The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Aviation have relaxed visa norms for travel to and from India, taking a step further towards regular international flight operations.
“Restrictions on the entry into India of OCI cardholders from countries with which MoCA has ‘air bubble’ arrangements have been removed. They are welcome to enter India,” the ministry of civil aviation said.
In addition, foreign nationals belonging to countries with which India has ‘air bubble’ arrangements can now avail Indian visa facility for business, medical and employment purposes in the country.
So far, only limited categories of people who had resident permits were allowed to travel on international flights.
Simultaneously, all those Indian nationals, who want to travel to the countries with which India has established air bubbles, can do so on any visa.
“In another huge step for Indian nationals wishing to travel abroad, they may travel to countries with which ‘air bubble’ arrangements have been finalised by MoCA on any type of visa,” the ministry said.
At present, India has air bubble arrangements with the US, the UK, France, Germany, Kuwait and the UAE. India is also in talks to activate an air bubble arrangement with Canada, among other countries.
An air bubble arrangement is a bilateral agreement between two countries which allows a limited number of flights for categories of passengers allowed as per norms of both parties. An air bubble is seen as the first step towards the resumption of regular commercial scheduled international passenger flights.
As per the current norms, passengers also need to adhere to the eligibility criteria of the destination country and comply with all norms before taking an international flight in an air bubble. For example, several countries like France have mandated a compulsory negative RT-PCR test report on arrival.
In addition, passengers also need to comply with the quarantine norms of the destination countries.
India has recently relaxed its quarantine norms and has allowed arriving international passengers an option to seek online exemption from compulsory 7-day institutional quarantine in case of certain circumstances.
In order to ensure a better experience of arriving passengers, the government has mandated that all travelers should submit a self-declaration form on the online portal at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel.
While passengers are mandated to undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days i.e. 7 days paid institutional quarantine at their own cost, followed by 7 days isolation at home, passengers have been allowed to seek exemption from institutional quarantine under some specific circumstances.
“Only for compelling reasons/ cases of human distress such as pregnancy, death in the family, serious illness and parent(s) with children of the age of 10 years or below, home quarantine may be permitted for 14 days. If they wish to seek such exemption, they shall apply to the online portal at least 72 hours before boarding. The decision taken by the government as communicated on the online portal will be final,” the government said in a recent advisory.
“Travelers may also seek exemption from institutional quarantine by submitting a negative RT- PCR test report on arrival. This test should have been conducted within 96 hrs prior to undertaking the journey. The test report should be uploaded on the portal for consideration.
Each passenger shall also submit a declaration with respect to the authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution if found otherwise. The test report could also be produced upon arrival at the point of entry airport in India,” as per the latest advisory for international passengers arriving in India.
The relaxations in visa norms and quarantine regulations are positive signs for the aviation sector as airlines hope to resume flights and some are eager to commence operations to new international destinations hoping for steady traffic amid these trying times.