In a big relief to Indians living abroad, all OCI (Overseas Citizens of India) and PIO ( Persons of Indian Origin) card-holders and other foreign nationals who want to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa, have been permitted to enter the country. A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) statement said on Thursday that anyone who wishes to visit India by air or water routes through authorised airports and seaport immigration check posts will be allowed do so, except for tourist visas. The latest decision will enable foreign nationals to come to India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies, research, medical purposes etc.
"In view of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of India had taken a series of steps to curtail the inward and outward movement of international passengers since February, 2020," an MHA statement said, adding that it has decided to make a graded relaxation in visa and travel restrictions.
Under this relaxation, the government will restore all existing visas (except electronic visa, tourist visa and medical visa) with immediate effect. Foreign nationals who want to visit India for medical treatment can also apply for a medical visa, including for medical attendants, the home ministry statement added.
People coming in via various travel arrangements will be allowed travel to the country but they'll have to follow all MHA guidelines. "This includes flights operated under Vande Bharat Mission, Air Transport Bubble arrangements or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. 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 government statement said.
The Centre said if validity of such visas has expired, fresh visas of appropriate categories can be obtained from Indian mission or posts concerned.
Notably, the ban on international flights to or from India had been extended till October 30 earlier. However, the international scheduled flights on selected routes were being allowed.
The government had suspended scheduled international and domestic flights in India since March 23. After two months of long hiatus, domestic flights resumed operations on May 25 but international flights have continued to remain suspended. However, air passengers can still travel abroad or can come to India via air bubble arrangement.