A little background on E-Visa for India
If you’ve been thinking that it’s high time the process of getting a visa to India became smoother, you’ve been thinking right! The Indian government since June 2014, has been aggressively putting in place an e-visa system for in-bound tourists. And the good news is, we’re almost there—you’ll most likely be getting your visa online for your next visit to India. It will reduce paper work and make the whole process much easier for travellers. No more enduring long lines at embassies, convoluted verification and documentation process and other hassles!
E-Visa or Visa on Arrival for India? What is the difference?
The e-visa format being implemented resembles a Visa on arrival, but is not exactly a Visa on arrival. The applicant needs to submit their India Visa forms online, pay the necessary fees online and the applicant would be informed online if the Visa is granted or not.
You do not have to courier your passport or visit an Indian Embassy or consulate. Once your Visa is granted, which you would be notified of online, you can board your plane to India and the Visa would be stamped on your passport when you arrive in India.
While similar, it is still not exactly a Visa on arrival and it would be a lot less cumbersome than couriering your passports or having to line up outside an Indian Embassy/consulate.
Which countries can avail of e-visa for India?
Overall, we’re looking at phasing in 109 countries. New Zealand, Luxembourg, Finland, Singapore, Japan, South Korea the USA, the UK, Canada,Malaysia, France and others are likely to be on the list while Germany, Israel and Russia are under active consideration. China with its lofty promise of active tourism in India definitely makes the list, although not in phase one.
Which countries will get the facility first?
Australia, certain BRICS countries and the African region will be part of the first phase while the US, Japan and South Korea will follow up with 30 odd countries in the beginning.
Which countries cannot avail of e-visa for India?
SAARC nations and Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Afghanistan which are on “prior reference” list are the ones that’ll have tough luck as far as e- visas are concerned.
There’s some good news for Afghan nationals though. India may open its doors for them to stay for up to 2 years on humanitarian grounds, subject to checks and balances to avoid misuse.
A brief overview of the e-visa process for India
With Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) foreign travellers will be able to apply (through a website) for and receive online confirmation of their e – visa within 3 to 5 working days. The facility will be available for a 30 day period from your date of arrival in India onwards.
When will it go live by?
The software for e-visa system is ready and expected to be in operation at 9 international airports—Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, and Goa by the time this year’s (2014-2015) peak tourist season arrives.
A dedicated website for the purpose of getting an e-visa is already functional. You will have to pay an additional fee to use the service. Visit https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/ to see if you can use the facility as yet.
A word to the wise
Once e-visas kick start, visa-on-arrival will become redundant. The government does believe though, that it is better to keep both options open for the convenience of travellers.
For those who like to travel to places where there aren’t too many tourists, this new development may make India a bit disappointing during season time. e-visas are expected to double India’s inbound tourism within 2 years! But if you plan in advance, choose your destinations smartly and book tickets and accommodation with good advice, you’re likely to have a great time as always.
As of late 2015, there have been some changes in the process. Learn more about them here.