India has now exempted foreign tourists from the mandatory two-month gap to re-enter the country for regular onward medical treatment.

For persons coming for medical treatment, there is a separate category of medical visa. Foreign nationals coming for medical treatment will have to come only on medical visa and not on tourist visa, a circular issued by the home ministry said last week.

Medical tourism in India has grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. While in 2002, only 150,000 foreign patients had visited India for treatments, this number is estimated to go up to around half-a-million by 2010-11.

This confidence gains substance from the fact that India has carved a niche for itself in medical care courtesy lower costs and higher affordability of treatments, besides the medical technology that is on par with those that are available in the UK, US and Europe. Patients visit India mostly for heart surgery, knee transplant, cosmetic surgery and dental care.

Factors that have also contributed to the growth of medical tourism in India include the high cost of health care in other countries, long wait times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care.

Curbs on tourist visas

India had recently clamped new restrictions on foreign tourists visiting the country on tourist visas to avoid misuse of such visas which entailed tourists had to give a mandatory two-month gap before re-entering India.

As per this rule, foreign nationals holding Indian tourist visas with multiple entry facility have to make a two-month gap mandatory between two visits.

If any foreign national is required to visit the country again within a period of two months of his last departure (in emergency situations), (he or she) should obtain special permission from the mission concerned. It may be considered on merits of each case, the circular had said.

India, which issues tourist visas to foreigners who do not have a residence or occupation in the country, will now allow foreign tourists who after initial entry into India plan to visit another country as part of neighborhood tourism-related travel and allow them to re-enter India before their final exit to have two or three entries.

But (this is) subject to their submission of a detailed itinerary and supporting documentation (ticket bookings), the ministry circular said.

The circular also says no foreign travelers will be allowed to indulge in activities other than recreation on tourist visa, which is non-extendable and non-convertible.
Similarly, foreign tourists holding a tourist visa cannot indulge in any business project or seek employment, the circular clarified.