India’s Latest Guidelines on International Travel
This timeline summarizes the most recent developments in the rules and regulations governing international travel to and from India.
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- From February 13, 11 AM, passengers coming to India from or via China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand will not require a negative RT-PCR report from a pre-departure test for COVID-19. Travelers from these five countries will no longer have to fill the self-health declaration form on the Air Suvidha portal either.
The 2% random testing on arrival in India [from any country of origin] policy that was started December 24 last year, shall continue.
- Reported by Times of India, all Indians traveling to Sri Lanka will have to follow the country’s revised COVID-19 protocols. Sri Lanka has announced that all tourists to the country will be required to carry their vaccination cards, and unvaccinated travelers must carry a negative PCR report obtained 72 hours prior to their arrival.
December 29, 2022
- On December 29, 2022, India’s Federal Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced that RT-PCR test would be mandatory from January 1, 2023 for international passengers travelling to India from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand. The test must be conducted within 72 hours of undertaking the journey to India.
- These negative RT-PCR reports must be uploaded on the Air Suvidha portal before travel.
- This requirement is in addition to the random two percent tests of all international passengers in all incoming international flights on their arrival in India irrespective of their port of departure.
December 28, 2022
Air India Express, India’s first international budget carrier that offers flights to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, has issued guidelines for the maintenance of Covid-appropriate behaviour by travellers travelling from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to India. The guidelines include:
- All passengers from UAE should preferably be completely immunised as per the approved primary schedule of Covid vaccination.
- All visitors should preferably use masks and follow physical distancing on flights/travel and at all points of entry.
- Post-arrival random testing is not required for children under the age of 12. However, if they have Covid-related symptoms upon arrival, they have to undergo testing in accordance with protocol.
December 26, 2022
- On December 24, 2022, Indian Health Ministry announced that international arrivals from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand will have to mandatorily present RT-PCR test results. In case any passengers from these countries are symptomatic or test positive for Covid-19, they will be quarantined.
- Economic Times reporting that Air Suvidha form filling to declare current health status will also be made compulsory for international passengers arriving from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand.
- Times of India reporting that Qatar has reinstated visa-on-arrival (VOA) facility for Indian travellers, which were temporarily halted due to FIFA World Cup 2022 in the country. Indian nationals can get a free VOA in Qatar for a maximum stay of 30 days or as per the hotel reservation and under the following conditions: valid passport for at least six months, confirmed return tickets, and confirmed hotel reservation through ‘Discover Qatar’ website only.
- Times of India reporting that effective from January 1, 2023, Serbia has discontinued visa-free travel regulations for Indian citizens, keeping in line with the requirements of European Union (EU) visa policy and measures to control illegal migrants.
December 23, 2022
New guidelines applicable for international arrivals from December 24, 2022: “All travelers should preferably be fully vaccinated as per the approved primary schedule of vaccination against COVID-19 in their Country.” See here for the official Ministry of Health and Family Welfare notification issued December 22.
India will randomly test 2 percent of international travelers arriving in the country’s airports for COVID, with effect from Saturday (December 24) 10 am IST, as announced by Mansukh Mandaviya, Health Minister on Thursday December 21. Travelers will be allowed to leave the airport after submitting their sample.
After the random testing, if found COVID-positive, the person’s sample shall be sent for genomic testing at a designated INSACOG laboratory network; reports shall be hared with Integrated Disease Surveillance Program at email@example.com by the concerned testing laboratory (besides sharing with the airport health organization APHOS) to be in turn shared with concerned state or union territory for further follow-up action.
- India is becoming increasingly cautious after a surge in cases recorded in neighboring China as well as in Brazil, US, Japan, and Korea, besides it being the ongoing holiday and festive season, which witnesses a jump in travel. In another move, visitors to the Taj Mahal (Agra, Uttar Pradesh state), will undergo a COVID-19 test before they enter, as per reporting from news agency ANI. While wearing masks are not currently mandatory in most parts of the country, it will likely be increasingly encouraged. For example, the southern state of Karnataka has made wearing masks mandatory indoors and in closed spaces in guidelines released December 22.
December 14, 2022
- DNA reporting a travel advisory issued due to the ongoing chaos at Delhi international airport: “To ensure a quick security check, Air India has urged all travelers to bring just one piece of carry-on luggage and arrive at least 3.5 hours early.”
