825,000 medical visas to India were issued to foreigners, mostly in African nations, between 2019 and 2021, according to a Home Ministry report to Parliament in February 2022. The figure however includes both the patient and their medical travel companions.
Before 2019 many patients travelled to India for medical treatment without having a medical visa. The rules have since changed and the visa data is now a good guide to numbers.
“A total of 410,677, 142,928 and 272,190 foreigners arrived on medical visas in 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively,” said Nityanand Rai, Minister of State for Home. The numbers are significant, despite international travel restrictions because of the coronavirus.
However, medical visa numbers include those with medical visas and those with medical attendant visas. A medical visa is issued to the person seeking treatment. A medical attendant visa is issued to the carer or relative of the patient travelling to India.
The majority of patients travelling to India, will visit with between one to four other people, although some have nobody. Unfortunately, there are no number splits for the two visas, but the real numbers could be 200,000 in 2019 (which ties in with other estimates), 75,000 in 2020 and 150,000 in 2021.
Foreign visitors seek treatment in medical centres such as Delhi and Mumbai, as well as smaller cities where costs are lower.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Oman and West Africa are among places from which people journey for treatment ranging from dental care to critical surgery including tumour removal, heart surgery and organ transplants.
With travel rules vanishing, India is expecting better numbers this year. Medicover Hospitals in Hyderabad for example has reported a 30% rise in patient throughput since the start of 2022. It gets 500 patients from Yemen and Africa every year.