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India set to ease visa restrictions - report

Asia

New Delhi - Tourists travelling to India from up to 180 countries will no longer have to queue up at their local consulates to obtain visas under reforms expected to be approved this week, local media reported.

Most foreigners currently have to wait several weeks before learning whether they will be allowed to enter the country after submitting their applications at visa processing centres, a major deterrent for potential visitors.

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**FILE** The Taj Mahal is seen in Agra, India in in this 1982. file photo. A state-run company pulled back massive cranes and earth filling equipment Sunday June 22, 2003, following federal government orders to stop building a tourist complex near the Taj Mahal, in violation of laws protecting the 17th century monument. Federal Tourism and Culture Minister Jagmohan, who visited the white-marble Taj Mahal on Sunday, said the new structure could divert the flow of the Jamuna River waters during monsoon rains, flooding a sprawling garden in the area and causing damage to the monument. (AP Photo/Jeff Robbins)

But India's intelligence agencies have now given their backing to proposals that would allow tourists to apply online and then wait only three days before receiving the green light, the Indian Express reported.

They would then be able to pick up their visas on arrival at any airport.

India currently issues visas on arrival to visitors from about a dozen foreign nations, including Japan and Indonesia.

But visitors from countries which account for the bulk of its tourists - such as the United States, Britain and France - have to go through the time-consuming process of applying in person.

The reforms were first mooted last October but only for around 40 countries.

The citizens of a handful of countries, including Pakistan, will not be included in the changes, the daily said.

Despite its cultural attractions, beaches and mountains, India attracts relatively few foreign holidaymakers - 6.58 million in 2012, which was about a quarter of Thailand or Malaysia.

A final decision on the visa reforms is likely to be taken on Wednesday at a meeting to be attended by the country's top intelligence officers.

No one from the interior ministry was immediately available for comment. - Sapa-AFP

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