Tour operators are reporting that changes in India’s visa system will make it easier for Americans to travel to the country.
According to Royal Expeditions, “The visa process has been amended for 43 countries, the USA included, although strangely not for Canadian passport holders.”
The long-awaited visa-on-arrival system is now in place, allowing visitors to apply about two weeks before departure for a 30-day visa twice a year. Approvals are said to be granted by email in 72 hours from application.
This is the Indian government’s resolution of problems that caused waves of frustration and created bottlenecks to inbound travel.
“We no longer have to require the guest to send their passport of visa copy,” said Claire Wilson, guest service consultant for Backroads. “Guests still need to get their own visa, they just don’t need to send it to us anymore.”
“It is such great news!” said Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours. “We are now able to handle last-minute bookings to India, which wasn’t possible in the past. There is still confusion among the visa companies as some are still going by the old process. However, it’s an education process there too. One thing is for sure, it is real progress… finally.”
“Anything that improves the efficiency and ease of applying for a visa is always of help to our guests,” said Bob Drumm, president of Alexander + Roberts. “Since India’s requirements were particularly burdensome, this is a big help.”
Further improvements are said to be in the works.
"We understand that India has launched what they call Tourist Visa on Arrival (TVOA) in conjunction with its Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA)," said Laudie Hanou, vice president of SITA World Tours. ":SITA World Tours is expecting the tourist numbers to increase even further with this new format.
The new system would let prospective travelers to apply for and purchase an Indian Visa online without having to go to the Indian Embassy. Approvals will be sent as email authorizations which could be printed and presented to the immigration authorities on arrival. The visas will be valid for 30 days.
The service will be available at nine international airports in India, according to Hanou, "including Delhi and Mumbai, which are two major starting points of SITA’s signature India itineraries. We believe that this new facility will encourage travelers to visit India and also on a short-term planning basis, which is good news for all tour operators."
The India Ministry of Tourism did not respond to inquiries from TravelPulse.