In March 2020, as CoVid-19 was declared a pandemic, India, just like many countries, closed its borders. One of the decisions taken at the time was to stop the issuance of new Tourist Visas, and it made sense because if no flights were permitted to fly into India, why would anyone need a visa in the first place?
Since then, the embargo on Tourist Visas has been in place, much to the chagrin of the Travel and Hospitality industry, while the rest of the world opens up. India had, back in 2020 itself, re-opened access to India for businesspersons, healthcare professionals, technical specialists and Overseas Citizens of India. However, tourist visas were not being issued.
India currently has commercial flights into India closed till October 31, 2021, and this embargo is usually extended one month at a time. So, India has stitched up “air bubbles” with various countries, about 30 at last count, and only Indian carriers and the carriers of these countries can operate flights to India.
India to start issuing Tourist Visas from October 15, 2021
In an announcement made by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, today, they have noted that:
- Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to begin granting fresh Tourist Visas to foreigners coming to India through chartered flights from October 15 (2021).
- Foreign tourists travelling to India by flights other than chartered aircraft would be able to do so with effect from November 15 (2021)
- All COVID-19 protocols and norms notified by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to be adhered to by foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India and other stakeholders at landing stations
You can read the full press release issued at the link above. I can understand the government’s stance to open this visa type only to Chartered Aircraft coming in for a month since these will be few and far between. And perhaps, as the Government of India concludes the sale of Air India in October 2021, they might open up international commercial aviation at the end of this month as well.
As per an office memorandum circulated by the Ministry of Home Affairs, e-visas will also make a return. New tourist visas will need to be obtained, as existing ones which were suspended won’t be renewed.
However, this announcement leads to far more questions than answers regarding who will be permitted into India. For instance, the stance of the Government of India on only allowing vaccinated tourists or anyone can come in? Or, for that matter, which vaccines will be acceptable for entry in India? How many days after vaccination does India consider someone fully vaccinated, and so on. [Update: India’s entry policy is changing with effect from October 25, 2021, and there is a lot of leeway to travel to India. Read this post]
I’d expect more information in the coming days. Till then, remember, India is giving out 500K tourist visas free of cost.
India is planning to re-open its borders to International Tourists in the coming days, and tourist visas issuance will start from October 15, 2021. However, the various questions around international travel into India remain unanswered for now.
What do you make of this announcement to resume Tourist Visa issuance for India?
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