Saturday, January 08, 2011

Hey, India! Simplify Your Visa Rules!

India is a great place to visit but the tourist visa procedure is unnecessarily complicated. Sri Lanka will give you a visa on arrival but India will not. India asks you to fill out this ridiculously long form in which, among other things it asks you to list an Indian friend or relative that you are supposed to know. Come on! Where would I get one? Am I supposed to make an Indian friend before I go there? I was lucky I was working in the Gulf and I was able to secure a name of an Indian coworker. How about other people who are no exposed to an Indian community in their area?

Also, I was applying for the Indian visa in Manila and guess what? They had a three tier visa pricing list- one was for Filipinos- the price was the lowest. The second one was for everyone else- slightly higher and the highest was for Americans. Isn’t that just dandy! Well, sure America is the richest country in the world. An American teacher will have to pay more for the visa than the Sultan of Brunei, because an American is richer by default.

And when you get out of the airport in Mumbai, there are also so little shopping! No place to buy a book even. And the stalls selling juices and food are staffed by non English speaking staff. Nothing wrong with that as it is their country but you did announce in tourist commercials that “India speaks my language”. Hmm! What’s up?

Anyway, if you want tourist revenue, just make it simple to get the visa at least for the citizens of high income countries. If you still insist on a pre-obtained visa, you can have an online thing kind of like in Australia. Just a very small form to fill out where you put in your passport number and, if you still want money for visas, well, have the person fill in a credit card form and bingo! It is done! And watch millions more coming. Because the way it is now, the gratuitous bureaucratic obstacles is just letting those millions of tourist dollars go elsewhere.

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