x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Emiratis and expatriates welcome plans to grant visas on arrival to 180 countries

The UAE, UK and US are among the 180 countries that can apply online.

Transit passengers pass through immigration counters at Terminal T-3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Tourists travelling to India from 180 countries will no longer have to queue at their local consulates to obtain visas after New Delhi announced a 'very significant' overhaul of its border controls. Prakash Singh / AFP
Transit passengers pass through immigration counters at Terminal T-3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Tourists travelling to India from 180 countries will no longer have to queue at their local consulates to obtain visas after New Delhi announced a 'very significant' overhaul of its border controls. Prakash Singh / AFP

ABU DHABI // Emiratis and expatriates have welcomed plans by the Indian government to grant visas on arrival to visitors from 180 countries.

Travellers will no longer have to queue at local consulates after New Delhi announced the proposed overhaul of its strict visa regime.

The UAE is included on the list, along with the UK, United States and China, and the service is expected to be offered by the end of the year.

“Of course, it is great news for me as I have to frequently travel to India for business purposes,” said Hassan Al Hariri.

“Always it takes hours standing in queues to submit documents from counter to counter,” said Mr Hariri, an Emirati.

“The problem in manual submission was that when we turned up to the counter, officers asked me to bring this and that paper. Sometimes they ask for salary certificate, bank statements. And in some cases they asked for addresses if we have relatives there,” Mr Al Hariri said.

“But anyhow, I am happy that next time we don’t have to do all that.”

According to the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi, about 50,000 people, including Emiratis and expatriates, travel to India from the UAE each year.

Gonzalo Surroca, a Spanish resident in Abu Dhabi, who visited India last year, said: “It’s good news. For me it took about 10 days to get the visa from the Indian authorities in the Emirates,” he said.

Under the proposals, tourists will be allowed to apply online and receive the green light within five days, before picking up their visa at the airport on arrival in India.

“I welcome this move and it’s going to further facilitate the UAE community,” said Sarah Khamees, an Emirati who frequently travels to India.

“Sometimes we are busy and can’t go to apply there, so it’s a good decision,” she said.

The Indian ambassador to the UAE, T P Seetharam, said on Sunday that it was a good move and would boost trade and tourism.

“In 2013, Indian missions in the UAE issued nearly 50,000 tourists visas. This new facility is expected to significantly boost the tourism sector of India and would invite more tourists from the UAE to India,” Mr Seetharam said.

The ambassador said it usually takes about three to four working days to obtain a tourist or business visa for India.

The move was announced by the planning minister in India last week, and Mr Seetharam said the Ministry of Home Affairs must also sign off on it.

“Let’s wait for the formal notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs,” he said.

Mahir Al Rafaee, an Egyptian resident in Abu Dhabi, also welcomed the news.

“I was concerned about Indian visa issues as I wanted my two children to study in India. I wondered about the visa issues but this news is a good respite for me.”

Under the current procedures, all Indian visa applications are to be submitted online.

Then a signed printed copy of the online visa application must be given to an embassy-authorised firm, which processes the visa.

India currently offers visa on arrival to tourists from 11 countries such as Finland, the Philippines, Singapore and Japan.

Citizens from eight countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq have not been included in the fresh changes for security reasons.

The visa extension to citizens of 180 countries will be implemented initially at nine airports, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Goa and Trivandrum.

Visitors from countries that account for the bulk of India’s tourists, such as the US, UK, China and France, who have had to go through the time-consuming process of applying in person, will be among those to benefit from the changes to the regulations.

The Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi last week alerted residents to fake Indian visa services offered online. It urged people to apply only through the official website: www.indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/

anwar@thenational.ae