15 Oct 2021: India opens to international travelers aboard chartered flights
India threw open its gates to foreign passengers traveling to the country on chartered flights from today. Tourist visas are once again being issued to such travelers. However, foreign tourists traveling by regular flights will have to wait till November 15 to get tourist visas. The move is a sign of the situation normalizing in the country and the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Background: All foreign visas were suspended last year due to COVID-19
India had canceled all visas granted to foreign travelers last year in view of the prevailing coronavirus situation. It imposed several other restrictions on international flights and entered air bubble arrangements with few countries to facilitate limited travel. Later, as the situation improved, the country started issuing other types of visas, except tourist visas, to international travelers.
Decision: Home Ministry took the decision after consulting the states
The Union Home Ministry has decided to allow foreign tourists to come to India on tourist visas after consulting with the states. As per PTI, various stakeholders in the tourism sector had been asking the Home Ministry to start issuing tourist visas once again and permit foreign travelers to visit the country. Following consultations, the easing of travel restrictions was finally announced last week.
Guidelines: Single-entry tourist visas will be issued
The Home Ministry has clarified that as of now only foreign tourists planning to come to India by chartered flights will be issued single-entry tourist visas. As per revised guidelines, chartered flights include those allowed under the air bubble agreement as part of the Vande Bharat mission. It would also include any scheduled or non-scheduled commercial flights allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Visas: Fresh tourist visas will be issued: MHA
However, fresh tourist visas will now be granted to those interested in coming to India as the existing visas remain suspended under COVID-19 restrictions. “The bureau of immigration, Indian mission, and posts abroad may grant fresh single-entry e-tourist or tourist visas for 30 days. Existing e-tourist visas shall remain suspended,” the MHA had said.
Information: Centre will issue 5 lakh free tourist visas
The Ministry of Home Affairs had earlier declared that India will provide the first 5 lakh visas free to foreign tourists coming to India. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also said that working capital and personal loans will be provided to travel firms and registered tour guides to restart their business. The scheme will help various tourism industry professionals and business houses.