- Times of India reporting that Hong Kong and Nigeria are among the latest to remove COVID-19 travel rules for international travelers.
- Business Today reporting that IndiGo has announced 32 connecting flights between India and Europe – flying to Milan, Manchester, Birmingham, Rome, and Venice – starting December 7, 2022. These international flights will operate in partnership with Turkish Airlines.
- Times of India reporting that Germany is relaxing visa appointment rules for Indian tourists. According to German Missions in the country, Indian travelers can book their visa appointment at any VFS global Visa Application Centre in major Indian cities and the Schengen visa can be applied for three months before the travel date. However, this relaxation does not apply to the D-visa category – students, employment, and family reunion visas, among others.
- New Air India flights announced between India and US, Europe (Business Traveller):
– Air India is launching new flights connecting Mumbai with New York, Paris, and Frankfurt, and resuming non-stop flights connecting Delhi with Copenhagen, Milan, and Vienna. The new daily Mumbai-New York service to John F Kennedy International Airport will commence February 14, 2023, which will take Air India’s India-US frequency to 47 non-stop flights per week.
– The new Air India flights from Delhi to Europe announced are: four weekly Delhi-Milan from February 1, 2023 and three weekly flights each on the Delhi-Vienna and Delhi-Copenhagen routes starting February 18 and March 1, 2023, respectively.
– From Mumbai, new Air India flights are currently being planned to Paris* (thrice-weekly) and Frankfurt* (four weekly) from the next quarter.
- India is discontinuing the Air Suvidha self-declaration form starting November 22, 2022. Passengers flying into India will no longer need to fill out the Air Suvidha form from November 21-22 midnight and will not need to take an RT-PCR COVID-19 test.
On November 14, the Canada government concluded an expanded Canada-India Air Transport Agreement “to allow unlimited flights between both countries”. The announcement said: “The expanded agreement allows designated airlines to operate an unlimited number of flights between the two countries. The previous agreement limited each country to 35 flights per week. The new rights under the expanded agreement are available for use by airlines immediately. Money Control reports that this will give Canadian airlines access to the Indian cities of Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai while Indian airlines will receive access to Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal, and Vancouver as well as two additional points (Canadian cities) selected by India. India is Canada’s fourth largest international air transport market and there are an estimated 1.5 million Indians living in Canada. Presently the only non-stop direct flights in this market are from Air India and Air Canada.
The Financial Express reports plans of Air India to add 20 weekly, non-stop flights to the US and UK between October and December. “With five additional flights a week to Birmingham, nine additional flights to London, and six additional flights a week to San Francisco, Air India said it will be able to offer over 5,000 additional seats every week.” Soon there will be seven Indian cities offering direct Air India flights to London.
- No new updates were made to the “Risk Levels” and “Safety and Security” sections of the Canadian government’s travel advisory for India: The Hindu report.
- Hong Kong is lifting compulsory quarantine requirement for arrivals starting from September 26. There will be three days of medical surveillance during which inbound persons are free to go out but are obliged to comply with Amber Code restrictions under the Vaccine Pass, followed by a four-day self-monitoring period, making it a 7-day observation period in total, as per the Hong Kong government’s notification.
- Taiwan will end mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving in the country from October 13 as per reporting from Reuters. Speaking to the media, Taiwan’s Cabinet spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng stated that from September 29, visa-free entry will be resumed for overseas travelers that previously enjoyed that status. Under its ‘New Taiwan Model’, the government is set to increase weekly arrival limits for international travelers to 60,000 from 10,000 and will not require PCR tests for arrivals. If the pandemic situation is stable, the country will end quarantine from around October 13 and increase the weekly arrival limit to 150,000.
- Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced travel relaxations in Japan while in New York for the UN General Assemebly session. “… from 11 October, Japan will relax border control measures to be on par with the US, as well as resume visa-free travel and individual travel.” BBC reports that the cap on daily arrivals will also be lifted.
- Fiji removed its COVID-19 test requirements for international travelers from September 5, 2022.
- Media is reporting that Indians traveling to Indonesia can fast track their visa applications on arriving in Jakarta as VFS Global has reached an exclusive agreement with the Indonesian Immigrant Department.
- See India’s guidelines for international arrivals – dated September 2, 2022 – which came in effect the next day. The document provides protocols to be complied by international travelers as well as those to be followed by airlines and all points of entry (airports, seaports, and land border).
