India – Covid-19 – Immigration update

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Update: July 21th, 2020

Latest visa advisory for foreign nationals in India

What is the change?

Foreign nationals who are in India with visas expiring after 30 June 2020 shall be deemed to be valid for another 30 days from the date of resumption of normal international flight operations on a “gratis” basis, without levy of the overstay penalty. Foreign nationals who are unable to leave India because of travel restrictions and need to renew their visas may submit an online application on the e-FRRO portal. To view the latest travel and visa updates, please refer to the link below.

Update: July 17th, 2020

International flight suspension, visa extension

What is the change?

India recently extended the suspension of international flights and some foreign national visas.

Key Points:

  • All scheduled international passenger flights remain suspended until July 31. There may be exceptions for some international scheduled flights on a case-by-case basis.
  • All Indian visa services remain suspended until further notice. There are exceptions for in-country registrations, other in-country services and visa extensions.
  • Foreign national visas expiring post 30 June 2020 shall deemed to be valid until 30 days from the date of resumption of normal international flight operations on `GRATIS’ basis without levy of overstay penalty.
  • Foreign nationals unable to leave India because of travel restrictions who have visas that are about to expire can apply online at the e-FRRO portal.
  • Foreign nationals with expired visas who have applied to leave the country will be granted an exit permit without having to pay an overstay penalty.

India first suspended international commercial flights in March. The international flight suspension extension is to prevent inbound travelers from entering India, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. The visa extension is good news for foreign nationals currently in India.

Update: July 8th, 2020

International flight services suspended until 31 July 2020

What is the change?

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has announced the suspension of all international flight services in India until 31 July 2020. The suspension does not include all-cargo services and flights specifically approved by the DGCA. Scheduled international flights may also be allowed for selected routes on a case-by-case basis.

Update: July 6th, 2020

Certain categories of foreign nationals permitted to enter India

What is the change?

According to an office memorandum issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) on 30 June 2020, the following categories of foreign nationals are now permitted to enter India:

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Cardholders

  1. Minor children who hold OCI cards and whose parents are Indian nationals.
  2. OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies, such as critical medical conditions or death of immediate family members.
  3. Married couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national.
  4. Students, who are OCI cardholders where at least either of their parents is an Indian citizen or an OCI cardholder.

Other foreign nationals

  1. Foreign businessmen coming to India on a Business visa (other than B-3 visa for sports) in non-scheduled commercial/chartered flights.
  2. Foreign health care professionals, health researchers, engineers and technicians for technical work at Indian health facilities, including laboratories and factories (subject to a letter of invitation from a recognised and registered healthcare facility, registered pharmaceutical company, or accredited university in India).
  3. Foreigners, who are engineering, managerial, design specialists or specialists of other fields travelling to India on behalf of foreign business entities located in India.
  4. Foreign technical specialists and engineers travelling for installation, repair and maintenance of foreign-origin machinery and equipment facilities in India, on the invitation of a registered Indian business entity.
  5. Foreign nationals who are minor children where at least either of their parents is an Indian citizen or an OCI cardholder.
  6. Foreign nationals married to Indian citizens.
  7. Foreign nationals who are single parents of minor children holding Indian passports or OCI cards.
  8. Students who are foreign nationals where at least one of their parents is an Indian citizen or an OCI cardholder.
  9. Dependent family members of foreign diplomats and official/service passport holding service staff accredited to foreign diplomatic Missions, consular offices, or accredited International Organisations in India.
  10. Foreign nationals who are persons of Indian origin, who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies, such as critical medical conditions or death of immediate family members (a person of Indian origin refers to someone who either: a) has held or has a parent that has held an Indian passport; or b) w hose parent is or has been a citizen of India).
  11. Foreign nationals who are stranded in close neighbouring countries and are seeking to exit to their destination country through India.
  12. Foreign nationals arriving on medical grounds for treatment in India (including one attendant, if so requested).

Foreign nationals arriving on any sub-categories of the Employment Visa, along with their dependents holding Dependent Visas.

Update: May 26th, 2020

Guidelines for international arrivals

What is the change?

According to the latest guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, all travellers to India must now give an undertaking before boarding that they would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days. This consists of seven days of paid institutional quarantine at their own cost, followed by seven days of isolation at home with self-monitoring of health.

In exceptional and compelling cases, such as cases of human distress, pregnancy, death in family, serious illness, and parent(s) accompanied by children below 10 years, home quarantine may be permitted for 14 days by the receiving states. Use of the Aarogya Setu application shall be mandatory in such cases.

To view the full set of guidelines, including in-flight precautionary measures and screening protocols, please refer to the link below.

Relaxation of travel restrictions for several categories of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders

What is the change?

