India expands visa-on-arrival scheme to 150 countries

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The UK, Canada, Malaysia, France and China to be included in the expanded scheme

Tourists from 150 countries will be eligible to enter India using its new electronic visa-on-arrival (VoA) service, after the government confirmed plans to expand the scheme.

The decision forms part of the Indian government’s budget for 2015-16, and follows the launch of the VoA scheme for 43 countries in late November 2014.

Under the system, tourists are able to apply for a visa online, without having to visit the Indian embassy. Once approved, the applicant will receive an email authorising them to travel to India. This notification will then be presented to immigration authorities at one of nine Indian airports, allowing the visitor to obtain a visa-on-arrival.

India’s Minister of Tourism, Culture & Civil Aviation, Dr Mahesh Sharma, welcomed the decision to expand the scheme and congratulated India’s Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, for presenting a “balanced, far-sighted and growth-oriented budget”.

“The revenue from tourism sector can be utilised for the development of the country. Tourism in India is a very important source of foreign exchange earnings and has high labour intensity,” Dr Sharma stated.

The initial list of 43 countries including several key source markets for India, such as the US, Australia, Russia, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the majority of Southeast Asian countries. Some notable omissions from the previous list, including the UK, Canada, Malaysia, France and China, will be included in the expanded scheme.

Following the progressive expansion of the initiative, only a handful of countries will not be eligible for VoA, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan.

Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, India’s government is placing a significant focus on tourism, with the stated aim of receiving 1% of global international tourism arrivals. Last year, India welcomed 7.5 million overseas tourists, which accounted for about 0.66% of the global total.

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