Travel to India, which is known for its notoriously difficult visa process, just got a little easier thanks to a new so-called Tourist Visa on Arrival program for nationals from 43 countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany. The 30-day visas are for the purpose of “recreation, sightseeing, short duration medical treatment, casual business visit, or casual visit to meet friends and relatives” only and can be issued up to two times a year per person.
While the program is called “visa on arrival,” tourists are required to apply online at least four days before they are set to arrive in India. Applicants must submit a photo, a copy of their passport and a $60 fee. Once approved, they receive an “electronic travel authorization” email that they should print and present with their passport upon arrival. The visas are good for entry at nine international airports: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Goa.
Until now, India only issued visas on arrival to visitors from 12 countries. Most visitors had to submit applications at visa processing centers and then wait several weeks before learning whether their visas were approved.
There’s evidence that the country’s tough visa system has deterred tourists. In 2012, there were 6.58 million visitors to India, fewer than other Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to make tourism a significant driver of economic growth. The new system is aimed at sending "out a clear message that India is serious about making travel to the country easy," Mahesh Sharma, the country's tourism minister, said in a statement.