PETALING JAYA: Travel to the United States and India is going to be less tedious - in terms of applying for visas.
With both countries being among the top destinations for Malaysians, travel industry officials, visa agents and frequent visitors welcomed the move to make application procedures hassle-free.
The US Administration has announced a new visa pilot programme to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some “very low-risk applicants” seeking to renew a visa.
A posting in the US Embassy website stated that President Barack Obama had ordered the departments of State and Homeland Security to expand their Visa Waiver Programme, which allowed tourists and businessmen to stay 90 days or less without needing a visa.
India, meanwhile, is expanding its visa-on-arrival (VoA) facility to include Malaysia.
India's VoA is currently offered to 11 countries.
Both the United States and India accounted for over 200,000 visa applications from Malaysians last year with the US Embassy issuing 44,000 visas, the second highest in the region.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun gave the thumbs-up to the move to ease visa procedures, saying it would give locals more impetus to visit the two countries.
“It is significant as travellers have to put up with other considerations such as aviation tax, airfare and currency strength,” he said.
Datuk Robert Teo, a member of three international bilateral chambers of commerce and industry, said the US government's fresh visa initiatives would also boost trade and tourism for them.
“It makes things much easier when you help to facilitate travel. Simplifying procedures makes a lot of sense,” said Teo, who is a frequent visitor to the United States.
Malaysian Indian Travel and Tour Association president K. Thangavelu, in welcoming the Indian government's move, said there are many Malaysians who want to visit India.
“I urge the Indian Government to also remove the two-month no-entry ruling imposed in 2009 under which visitors can only enter India twice within the 60-day visa period,” he added.
(The Indian government imposed the 60-day rule as a security measure after terrorists killed over 100 people in coordinated attacks in Mumbai on Nov 26, 2008).
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