The following categories of OCI cardholders who are stranded abroad are now permitted to travel to India:

  • Minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards.
  • OCI cardholders who wish to travel to India on account of family emergencies, such as a death in the family.
  • Couples consisting of one OCI cardholder spouse and one Indian national spouse, with permanent residence in India.
  • University students who are OCI cardholders (and not legally minors), but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.

Update: May 21th, 2020

Suspension of international flights, visa services extended

What is the change?

India has again extended the suspension of certain passenger aircraft from entering the country, as well as some visa services, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Key Points:

  • All domestic and international air travel of passengers will remain prohibited until May 31, with few exceptions.
  • All visas services also remain suspended until May 31, except for visa extensions, in-country registration, and other in-country services.
  • Additionally, Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders who are currently outside of India are not allowed to enter the country until May 31. The legal status of OCI cardholders in India remains valid.

In February, India canceled visas for all Chinese nationals and foreign nationals in mainland China. In March, all commercial international flights were suspended. Visas for most foreign nationals were suspended in the same month until April 15, with some exceptions. Afterwards, the flight suspension was extended until April and then extended again until May 17.

Employers should anticipate significant disruptions to employee mobility and all but essential business.

Update: May 12th, 2020

Government begins repatriation of Indian nationals

What is the change?

The government of India has begun repatriating Indian nationals in cooperation with foreign governments. The massive repatriation that begun on May 7 aims to help over 200,000 Indian nationals return to India in phases.

Country-specific information:

  • Australia: Indian nationals stranded in Australia with compelling reasons for repatriation are advised to reach out to the Indian embassy
  • Singapore: Indian nationals seeking repatriation are advised to register here.
  • United Arab Emirates: The government of India is working with the UAE government to repatriate Indian nationals. Indian nationals seeking repatriation are advised to register here.
  • United Kingdom: Indian nationals seeking repatriation are advised to check the Indian High Commission in London website for more information.
  • United States: Indian nationals seeking repatriation must fill out a form located here.

Requirements for repatriation to India include pre-departure screening (only asymptomatic individuals will be allowed to fly) and completion of an undertaking form. Following arrival in India, all repatriated individuals must download the Aarogya Setu app, undergo medical screening and 14-day supervised quarantine at their own cost. Repatriated Indian nationals are responsible for payment of all repatriation costs. The conditions for repatriation must be compelling (e.g., being laid off, medical emergencies, closure of educational institution where studying, short-term/non-permanent residency expiring).

Some flights have already begun, and more flights will be made available during the coming days and weeks as India and other governments implement the phases of the repatriation operation.

Update: May 5th, 2020

Extension of lockdown for a further period of two weeks with effect from 4 May 2020

What is the change?

The MHA has issued an order to extend the lockdown for a further period of two weeks with effect from 4 May 2020. The MHA also issued new guidelines to regulate different activities in this period, based on the risk profiling of the districts of the country into Red (hotspot), Green and Orange Zones. These guidelines have permitted considerable relaxations in the districts falling in the Green and Orange Zones.

However, a number of activities will remain prohibited throughout the country, irrespective of the Zone. These include travel by air, rail, metro, and inter-state movement by road; running of schools, colleges, and other educational and training/coaching institutions; hospitality services, including hotels and restaurants; places of large public gatherings, such as cinema halls, malls, gymnasiums, and sports complexes; social, political, cultural, and other kinds of gatherings; and religious places/places of worship. Movement of persons by air, rail, and road is only allowed for selected purposes, and for purposes as permitted by MHA.

To view the full set of new guidelines on the lockdown measures, please click here

Update: April 21st, 2020

COVID-19: Visa services suspension extended

What is the change?

India has extended the suspension of all visa services until May 3, 2020 except for in-country registration, visa extension and other in-country services.

Key Points:

  • All existing visas issued to nationals of any country except those issued to Diplomats, Official passport holders, those in UN / International organizations, those on Employment, Project visas and those who are operating aircrew of scheduled commercial airlines, and who had not yet entered India, are suspended until May 3.
  • OCI cardholders who are not in India are not allowed to enter the country until May 3, but overseas OCI cardholders who are in India have a valid status.
  • Visas of all foreign nationals already in India remain valid. They may contact the nearest FRRO/FRO through e-FRRO portal for extension/conversion etc. of their visa or grant of any consular service. Visa services granted on account of COVID-19 are GRATIS.

The government had implemented lock down and travel restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 previously and the same has been extended until May 3.

The visa services suspension extension will impact the movement of people into India. Employers should account for affected travelers and rearrange travel schedules accordingly.

Update: April 16th, 2020

International flight suspension extended again

What is the change?

