Tourism Minister Renuka Chowdhury on Tuesday said the government was working on a project with Indian missions abroad to offer online visas, apart from other initiatives to ease visa procedures.
"We are working on a project which involves linking each visa application to the concerned person's credit card and thereby his/her bank. The project is still in its initial stages," the minister said.
The government is also working on the issue of visa-on-arrival regarding 16 countries, to be issued initially at the Delhi and Mumbai airports.
"We have applied for clearance from the home ministry on this matter and have already received an in-principle nod from the ministry of external affairs. To start with, we have introduced advance passenger information which makes immigration checks faster," she said.
The 16 countries proposed to be made part of this initiative are France, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Vietnam, Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Industry experts have time and again rubbished the security concerns cited by the home ministry, pointing out the cases of Sri Lanka and Philippines which have opened visa-on-arrival facility for tourists despite severe internal law and order problems. Philippines has extended its visa-on-arrival facility to around 65 countries.
Further, as outsourcing of visa procedures is also an important issue with the shortage of staff at Indian missions, the government is busy finalising the same, the minister said.
She said in some countries like France, Japan, Australia and Germany, the embassy staff were apparently found to be unable to cope with the tourist visa requirements. Also, in some places people found it difficult to go to their respective capitals for visas.
According to official estimates, the tourist inflow in 2004 was 3.37 million. The ministry feels it can easily cross 6 million if the visa-on-arrival facility is implemented.