee for the regular one is nearly £120.
A spokesperson of the Association of British Travel Agents told HT: “India is a very important destination for the UK travel industry with almost a million visits in 2017, a combination of leisure, business trips and people visiting friends and family.”
However, sources in India’s ministry of external affairs said there is a concern over some websites fraudulently offering the Indian e-visa to unsuspecting applicants. Indian missions face their ire when they have a bad experience and pay more while seeking the e-visa through such websites.
The Association of British Travel Agents spokesperson said: “The introduction of the e-visa system has helped make the process of visiting India much more straight forward but it is important that applicants always use the official application channels to avoid unnecessary charges.”
The traditional visa obtained through VFS is of a longer duration (six months) and multiple-entry, while e-visas are valid for 60 days and offer double-entry.
A VFS Global spokesperson said: “(Many) applicants prefer applying for visas through the regular process as they tend last longer than e-visas and have multiple entry option. This is beneficial to those who visit a country more frequently, such as business travellers.
“Even first time or less frequent travellers also prefer the more personal, hands-on service that VFS Global can provide in terms of the provision of staff to help customers complete the application correctly….Although the e-visa process may be faster online, biometric information is only obtained when the applicant arrives at their destination, which may result in the need to queue longer on arrival than those who arrive with regular visas.”
However, tourism industry sources say most tourists and visitors are happy with the duration and number of visits offered under the e-visa.
The e-visa’s success 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 jump through several hoops for a visa.