What is the change? China has been added to the growing list of countries eligible for India’s e-Tourist Visa program. Residents of Hong Kong and Macau are also now eligible for the visas.

What does the change mean? While the expansion of the program eases travel for tourists, the visas are not recommended for business travelers except for urgent and narrowly-tailored visits.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: E-Tourist visas.
  • Who is affected: Nationals of China, Hong Kong and Macau traveling to India for tourism.
  • Impact on processing times: Eligible travelers apply for an electronic visa before travel. Only two e-Tourist visas may be issued per year.
  • Business impact: The business impact is minimal. While India technically permits “casual business” visits on e-Tourist visas, BAL does not recommend conducting business on the visas except in extremely limited circumstances.

Background: India dramatically expanded its Tourist Visa on Arrival-Electronic Travel Authorization program, as it was previously known, in November 2014, and again in April 2015. The addition of China to the program has been anticipated for months, despite reports of security concerns by some in the Indian government. Over 70 countries are on the list of eligible travelers. Bolivia and the Seychelles were previously included on India’s official website listing of participating countries, but have since been removed.

The e-Tourist visa requires travelers to apply online for an electronic travel authorization prior to travel. Those who arrive in India without electronic travel authorization risk being turned away. The program is available at nine Indian airports: Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Trivandrum.

BAL Analysis: While the addition of China, Hong Kong and Macau to India’s e-Tourist Visa program could significantly increase the number of tourists traveling to India, it must be noted that only “casual business” visits are allowed no matter what the traveler’s nationality. The definition of “casual business” may vary depending on individual immigration officers. Because of the discretion officers wield, and the fact that eligible foreign nationals may be issued only two e-Tourist visas per year, BAL does not recommend e-Tourist visas for business travelers unless they do not have time to obtain a traditional business visa and are traveling for a one-shot meeting or “look-see” visit.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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