India restores e-visa for 156 countries

Tourist arrivals are not covered; China and the U.K are excluded

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has restored electronic visa (e-visa) facility for foreigners from 156 countries, who intend to visit India for the purposes of business, conferences, and for medical reasons, including in the case of medical attendants. E-visa for tourists is yet to be restored.

Though the facility is available to 171 countries, after restrictions were announced in 2020, it has been restored only for 156 countries. China, the U.K., Canada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are notable exclusions.

In an order issued on March 30, the MHA said that “e-Visa under the following categories viz. e-business visa, e-medical visa, e-medical attendant visa and e-conference visa has been restored with immediate effect”.

The relaxation for foreign visitors comes in the wake of a deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed 1.7 lakh lives so far. The number of persons infected with COVID-19 increased from 59,118 on March 25 to 2,00,739 on April 14.

India had earlier relaxed visa restrictions on October 22, 2020 enabling foreigners to come to India for business, conferences, employment, education, research and medical purposes, after availing regular visas from missions and embassies abroad.

An e-visa is provided in five categories — tourist, business, conference, medical, and medical attendant.

Under the arrangement, a foreigner can apply online ( four days prior to travel. After the details are verified, an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is generated, which has to be presented at the immigration checkpost on arrival. Entry through e-visas is allowed only at 28 designated international airports and 5 major seaports in India.

International air travel to and from 107 immigration checkposts was suspended by the MHA on March 23, 2020, a day before the first phase of the 21-day countrywide lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic began. The visa restrictions were gradually relaxed and, later in the year, the Ministry allowed foreign nationals from the U.S., the U.K, Germany and France on “business, medical and employment” visas under an air bubble scheme.