New Visa Policy in India, to boost Medical Tourism

Yesterday the Union Ministry of India approved a new visa policy for a trip to India for foreigners. This new liberalized visa policy is aimed at attracting more medical tourism and to promote foreign trade. This new policy now includes long-term, multiple entry visas merged with tourist and business visa, along with medical and conference ones in a single comprehensive visa.

The Union Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has also decided to extend the facility of e-visa to 8 more countries; thereby, making the total number of countries that are allowed under this scheme to be 158.

medical-toursim-india-visa-policyThe Union Cabinet has given its nod for a new liberalized visa policy keeping in mind the need for simplification and rationalization of the existing visa policy scheme in the country with gradual changes as per the decisions by the Ministry of Home Affairs, with proper discussions on the same with the various stakeholders along with an official statement.

With this newly approved visa policy, foreigners for the purpose of tourism, business and medical purposes will be able to come to India with ease. Thus, stimulating economic growth, enhancing foreign earnings from services like export, promoting tourism and medical value travels and trips on account of other business ventures can take place better, which will help to turn the present treasure-trove of “Skill India” and “Digital India” with “Make in India” a reality as promised by the government.

The process of travel documents and other formalities which are often a painstaking affair for travellers coming to India for such legitimate reasons will find it much easier, which is the main aim of this policy change as stated in the press release by the Union Cabinet. Under this new policy tourists, business professionals and those coming for medical treatment or to attend a conference or even film shoots will be covered under the new visa category. The idea of this new visa category was first mooted by the Commerce Minister after receiving a suggestion about the same from the PMO to boost commercial relations with foreign countries.

The validity of a long-term, multiple entry visa will be for more than 10 years but under this category the visitor will not be allowed to permanently work or stay in the country, as was stated by a government official.

Excluding those covered under the 10 year trade and travel visa category, foreigners coming to India for travel and trade would be given a 5 year multiple entry visa. The proposal also states that if the tourist is granted with a long term, multiple entry non-working and non-permanent visa and their stay is restricted to 60 days only, then the government may waive off the fee for visa as well. But in order to be eligible the visitor must give biometric details along with fulfilling certain other security obligations as well. This plan is also a part of the Commerce Ministry’s initiative to promote India’s service trade.

As per reports India is expected to be losing out on a huge opportunity worth more USD 80 billion annually, in the sector of foreign tourist attraction and foreign exchange. Medical tourism alone in India is said to be more than USD 3 billion, and the projected growth curve shows possible increase up to USD 7 to 8 billion by the year 2020.

The numbers of foreign patients travelling to the country for treatment in India is estimated to be 1, 71,021, 2, 36,898, and 1, 84,298 for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. It is a shame that small countries like Thailand attract so many tourists from all over the world whereas the number of people travel to India is much low in comparison to that.

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