- International flights resumed operations starting September 3, in Guwahati’s (Assam state) Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport (LGBIA), after a gap of two years. In the next few months, officials speaking to the Hindustan Times said that the LGBIA airport will start flights from Guwahati to Yangon (Myanmar), Kathmandu (Nepal), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Hanoi (Vietnam), and Bangkok (Thailand).
January – August, 2022
- Airlines and travel agents in India have to share details of international travelers with the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBIC) 24 hours before departure and arrival. The information will be provided to the National Customs Targeting Centre-Passenger (NCTC). While this rule had been proposed five years ago, to combat tax avoidance and tax evasion, the government has only now developed a regulatory framework to implement this. India is among 60 countries collecting such details of international passengers. The Ministry of Finance issued the notification on August 8, 2022, as per media reports.
- China no longer requires COVID test information for international arrivals from August 31, 2022: On Thursday, August 25, 2022, China’s General Administration of Customs released a new health declaration form for international arrivals, which removes the requirement for visitors to report their nucleic acid test results, infection status, and vaccination dates. This ninth version of the health declaration form will be implemented starting from August 31, 2022, and international visitors can report their health status online by filling out a form on the related WeChat account or webpage. Some media interpret that with this update, the current entry requirement, that is, the requirement to have international passengers take two PCR tests for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their departure, the second of which must be within 24 hours of their departure — will be lifted. However, considering that China is still sticking to its dynamic zero-COVID strategy, we recommend that international travelers double-check with their flight companies for further information.
- The Chinese Embassy in India has updated its “Application Procedures and Material Requirements of China Visa“, to be implemented from August 24, 2022. See here for the list of requirements and procedures for various types of Chinese visas, including the M-Visa (commercial and trade activities) and the X1-Visa (long-term study): http://in.china-embassy.gov.cn/eng/lsfw/qz/202208/t20220822_10748221.htm
- The Business Standard noted in a report that China was working to facilitate the return of foreign students, including from India, who have been stuck due to the COVID-19 visa restriction. The paper quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin who told media that the Chinese side were working intensively for the return of foreign students to China. In updated comments on the foreign ministry website, Wenbin said: “We are confident in seeing the return of the first group of Indian students in the near future. Building on that, the Chinese side will further proceed with the return of other Indian students in a well thought-out and orderly manner.”
- India’s domestic air fare caps will end from August 31, as the civil aviation regulator DGCA rolls back restrictions imposed in 2020. This minimum to maximum price band had been introduced to avoid sky high ticket prices due to pent up demand in the domestic travel market.
- India’s passport offers visa-free access to 60 countries, including Bhutan, Nepal, Macao, Oman, Qatar, and Fiji. According to the latest Henley Passport Index, published by immigration consultancy Henley & Partners, India’s passport ranked 87th. India had ranked 90th in Q3 and Q4 in 2021.
The latest index is topped by Japan, whose passport offers visa-free access to 193 countries, followed by South Korea and Singapore (at 192 countries each), and Germany and Spain (190). As per reporting by the Hindustan Times: Indians have ‘visa-on-arrival’ access in Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, and Sri Lanka as well as 21 countries in Africa.
- Speaking at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, promised to relax restrictions on international travel in an “orderly” way, which would include facilitating the return of foreign students to rejoin Chinese colleges. Around 500,000 foreign students are enrolled at universities in China, including 23,000 Indians. Li said: “All international students may return to China to continue their studies should they so wish, and outbound commerce and trade activities and cross-border travel for labor services will be advanced in an orderly fashion.” The comments were made during a Special Virtual Dialogue with Global Business Leaders hosted by the forum.
Foreign diplomatic missions in China are presently trying to speed up the process to facilitate the return of international students to China. While this is now in a small-scale trial mode, any large-scale opening can be expected only when the country’s epidemic outbreaks slow down.
- Competent authorities in China and India are communicating on securing the resumption of flights and to bring back the first group of Indian students to China at the earliest as reported in The Economic Times.
- Bhutan is allowing travelers into the country from September 23, 2022 – after a two-year gap. Tourists from India should note the levy of a sustainable development fee (SDF), charged at 1,200 ngultrums (approx. INR 1200) per day; children between the age of six and 12 are charged INR 600 per day and no fee is charged from children below the age of five. The SDF fee is not applicable everywhere – there are exemptions to the levy in 11 districts in the less popular Eastern Bhutan region, until December 2024.
