The Union Cabinet, seeking to promote Medical Tourism and attract more business visitors, has expanded the scope of e-tourist visa to incorporate purposes such as short-term medical treatment, business trips and conferences. With the enlarged scope, the e-tourist visa would be rechristened as e-visa and would allow the holder dual entries for tourism and business purposes and three for medical treatment.According to the cabinet decision, the e-visa scheme will be extended to eight more countries, which would take the total number of nations that enjoy the facility to 158. In addition, e-visa would 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,” stated a government release following 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,” the release added.Tourists, businessmen or people coming for treatment or to attend conferences or even for film shoots would 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.The long-term, multiple-entry visa would be given up to 10 years, however, under this category, the visitor would not be allowed to work or stay permanently.Apart from those covered under 10-year travel and trade visa policy, citizens of other countries would be offered five-year multiple visas for travel and trade. As per the proposal, if a foreigner is granted long-term, multiple-entry non-working or non-permanent stay visa and his or her stay is restricted to 60 days on a visit, the government may waive the visa fee as well. But the visitors have to give biometric details and fulfil certain security obligations. The plan is part of the Commerce Ministry’s initiatives to boost India’s services trade.
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