In July 2022 Indian nationals could travel to as many countries without a visa as they did before the coronavirus hit India. The number of visa applications lodged by Indian residents and the expectations for the Indian economy as well as for the international tourism sector are also on the rise. However, cautious optimism and a healthy dose of patience are indispensable for those who cannot apply for an e-visa or get an appointment for a physical visa application.
Tentative recovery of freedom of travel for Indian visa applicants
The number of countries that Indian nationals can visit visa-free is back to pre-pandemic levels. They do not need a visa to travel to about 60 other countries, which is more than double the situation in 2020. In addition, some 700,000 visa applicants from India at that are currently still awaiting their Canadian visa appointments. As a result, Indian immigration authorities have excluded travelers from some Western countries (e.g. Canada) from applying for the India e-visa. India’s tourism sector has also recently benefited from global easing of coronavirus related travel restrictions. Simultaneously, however, India’s Ministry of External Affairs have been complaining with the European Schengen countries. The occasionally extremely long waiting times and stringent COVID measures of some other western countries already led to exclusion from the Indian e-visa system.
Despite hopeful reports from India, Indian applicants need to go about their applications with due caution. For example, until mid-September, it will remain virtually impossible to schedule an appointment to lodge any of the European countries´ visa applications in India. Indian travel agencies in response therefore recommend Indian travellers headed to Europe to keep a buffer of several weeks in addition to the estimated processing time. Tourist travellers mainly opt for an alternative destination in South-East Asia.
Nerve-racking applications reaching US and British sporting worlds
Even (professional) athletes are still not fully out of harm’s way when it comes to visa restrictions. Cricket players of the India and West Indies teams still did not know whether they would be allowed to enter the United States, just days in advance of their T20 ("Twenty20") series games there. This was probably due to an above-average processing time of visa applications. The only way for these players to maybe get their visas in time was to resort to a far-off destination in the wider region. Anything but ideal conditions for sporting achievements of international stature.
Another leading sporting event that suffers from visa delays is the quadrennial London Edinburgh London (LEL) cycling event. One in three Indian participants experienced long visa processing delays. Long-distance cycling is becoming increasingly popular in India, whereas the LEL has been described as one of the toughest cycling events in the UK. Straight after the British, participants from India therefore constitute the largest group. Some participants could no longer cope with the uncertainty and pre-emptively cancelled their hotel and flight reservations. Others may not have received their visas in time. In 2021, moreover, the event was postponed to the 2022 edition due to corona.
An expedited visa application finished within 5 days is available only to Indians who leave shortly after making their travel plans. A three to six weeks wait is no exception, however, with currently an average processing time of seven weeks.
E-visas for travellers headed to India
Although travellers from India have to wait a long time for their visas to other countries, India by now have their own e-visa available to nationals of a total of 180 countries. The e-visa India is valid for 30 days and is meant to make it as easy as possible for tourists and business travellers alike to apply for a visa. A great contrast indeed as compared to the waiting times Indians are currently experiencing as to the visas from Western countries. Applicants for the e-visa India do not require an embassy appointment or a long wait to find out whether their visa applications are successful. You can apply online now for that long cherished tour of the Golden Triangle, or to enjoy the affordable comfort of India’s modernising cities on your business trip.