- India is working to roll out e-passports as per its external affairs minister S. Jaishankar. The minister also informed that the Passport Seva System had been integrated with the DigiLocker system to facilitate paperless documentation. Jaishankar added: “The Ministry in collaboration with the Department of Posts operationalized 428 Post Office Passport Seva Kendras (POPSKs) to reach out to our citizens at their doorsteps. The Ministry has successfully integrated the passport issuance systems in 178 of our Embassies and Consulates abroad.”
- Saudi Arabia has lifted COVID-related travel restrictions on citizens travelling to India, Ethiopia, Turkey, and Vietnam and is accepting pilgrims for the forthcoming annual Hajj season, The Hindu reports June 20, 2022. The requirement to wear face masks in closed places has also been relaxed.
- China has updated its visa policy for Indians, including Indian professionals and students. China will accept visa applications of foreign nationals and their accompanying family members seeking to return to China for resumption of work in all fields. Visas for tourism and private purposes remain suspended. The details of over 12,000 Indian students have reportedly been forwarded to the Chinese government for visa processing. (Over 23,000 Indian students – mostly enrolled in medical colleges in China – had to return to India and were stuck during the last few years due to the coronavirus pandemic, which first broke out December 2019.) However, China is yet to announce resumption of normal flight facilities between the two countries.
- The US does not require arriving international travelers to take a COVID-19 test within a day before boarding their flights to the country from June 12, Sunday. “As of 12:01AM ET on June 12, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will no longer require air passengers traveling from a foreign country to the United States to show a negative COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board their flight. For more information, see Rescission: Requirement for Negative Pre-Departure COVID-19 Test Result or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 for all Airline or Other Aircraft Passengers Arriving into the United States from Any Foreign Country.”
- Media reports say the DGCA has made masks mandatory at Indian airports and during flights. India recorded 7,240 new cases in 24 hours [June 9 MoHFW update], the highest since March.
- On Wednesday, June 8, India’s aviation regulator DGCA announced fresh guidelines for COVID-appropriate behavior. The wearing of masks is now mandatory inside the flight / throughout the air travel, and mask removal is permitted only under exceptional circumstances. Violators could be treated as ‘unruly passengers’ and removed from the flight before departure. This is in line with a Delhi High Court order, which stipulates that violators can be put on ‘no fly list’.
- India’s overall passenger traffic (both domestic and international) at airports reached 93 percent of pre-COVID levels in May 2022. International passenger traffic reached 63 percent and 72 percent of pre-COVID levels in April and May, respectively. Recovery of domestic travel reached 98 percent of pre-COVID levels in May 2022.
- Turkey has relaxed all the conditions for Indian travelers entering the country, Turkiye Tourism Board said on Monday, June 6. Now, Indian travelers no longer have to show proof of vaccination or proof of recovery from COVID-29 or negative RT-PCR test report.
- The United States Embassy in India has tweeted (8.23pm, May 29): “The US Mission to India is pleased to announce that we are resuming routine in-person tourist visa appointments in September 2022. Previously scheduled placeholders have now been cancelled. Applicants whose placeholder appointments were cancelled may now reenter the scheduling system to book regular appointments. Appointments have been opened through 2023.”
- Media reports say that Israel has removed COVID-19-linked travel requirements for foreign visitors, such as presenting a negative RT-PCR test prior to departure, undergoing an RT-PCR test upon arrival, and quarantine observation.
- Livemint reports: “Malaysia Airlines will add new routes, increase frequencies and upgrade aircraft to cater to the Indian market, which remains a key geography for the airline.”
- Saudi Arabia has banned its citizens from travelling to sixteen countries, including India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, after the Gulf state has recorded a five-fold rise in COVID-19 cases. News18 reports: “Saudi Arabia’s General Department of Passports dropped several Covid-19 restrictions towards the end of last year but are now reimposing some of them as Covid-19 cases are being reported from various parts of the world and China and North Korea bearing the brunt of the Omicron variant which is leading to fresh cases.”
- Indian announced on May 12 that citizens planning to travel abroad are now eligible to get a third (booster/precaution) dose of vaccine three months after their second dose. The rules otherwise stipulate a nine-month gap between the second dose and booster shot.