India has again extended the suspension of international commercial flights, this time until May 3, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Key Points:

  • No incoming scheduled international commercial passenger flights are allowed to enter India until May 3, 2020. There are exceptions for flights with permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and for international cargo.
  • Foreign nationals who have been stranded in the country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions have been granted free consular services until April 30, 2020, by the Ministry for Home Affairs. Such individuals with regular visas, e-visas or stay permits that have expired or will expire during the period, February 2 to April 30, 2020, can have them extended until April 30 for free, after completing an online application.

International commercial flights were first suspended in March. This suspension was later extended until April 14. The whole country is on a lockdown, which has also been extended until May 3, 2020.

The latest international flight suspension extension will continue to impact the movement of people into and out of India. Employers should account for affected travelers and rearrange travel schedules accordingly.

Update: April 14th, 2020

Ban on international flights extended to 14 April

What is the change?

The Union MHA has granted consular services on gratis basis to foreign nationals presently residing in India due to travel restrictions in the context of COVID-19 outbreak until 30 April 2020. More information can be found here.

Regular visas, e-visas or stay stipulations, of foreign nationals who have been stranded in India as a result of travel restrictions imposed by the Indian authorities and whose visas have expired or would be expiring from 1 February midnight to 30 April 2020 midnight, will be extended until 30 April 2020 midnight on gratis basis after the foreigner makes an online application.

Update: March 27th, 2020

Ban on international flights extended to 14 April

What is the change?

International flights will remain banned till 14 April, the government announced amid a complete national lockdown to fight coronavirus. This represents an extension of a weeklong ban imposed last week. The ban will not apply to cargo flights or those specially permitted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

In addition, domestic flights have been banned till 31 March. Trains, metros, inter-state buses and all public transport have also been banned.

Update: March 26th, 2020

List of essential services that will remain operational during India’s 21-day lockdown

What is the change?

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has imposed a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions came into force at midnight on 25 March and will be enforced for 21 days.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has since released a guideline containing a comprehensive list of essential services that will remain operational during the nationwide lockdown. Key points to note include:

  • Offices of the Government of India, its Autonomous/Subordinate Offices and Public Corporations shall remain closed.
  • Offices of the State/Union Territory Governments, their Autonomous Bodies, and Corporations, shall remain closed.
  • All air, rail, roadways shall remain suspended. The only exceptions are transportation for essential goods, and fire, law and order, and emergency services.
  • Hospitality services shall remain suspended. The only exceptions are hotels, homestays, lodges and motels which are accommodating tourists and persons stranded due to the lockdown, medical and emergency staff, air and sea crew, as well as establishments used/earmarked for quarantine facilities.
  • All persons who have arrived in India after 15 February are subjected to strict home/institutional quarantine for a period to be decided by the local health authorities, failing which they will be liable to legal action.

Update: March 20th, 2020

No commercial international flights to land in India from 22 March for a week

What is the change?

India has barred all scheduled commercial flights from Sunday, 22 March for a week. No scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall take off from any foreign airport for any airport in India after 00.01 hours (GMT) on 22 March 2020. These instructions shall remain in force until 00.01 hours GMT on 29 March 2020.

Furthermore, a maximum travel time of 20 hours is permissible for such commercial passenger aircraft to land in India. Accordingly, no incoming scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall be allowed to disembark its passengers (Indian or foreigner) on Indian soil after 20.01 hours (GMT) on 22 March.

Update : March 17, 2020

Travel and visa restrictions related to COVID-19

What is the change?

All existing visas issued to nationals of any country, except those issued to Diplomats, Official passport holders, those in United Nations (UN)/international organisations, those on Employment, Project visas and those who are operating aircrew of scheduled commercial airlines, who have not yet entered India stand suspended until 15 April 2020.

Visas of all foreigner nationals already in India remain valid. They may contact the nearest Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO)/Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) for extension or conversion of their visas or any consular services. OCI cards of foreigners presently in India also remain valid.

Visa free travel facility granted to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders who are not in India presently shall be kept in abeyance until 15 April 2020. This measure is effective from 12.00 GMT on 13 March 2020 at the port of departure of any foreigner for onward journey to India.

Any foreign national (including OCI cardholders) who intends to travel to India for compelling reasons may contact the nearest Indian Mission for a fresh visa. International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated Immigration Check Posts to be notified separately by Ministry of Home Affairs.

For more information, please click on the link below for the complete list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the new visa restrictions.

Additional travel advisory

What is the change?

Passengers coming from/transiting through United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait are subjected to a compulsory quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days. This will come into effect from 12.00 GMT on 18 March 2020 at the port of first departure.

Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from 18 March 2020. No airline shall board a passenger from these nations to India with effect from 12.00 GMT on 18 March 2020. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure.

Both these instructions are temporary measures and shall be in force until 31 March 2020 and reviewed subsequently.

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