New Delhi: More than 2 lakh foreigners, including 1,678 Pakistanis and 296 Americans, availed healthcare facilities in India in 2016, signalling the country's growing reputation as a popular medical destination.
According to home ministry statistics, as many as 2,01,099 medical visas were issued to citizens of 54 countries across the globe in 2016.
India had liberalised its visa policy in 2014.
A survey conducted by a business chamber stated that the primary reason for making India a key destination for medical value travel was the treatment from accredited facilities at par with developed countries at a much lower cost.
Medical tourism in India is estimated at $3 billion and projected to grow to $7-8 billion by 2020, the survey said.
The highest number of medical visas in 2016 were issued to Bangladeshi nationals (99,799 citizens), followed by Afghanistan (33,955 citizens), Iraq (13,465), Oman (12,227), Uzbekistan (4,420), Nigeria (4,359) among others, according to Home Ministry statistics.
Altogether 1,678 Pakistanis, 296 citizens from the United States, 370 from the United Kingdom, 96 from Russia and 75 from Australia were also issued medical visas.
A home ministry official told PTI that many of these medical visas were issued under the E-visa category where a visitor can get the travel document online prior to the arrival in India.
Tourist visa on arrival (TVoA), enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), popularly known as e-tourist visa scheme, was launched on November 27, 2014.
Under the e-tourist visa scheme, an applicant receives an email authorising him or her to travel to India after it is approved and he or she can travel with a print-out of this authorisation.
On arrival, the visitor has to present the authorisation to the immigration authorities who would then stamp the entry into the country.
Currently citizens of more than 160 countries enjoy the e-visa facilities to visit India.
Foreign patients travelling to India to seek medical treatment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 stands at 1,71,021, 2,36,898, and 1,84,298 respectively.
In 2015, around 1.90 lakh foreigners availed the medical facilities in India.