- Scoot, the budget airline from Singapore Airlines Group, has launched daily flight services between Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) and Singapore, up from three times a week. As per reporting by The Hindu [April 27, 2022], Scoot has a network of 42 destinations in 16 countries and territories, including Australia and Southeast Asia.
- VietJet has announced that it will resume operations of six flights – on the Delhi-Hanoi route and Delhi-Ho Chi Minh City route from April 29, 2022. New flights have also been added by VietJet on the Mumbai-Phu Quoc route and New Delhi-Phu Quoc route, which are scheduled to start from September 9, 2022.
- Hong Kong has banned Air India flights till April 24 due to COVID-19 as three passengers on board one of its flights had reportedly tested positive on arrival.
- On April 11, Times of India reported that fully vaccinated passengers from the UAE traveling to India will not necessarily require a pre-departure RT-PCR test at the airport. The move is on a reciprocity basis. However, UAE travelers will need to fill out the passenger locator form on the Air Suvidha portal – same as travelers from any other destination visiting India. Also, travelers need to upload their COVID-19 vaccination certificate onto the Air Suvidha portal.
- Scheduled international flight services have resumed from Sunday, March 27, 2022 after being suspended for two years due to COVID-19. Starting March 27, six Indian airlines and 60 foreign airlines will connect India with 63 countries. Under the new summer schedule (March 27 to October 29), foreign airlines will operate 1,783 weekly flights and Indian carriers will operate 1,466 departures every week. Among domestic airlines, IndiGo will operate 505 departures per week, followed by Tata Group-owned Air India at 361 weekly flights and its subsidiary Air India Express will operate 340 flights per week.
- From the Indian Express: More international airlines add flights to India: “Emirates said… it will be operating the 35 weekly flights from Mumbai, 28 from Delhi, 24 from Bengaluru, 21 each from Chennai and Hyderabad, 14 from Kochi, 11 from Kolkata, nine from Ahmedabad and seven from Thiruvananthapuram.”
- On March 21, 2022, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that from April 1, the Government will lift the flight ban on nine countries (i.e., Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK, the USA, and Nepal) and cut the hotel quarantine period for arrivals. Currently, passenger aircraft from these nine countries are not allowed to land in Hong Kong. The Chief Executive also announced the preconditions for boarding a flight to Hong Kong and the COVID-19 control and prevention measures to be implemented upon arrival. Given this, there are comments saying that traveling to Hong Kong will not get much easier even after the ban is lifted. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. plans just one inbound flight every two weeks for fear to be subjected to the city’s 14-day ban on airlines that carry too many passengers found to be infected with COVID-19.
- Singapore announced it is lifting restrictions for all vaccinated travelers from next week. According to officials, from April 1, fully vaccinated adults and unvaccinated children will be allowed to enter Singapore without quarantining, if they take a pre-departure test. Only travelers on a ‘restricted list’ will face curbs in entering Singapore; as of March 24, 2022 – there are no countries on this list.
- On March 21, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) announced relaxed COVID-19-related regulations. NDTV reports MoCA saying “cabin crew members need not wear PPE kit, airlines need not keep three seats vacant on international flights for medical emergencies and security personnel at airports can resume pat-down search of passengers.”
However, the use of face mask and maintenance of hand hygiene/sanitizer continues to be mandatory. Airlines may carry additional PPE protective gear, sanitizers, and N-95 masks to handle any respiratory infections related to cases on air – for passengers as well as the crew.
- Cochin International Airport announces summer schedule (March 27 to October 29) with 1,190 weekly operations (international and domestic flights). 20 airlines will operate flights to destinations abroad (including 16 international carriers). Indigo has the most weekly departures to international destinations (42) and Air India Express accounts for 38 weekly departure operations.
Other prominent carriers are Air Asia Berhad, Ethihad, Emirates, Oman Air, Qatar Air, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Thai Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines, Gulf Air, and Fly Dubai.
44 weekly departures are scheduled for Dubai, followed by Abu Dhabi with 42.
