At Thiruvananthapuram airport for citizens of 11 countries

God’s Own Country will soon become the fifth gateway to India for holidaymakers from 11 countries who can get tourist visa on arrival (T-VoA) as the international airport here will join the airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata in issuing this passport to a dream vacation.

Citizens of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia can get T-VoA. The Union Ministry of External Affairs has approved it for the citizens of France, Germany and Russia, and nod from the Bureau of Immigration (BOI), which functions under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, is awaited.

Being introduced as part of a plan of the Union Ministry of Tourism to double the number of foreign tourists visiting the country in three or four years, T-VoA is expected to give a fillip to the burgeoning tourism sector of Kerala. The State registered 7,32,985 foreign tourist arrivals in 2011, earning Rs. 4,221.99 crore in foreign exchange. The recently unveiled tourism policy of the State targets 30 lakh foreign tourist arrivals by 2021.

The Airports Authority of India has informed the State government about the move to introduce the visa. The authority, which manages the airport, has informed the BOI that it is ready to allocate a facilitation centre, an exclusive visa desk, facilities for taking photographs of the visiting foreign nationals, a foreign exchange counter, a holding area, signboards and other infrastructure at the international terminal, official sources told The Hindu.

Thiruvananthapuram figures along with Goa and Bangalore on the shortlist of the BOI for granting T-VoA. Since the AAI has informed the bureau that the facilities sought are in place, T-VoA is expected to be introduced soon, sources said.

The bureau has approached the State police to get officials of the rank of sub-inspector deputed to the visa desk.

A tourist can get a visa on arrival with a maximum validity of 30 days. BOI norms say the objectives of the visit should only be recreation, sightseeing and meeting friends or relatives and no other purpose or activity. Those applying for the visa should not have a residence or occupation in India and should hold a passport with minimum six-month validity.