It will now be compulsory to provide negative RT-PCR report to enter India

India has been making consistent updates to their procedures to process arrivals into India, to try and make sure that they block the transmission of the CoVid-19 virus into India. India has significantly upped its guard after the discovery of the new virus mutation in the UK, and there has been a new set of processes implemented to ensure the strain is contained. For instance, Maharashtra decided to put people in institutional quarantine when arriving from Europe and Middle-East.

a person wearing a face mask holding a test tube

Anyhow, India has now notified a new set of requirements for international arrivals into India, which will be put in force on February 22, 2021, 2359 Hours IST. The new requirements are a very long document, so I have summarised the key details:

  • Here on, all travels will need to fill up a self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha portal ( along with a negative RT-PCR CoVid-19 report, where the test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to departure. Earlier, this system was optional if anyone wanted to skip the quarantine. However, now it is compulsory for everyone who wants to arrive in India.
  • Arrival in India without negative report shall be allowed only for those travelling to India in the family’s exigency of death. However, even these passengers will need to apply for exemption on the same Air Suvidha portal. On arrival in India, they will be tested at the arrival airport and allowed to exit the airport or catch a connecting flight.
  • For all international travellers coming/transiting through flights originating from the United Kingdom, Europe and the Middle East, will additionally need to provide their travel history for 14 days before boarding the flight back to India on the Air Suvidha portal.  This means anyone flying in from/via Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, London Heathrow, Frankfurt, etc., will have to submit additional information.
    • All the travellers arriving from/transiting through flights originating in the United Kingdom, Europe or the Middle East shall be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory RT-PCR tests on arrival at the Indian airports concerned (port of entry). The entry made in the SDF regarding telephone number and address would be reconfirmed. Apart from those arriving from the UK, Brazil and South Africa, everyone can leave after giving their samples on arrival.
    • Those who arrive from the UK, Brazil and South Africa will be allowed to catch their connecting flight after their RT-PCR reports are negative, which could take between 6-8 hours. Those who will exit the airport, they can give their samples and leave. In both cases, a home quarantine of 7 days is applicable.

Here are the detailed guidelines. There is also a big flow chart if you’d like to refer to it. Feel free to zoom in.

a diagram of a flowchart

The only thing I find a bit out of place here is the travel in case of emergency. If you anyways can’t travel at least three days out, the government should insist on a CoVid-19 negative report to be filed pre-departure in these cases as well.


Suppose you are planning to arrive in India after February 22, 2021. In that case, you will have to get an RT-PCR test done before departure compulsorily, and in many cases, a second test is to be done on arrival as well. The new guidelines are applicable for all nationalities, including Indians. There are particular guidelines for short visits less than 14 days, but all sorts of arrival testing are still applicable to them. Meanwhile, international air travel is still barred apart from Vande Bharat flights and air bubble flights till February 28.

What do you make of the new testing requirements for Indian arrivals?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Ajay, thanks for summarizing! I read and re-read the government document several times and think I’ve got it down. I’m flying to India next week and tried to ‘get ahead’ by filling the Self-Declaration form now, but I can’t without submitting a PCR results- looks like no one can submit the form early.
    Any idea what the turnaround/ cost of RT-PCR tests on arrival into MAA is or where I can find this out? I called Qatar Airways today and they seemed totally clueless about the new rules and directed me to their website (thanks, QR!).

  2. Ajay, is there any clarity with this policy that travellers will still need to apply for the exemption certificate since everyone will now be required to have a negative covid test before boarding? Or will the government do away with the quarantine exemption certificate? Thanks, Ben

    • @Ben, essentially, you need to go to the portal now, fill up the self-declaration form and upload your -ve report. So, everyone gets to go home on arrival apart from those arriving from specific places, who will need to be tested again to see if they are still -ve. Trust this helps.

  3. Ajay – this is very helpful. So now, if I understood this correctly, passengers originating in the Middle East, without any travel to UK, Brazil and South Africa will not be subject to the mandatory quaratine?

    • @Neil, that may or may not be the case. Eventually, states have been given the power to take their own measures. So Mumbai, for instance, could continue to insist on a quarantine on arrival. That is not clear at the moment.

      • @Ajay – Thanks. Yeah, I saw the footnote at the end of the release that says states could add measures as they see fit. I have a trip to Mumbai coming up from Dubai, and will have to wait for the state government’s decision before finalizing my dates

  4. Ajay — very very helpful. I’m contemplating a trip to the subcontinent in a few months after over a year! And I think the UA non-stops from the US East Coast are best, rather than SkyTeam with stops in Europe … or VS in LHR!

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