Starting in November, foreign nationals that travel to India on cruise ships will be able to apply for electronic visas to enter the country. The move comes along with a number of other governmental measures to improve the experience of passengers and to boost cruise tourism to the region.
Presently, there are only a handful of countries that are eligible to apply for e-visas whose citizens are travelling to India for business, leisure, or medical reasons. Starting in November, this eligibility to apply for an electronic visa will be extended to those aboard cruise ships as well.
According to official government statistics, 158 cruise ships arrived in Indian ports in 2016-2017, Authorities estimate that a total of 191,000 passengers came ashore during this period of time.
The Indian government put together a task force to study the efficacy of Indian ports alongside shipping and tourism ministries and to work on an action plan. Authorities have estimated that Indian ports will be able to attract nearly 4.5 million cruise ship passengers by 2042.
The e-visa process
Plans are already underway to organize the standard operating procedure that will govern the e-visa process. One of these committees is headed by Mr. Sanjay Bhatia, who commented on its gradual rollout.
“The E-visa is available in only in a few countries at present,” Bhatia said, “and we are starting it here for cruise passengers.”
Bhatia also mentioned that cruise ship passengers will be able to apply for an e-visa up to 3 days before they arrive.
“Once the vessel docks at the port, all that a passenger would be required to do is record biometrics with the Bureau of Immigration,” Bhatia said.
New cruise terminals will be built at Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai ports.
Moreover, passenger verification will be done digitally in collaboration with the department of immigration, more signs that India is seeking to update its immigration installations.