India opens up to globetrotters: Govt restores all existing visas, barring tourist and medical categories

New Delhi: India is opening up to international traveller, even though there is no let-up in corona infections elsewhere in the world.

The government on Thursday decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic, tourist and medical categories, almost eight months after their suspension.

This will enable foreign nationals to visit India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies and research. They can come by air or sea route; however, there is no word on entering India by land route.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has also given permission to all Overseas Citizen of India and Person of Indian Origin card holders and all other foreign nationals to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa.

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, the air-bubble agreements, and private charters. Ships will also be permitted. All travellers must "strictly adhere" to the guidelines on quarantine and other rules.

Under the repatriation program, India allows private carriers, including IndiGo and SpiceJet, to operate such flights with special permission. The nation has also struck air-bubble agreements with 18 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Germany, Afghanistan and Canada.

The surprise decision comes after the number of daily infections in India dropped to around 55,000, as against almost 100,000 last month. India may not be alone in welcoming foreigners amid a worsening outbreak. Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy and the nation with region's worst outbreak, is also considering reopening borders, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a Thursday briefing.

The BJP described the relaxations as a Home Ministry's birthday gift to Home Minister Amit Shah who was flooded with greetings from across the country on turning 56 on Thursday.

Those arriving from abroad to take connecting domestic flights would be exempted from institutional quarantine on landing in India, if they carry the report of negative RT-PCR test conducted within 96 hour prior to undertaking the journey.

India has also been allowing local airlines to fly a limited schedule since May. But most carriers failed to fill even 70% of their seats last month as passengers remained wary about catching the deadly virus.

WHO ALL CAN VISIT

  • All existing visas -- except electronic, tourist and medical ones -- will be restored immediately.

  • Foreigners wishing to visit for business, conferences, work, study, research or medical reasons will be allowed to apply.

  • Overseas Citizen of India and PIO card holders and all other foreign nationals can visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa. They can come by air or sea route; however, there is no word on entering India by land route.

  • Can avail of flights under government repatriation program, the air-bubble agreements, and private charters. Ships will also be permitted.

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