God’s Own Country will become the gateway to India for holidaymakers from 11 countries who can get tourist visa on arrival (T-VoA) as the international airports here and Kochi will join seven other airports from August 15 in issuing this passport to a dream vacation.

From Thursday, when the country celebrates 66th Independence Day, citizens of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, and Indonesia can get T-VoA on landing in Thiruvananthapuram and Cochin international airports.

Union Home Ministry has issued notification extending T-VoA to Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Hyderabad, and Bangalore airports in addition to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai airports, official sources told The Hindu.

Exclusive desks

Infrastructure facilities, as mandated by the Bureau of Immigration (BOI), functioning under the Ministry of Home, were created last year itself in Thiruvananthapuram and Cochin International airports and the State tourism and the airport authorities were eagerly awaiting the clearance.

Holding area had been created in the immigration area and exclusive visa desks, special enclosure for photographing foreign nationals, foreign exchange counter, signage and display, and telephone connections have been put in place by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Cochin International Airport Ltd. (CIAL) to kick off T-VoA.

As the Intelligence Bureau (IB) mans the immigration counters at the two airports, IB officials will also man the exclusive visa desks. Thiruvananthapuram International Airport Director V.N. Chandran and Cochin International Airport Director A.C.K. Nair said they were eagerly waiting for the day to commence T-VoA as it would result in more tourist arrivals.

The Union Ministry of External Affairs has already approved it for the citizens of France, Germany and Russia, and nod from the BOI and the final notification are 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 and help stake-holders get tourists round-the-year. The State registered 7.93 lakh foreign tourist arrivals in 2012, earning Rs.4,548 crore in foreign exchange. The recently unveiled tourism policy of the State targets 30-lakh foreign tourist arrivals by 2021.

Validity of 30 days

A tourist can get a T-VoA 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 will be allowed.’

Those applying for the visa should not have a residence or occupation in India and should hold a passport with minimum six-month validity.

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