22 Oct 2020: Barring tourists, government eases visa curbs for OCIs, PIOs, foreigners
Eight months after strict instructions were imposed on inbound and outbound travel, the Indian government on Thursday eased visa curbs for Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), Persons of Indian Origin (PIO), and foreign nationals, saying they can visit the country for any purpose, except tourism.
All existing visas, except electronic, tourist, and medical visas, will be restored immediately, a press note read.
Statement: Flights under Vande Bharat Mission, Air Bubble arrangements included
People falling in the aforementioned categories can enter India "by air or water routes, through authorized airports, and seaport immigration check posts."
"This includes flights operated under Vande Bharat Mission, Air Transport Bubble arrangements, or by any nonscheduled commercial flights as allowed by Ministry of Civil Aviation," the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
MHA said all travelers will have to stick to coronavirus-linked precautions.
Details: People can now arrive for medical purposes, employment, studies, etc.
The government explained that if the validity of visas has expired, the concerned persons can approach missions.
"Foreign nationals intending to visit India for medical treatment can apply for a Medical Visa including for their medical attendants. Therefore, this decision will enable foreign nationals to come to India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies, research, medical purposes etc.," the statement added.
Looking back: Air travel was suspended; Vande Bharat Mission brought Indians home
Like several other countries, India too suspended international travel to curb the transmission of coronavirus.
Since late March, international passenger flights have been suspended. In May, the Centre started the Vande Bharat Mission, to bring home Indians, who were stranded abroad, due to various restrictions.
Since then, over 2.2 million have been brought home with Air India Group operating the maximum number of flights.
Air bubble: Puri believes air bubble arrangement will remain till March-April
India also started the air bubble arrangement, which allowed the movement of passenger flights to/from select countries.
Recently, Union Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the bubble arrangement could remain in place till March-April, as none of the countries opened borders completely.
"It depends on the availability of a vaccine as countries will feel more confident once a vaccine is there," he had said.
Numbers: Decline in fresh cases could have sparked latest order
Evidently, the latest declaration to let more people from abroad visit India stems from fact that coronavirus numbers are dipping.
On Wednesday, 14,69,984 samples were tested and 55,839 new cases were reported, a remarkable feat by many accounts.
The number of active cases is down to 7,15,812 and the total number of recoveries stands at 68,74,518.
So far, India has lost 1,16,616 to COVID-19.