Visa on Arrival = NOT Visa on Arrival

It is an Electronic Travel Authorization Program


One of the biggest hassles about visiting India has been going to the Indian consulate for a visa. It is the hassle of the lines, the phones not being answered, the confusion of changing rules etc. The MEA of India (Ministry of External Affairs) tried outsourcing to professional firms and that has been a disaster with misplaced passports, confusions and more frustrations. All one has to do is go to the online forums and see the angst of the Indian Diaspora and others trying to visit India.

When Narinder Modi became the Prime Minister the diaspora became very excited because they believed that here is a leader who really understands the diaspora and cares for them. At every Pravasi Bharti Diwas, PM Modi has always been the most popular leader, sometimes to the chagrin of the hosts. His visits to the US and Australia post his becoming PM have had the diaspora treat him like a Rock Star. He made some serious announcements for the diaspora i.e. merging the OCI and PIO card which make total sense. He also announced a visa on arrival for over 50 countries (the new budget expands it to over 150 countries).

However it is not really a Visa on Arrival. The procedure requires you to apply online (minimum 4 days before travel), pay the fees online, have a return ticket and then wait for the electronic travel authorization (ETA). You will need the ETA in hand for the immigration officer in India to stamp a visa on your passport. There have been instances where people have boarded planes thinking that there is visa on arrival and they can just show up at the airport in India. These folks if they are somehow allowed by the airlines to get onboard have been turned back as they did not have the ETA.

Make no mistake that this is a big improvement over what existed with the earlier visa program and the MEA needs to be commended for it. However they need to announce that this is not a visa on arrival or a visa waiver program it is actually an electronic travel authorization program. The term “Visa on Arrival” makes people think that you can just show up at the visiting country and you will be stamped for a visa. This will avoid aggravation for them and the diaspora.

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