Even as India continues to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic, the country, on Thursday, decided to reopen its borders to international visitors in a big move to revive economic growth.
As the country eased visa and travel restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, the Union Home Ministry said that Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders and foreign nationals can visit India for any purpose, except on tourist and electronic visas.
The Home Ministry said: “The government has decided to make a graded relaxation in visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals and Indian nationals who wish to enter or leave India.”
Having said that, here are 10 points that will help you understand the new visa norms better:
1) “In view of the situation arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, the Government of India had taken a series of steps to curtail the inward and outward movement of international passengers since February, 2020,” the government order said.
2) Indians, as well as those who hold OCI cards as well as People of Indian Origin (PIO) card holders will be able to enter the nation through authorised airports and seaport immigration check posts.
3) All existing visas, barring electronic, tourist and medical ones, will be restored with immediate effect, the government said.
4) The categories of visas using which people can now enter India include business, conferences, employment, studies, research, and medical purposes, the Modi government said.
5) Anyone who is holding expired visas can apply again and foreigners wishing to visit for business, conferences, work, study, research or medical reasons will be allowed to apply, the government order said.
6) Today’s decision is seen as part of a series of measures aimed at supporting others already taken to get air travel back on track to spur economic growth after a stringent lockdown earlier in March that brought economic activity to a standstill.
7) In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “While regular scheduled commercial flights remain off limits for the time being, overseas travellers can use other options, including flights under a government repatriation program, so-called air-bubble agreements, and private charters.”
8) In addition to India’s air-bubble scheme, ships will also be allowed. However, all travellers will have to “strictly adhere” to the guidelines on quarantine and other coronavirus protocols.
9) “All such travelers will, however have to strictly adhere to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare regarding quarantine and other health/covid-19 matters,” the order said.
10) Meanwhile, India also has extended a government repatriation programme to allow private carriers, including InterGlobe Aviation’s IndiGo and SpiceJet to operate such planes with special permission. The nation has also struck air-bubble agreements with 18 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Bangladesh, Germany, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Canada, and others.
The Centre had restricted air travel, both inward and outward, since February, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since 23 March.
After almost two months of suspension to combat the deadly virus outbreak, the Centre resumed scheduled domestic passenger flights on 25 May.