NEW VISA RULES FOR INDIA WILL HELP MEDICAL TOURISM

Aiming to attract more medical tourists and boost trade, the Indian government has approved a new liberalized visa policy. The new visa rules for India includes a long-term multiple-entry comprehensive visa by merging the tourist, medical, business and conference visas into one.

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Further, the Union Cabinet has decided to extend the e-Tourists Visa for eight more countries hence taking the total number of countries covered under this scheme to 158. The Union Cabinet has given its approval for simplification, liberalisation and rationalisation of the existing visa regime in India as well as the incremental changes in the visa policy decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The new visa rules regarding e-tourist visa is aimed to boost the conferences, business strips and short-term medical treatment. The government is now planning to promote the medical tourism for attracting more of the business visitors to India. Under this plan, the e-tourist visa will now be the e-visa and the visa holder would now be allowed entries on dual basis for the business and tourism purposes as well as the third one for their medical treatment.

The foreign nationals can now apply for the e-visa four months before their visit and this will be valid for 60 days. The government release after the Cabinet meeting stated that the changes in the visa policy were decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with various stakeholders. Further, it added that the approval will facilitate the entry of foreigners for tourism, medical and business purposes. This is likely to stimulate the economic growth, increase the earning from the export of services such as the medical value travel, tourism and travel on account of business to make the “Make in India”, “Digital India” “Skill India” and other such flagship initiatives of the government to be successful.

The PMO got this new visa scheme suggestion by the Commerce Ministry for aim to improve and boost the services trade. This scheme will cover people coming to India for attending conferences or treatment including the tourists and businessmen. As per a recent study, the medical tourism in India is around 3 billion USDs and it is expected to grow to 7-8 billion USDs by 2020.

In comparison to the small countries such as Thailand that attracts millions, the inflow of medical tourists and visitors in India is quite low. The citizens from Pakistan and China are not covered under this visa policy liberalization. As for the emergency cases, when the application is submitted, then the health and business visa would be granted within 48 hours.

The approval will make it easier for entry of the foreigners for medical, tourism and business purposes and expected to stimulate the economic growth as well as increase the earnings from medical tourism. This long-term, multiple-entry visa will be for up to 10 years. But under this category the visitor will not be allowed to work or stay permanently. Another new idea is of a five year multiple visas for travel and trade. The security is tighter as the visitors will have to give their biometric details and fulfil certain security obligations. The latest government estimates on the medical tourism revenue is about 3 billion USD and it is projected to be approximately 8 billion USD by 2020.

The international patients travelling down to India for their medical treatments were 171,021 in 2012, 236,898 in 2013 and 184,298 in 2014. Medical visas will be granted within 48 hours after submission of the application in case of emergency. The government will set up the help desks and immigration counters to help the medical tourists.

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