Do you want to come to India on a tourist visa and participate in an international conference during your stay here? Or visit India for medical tourism without having to apply for medical and medical attendant visas, separately? It is possible now as the Home Ministry of India has relaxed certain e-tourist and tourist visa rules so as to simply the entry of foreign nationals. These changes will give international visitors more flexibility in terms of the activities permitted under the visa type, reports say.

The government has clubbed some of the major visa categories into common groups, thereby reducing the number of main categories from 26 to 21. The visa categories combined include employment and project visas, medical and medical attendant visas, sports along with business visas, and research and internship with student visas. However, no changes have been made to the visas issued to long-term visitors, citizens of SAARC countries, and Indian nationals living abroad. By merging certain segments, the number of visa sub-categories has also been sized down to 65 from 104.  

As per the new provisions in the visa manual, an overseas visitor coming to India on a tourist visa is now permitted to attend an international conference without having to apply for a separate visa. The activities permitted under tourist and e-tourist visas are also expanded. Likewise, a person of Indian origin or the spouse or children of an Indian citizen will be permitted to take up jobs, pursue studies or research or undertake business without having to convert their visa to the appropriate category. Latest reports also say that from now on, the requirements for a film visa will be brought at par with those of the business visa.

According to the letter issued by the Ministry of Tourism to travel associates, these latest amendments in the visa manual will facilitate simplified and hassle-free entry and stay of legitimate foreign nationals. Earlier, medical visa entry did not allow you to be the by-stander of a patient; a separate medical attendant visa was required for that. Now, with the introduction of a single medical visa, there is no need for a separate attendant visa anymore. Following the signing of a visa agreement between India and the Maldives, certain provisions have been added for citizens of the Maldives as well.

Experts are of the opinion that these amendments will boost Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) while promoting medical tourism. As shown in the Tourism Ministry data, the number of tourists coming to India has increased by 1.9% and the country saw 3.9 million visitors in the first four months of 2019. It is expected that these visa manual changes will further boost the numbers as they simplify the process.