India Is Giving Out 500,000 Free Visitor eVisas To Stimulate Tourism Industry Through March 31, 2022
The Indian Government is currently (and apparently has been for quite some time) giving out 500,000 free eVisas to visitors in a campaign designed to revive the tourism industry in the country.
I learned about this just yesterday when a friend of mine asked me to help him organize one of his regular trips to India and I checked for current visa requirements.
A few years ago India has introduced the electronic visa option that offers visitors (Tourism & Business) to apply for their visa online rather than going through the long, complicated and costly process of dealing with a local embassy/consulate.
There are some practical differences between a physical visa label and the eVisa such as that you won’t be able to extend an eVisa in the country and it’s only valid for a maximum 30 days. It is however quite a bit cheaper too for the processing fee ($80 compared to 97 Euro at the Embassy in the case of Germany) and that is without the logistical costs of having to send it in or travel to the actual office location.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of “service” websites out there that offer to facilitate the Indian eVisa and it’s sometimes hard to actually identify the correct government site where you’re not being charged anything extra and you’ll in fact get your visa after payment provided there are no issues with your person or the provided documents.
You can access the authentic Indian Government website to apply for your eVisa here.
This is the registration page (step one):
I decided to try it and apply for one as well to get a reference for the process, maybe I end up visiting India this year…
After filling out the application that required a lot of details including past travel history and uploading a passport photo as well as a pdf version of my passport I came to the payment page.
When I clicked “Pay” it immediately generated a ZERO receipt and the application was submitted:
As per the website, as long as all documents are satisfactory the processing time takes around 72 hours to receive the eVisa.
However when I woke up this morning the visa was already in my email, meaning it took ~ 14 hours for it to be issued:
This ETA is now valid for four months during which I could enter India and remain for thirty days from the date of entry.
Some countries (such as Thailand and Indonesia) could probably learn from India’s initiative which was first announced in June of 2021 with a cap of 500,000 (5 lakh). While India is actively enticing tourists to visit and even foregoes the usually expensive visa fee, Thailand as well as Indonesia (among others) seem to enjoy a perverse pleasure from tightening the screws and making it even more expensive for visitors to return.
As The Hindustan Times wrote in November by that time only 15,000 visas have been issued. No doubt it’s become a bit more until now.
International travel to India is a bit slow to pick up with just a little over 15,000 free tourist visas being issued so far out of the five lakh visas that were provisioned by the centre.
In June 2021, the Ministry of Finance had announced a scheme to offer free tourist visas till March 31, 2022. The scheme was applicable for the first 5 lakh visas that will be issued. A foreign tourist stays in India for 21 days on an average while spending around $34 (₹2,400) per day. …
The scheme is scheduled to end on March 31, 2022 so you have two more weeks to get the application in even if it’s just tentatively. No flights or hotel bookings are required to get the ETA approved.
I was positively surprised about the efficiency of the visa portal and that there weren’t any technical issues along the way.
India has rolled out a scheme to issue up to 500,000 free electronic visas for tourism through their eVisa portal and since the approval process began in October not too many applicants have taken advantage of it. We’re now in the final few weeks until this option will run out and the cost will go back up to US$80 for a single entry visa.
It could be that the campaign will be extended considering the low demand but I wouldn’t count on it so if visiting India is on your schedule for the coming 4 months then it would probably make sense and apply for this free option to obtain the visa.