Indian Spokesman Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Seeking to promote medical tourism and attract more business visitors, the Union cabinet on Wednesday expanded the scope of e-tourist visa to include purposes such as short-term medical treatment, business trips and conferences. With the enlarged scope, the e-tourist visa will be rechristened the e-visa and shall allow the holder dual entries for tourism and business purposes and three for medical treatment.
As per the Cabinet decision cleared by the Modi government, the e-visa scheme will be extended to 8 more countries, taking the total number of nations that enjoy the facility to 158.
E-visa will now have a validity of 60 days and can be applied for by foreign nationals up to four months ahead of the visit.
“The Union Cabinet has given its approval for liberalisation, simplification and rationalisation of the existing visa regime in India and incremental changes in the visa policy decided by the ministry of home affairs in consultation with various stakeholders,” said a government release issued after the Cabinet meeting.
“The approval will facilitate entry of foreigners for tourism, business and medical purposes. This is expected to stimulate economic growth, increase earnings from export of services like tourism, medical value travel and travel on account of business and to make ‘Skill India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Make in India’ and other such flagship initiatives of the government successful,” it added.
Tourists, businessmen or people coming for treatment or to attend conferences will be covered under the new category of visa, which was first mooted by the Commerce Ministry following a suggestion by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to boost services trade.
Medical tourism in India alone is estimated at USD 3 billion and projected to grow to $7-8 billion by 2020, according to a PTI report.
Foreign patients travelling to India for medical treatment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 stood at 1,71,021, 2,36,898, and 1,84,298 respectively.
Small countries like Thailand attract millions of people whereas tourists flow in India is far less.