Photo by Greg Rodgers
For years, travelers wanting to visit India had to muscle through a frustrating and convoluted visa process weeks before arrival.
Well, no more.
Soon, visitors from more than 40 countries -- including the US and UK -- will be granted a visa on arrival at many international airports in India!
Simplifying the visa process is an incredibly smart move by Indian officials. Despite India having an incredible amount to offer, travelers were often put off by the lengthy and complicated Indian visa application form.
Despite its size, India actually only receives a small number of international tourists compared to much smaller countries with relaxed visa rules. Thailand and Malaysia -- both offer visa-on-arrival services -- receive more international travelers than India does.
Feb 2014 Update: Indian officials say that the new visa regulations should be in place by October 2014.
Citizens from the following countries will be granted a visa on arrival:
US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Brazil, Russia, China, and others. To take advantage of the new VOA, travelers will first need to apply online once the new website is up and running. The online system for visa on arrival already used in Sri Lanka may be used as a model.
I took advantage of Sri Lanka's easy system last year. You simply apply online, pay a fee with a credit card, then receive an approval number. Once you arrive in Sri Lanka, a physical visa is stamped into your passport which is already in their system. No need for mailing off your passport or leaving it with an embassy for processing.
Citizens from Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Finland, and the Philippines already had access to a visa on arrival in India.
Under the new system, all travelers above age 60 from any country -- even those not yet included in the new VOA offering -- will be granted visa on arrival.
After dealing with the old visa approval process last year, I can attest that this is an excellent move by the tourism ministry and great news for anyone who has been wanting to visit India.
Here are a few resources for planning your trip to take advantage of the new visa rules!