Air India Express will continue its weekly operations to London and Thai Air Asia will resume Kochi operations in June, with 4 weekly direct flights to Bangkok. Source: The Hindu Business Line
- Useful Quick Links from the Air India portal:
– Official Circular on Restoration of Indian Visa (E-Tourist Visa and Tourist Visa) for Foreign Tourists
– Circular For Generating and Accessing International Digital Covid 19 Vaccination Certificate
– International Travel Advisories
- Singapore Airlines Group press release: All Singapore Airlines flights from India to Singapore will operate as vaccinated travel lane (VTL) services from March 16, 2022. This will provide eligible customers with quarantine-free entry into Singapore from eight points across India. Scoot, SIA’s low-cost subsidiary, will also progressively convert its non-VTL services from Amritsar, Coimbatore, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchi, and Visakhapatnam to VTL services. Short-term visitors and Singapore work-permit holders who seek to avail VTL services must apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) prior to their visa application. VTP applications should be made between three and 60 calendar days before the person’s intended date of entry into Singapore. Travelers must ensure their eligibility to use the VTL services before their flight.
- Regular international flights to resume March 27, 2022 after two years suspension. This is the start of the summer schedule 2022.
- Economic Times reporting “Global travel shedding Covid baggage as several nations ease restrictions for Indians“.
- India has once again extended its ban on regular commercial international passenger flights – until further orders – as per a circular dated February 28, 2022 issued by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Flights under air bubble arrangements and international cargo flights will continue.
- On February 28, 2022, the Indian government updated its “List of Countries/Regions in respect of which primary vaccination schedule completion certificate is allowed to be uploaded” on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website: see document here. There are 88 countries now on this list. (The Union health ministry has removed the at-risk categorization of countries.)
- India and Thailand have finalized an air bubble arrangement, bringing the total number of such bilateral flight agreements to 37. Airline carriers between India and Thailand will begin operating flights starting in March, which will be subject to approval from the government. Thai Airways will commence flights between India and Thailand starting March 1 under this air bubble. Travelers should note the health protocols and the respective schedules of approved flights between Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Bangkok. Meanwhile, on February 25, SpiceJet announced it will launch six new international flights to Bangkok, commencing from March 10 in a phased manner. SpiceJet plans to launch flights connecting Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata with Bangkok. India reportedly has plans to reopen its regular international travel from March 15, but this is still a tentative date.
- Singapore, UAE, and Kuwait have updated their travel guidelines and COVID-prevention protocols for travelers from India. See here to know more.
- The Airport Authority of India has updated its state-wise guidelines for arriving passengers – by region. The PDF links may be accessed here:
COVID Guidelines India Northern Region 14-02-2022
COVID Guidelines India Western Region 21.02.2022
COVID Guidelines India Southern Region 22-02-20212
COVID Guidelines India Eastern Region 18-02-2022
COVID Guidelines India North East Region 17-02-2022
- Dubai ends rapid RT-PCR rules for Indian travelers. Under the new rules, travelers from India have to produce a negative COVID-19 test certificate issued by an approved health service provider and generated 48 hours before scheduled departure of the flight. Passengers will undergo a PCR test upon arrival in Dubai. Transit passengers will be expected to follow rules governing entry at their final destination.
- It is being reported in The Economic Times that the aviation ministry has requested approval from the health ministry to allow resumption of international flights from mid-March. Reason cited by unnamed government source is that domestic traffic has rebounded.
- The government has removed restrictions on the number of flights that can be operated between India and Ukraine under their bilateral air bubble arrangement to facilitate travel of Indians from the eastern European country. India has advised its citizens to temporarily leave Ukraine amid its deteriorating relations with Russia.
- Indian media are reporting that the government is soon to make a decision on whether regular international flights can resume in the summer (March/April). It is being reported by The Economic Times that the aviation ministry has set an internal target of resuming international flight services once domestic airlines capacity touches 80% of pre-COVID flights. (Domestic airlines operated over 2,800 flights before the pandemic struck in 2020; as of February 13, they operated 2,058 flights. To reach the 80% mark, this number has to exceed 2,200.)
- No testing or mandatory quarantine required for international travelers from February 14, 2022: On February 10, India revised guidelines for international arrivals, which will come into effect February 14, 2022 (Monday, 00.01 Hrs IST). The new guidelines remove the category of ‘at risk’ countries and has scrapped the seven-day mandatory quarantine. Instead, India’s health authorities recommend self-monitoring of 14 days for symptoms. The Union Health Ministry stated that there is “need to monitor the continuously changing” COVID-19 virus but accepted that “economic activities need to be taken up in an unhindered manner”. As per the latest guidelines, all foreign arrivals have to fill a self-declaration form online (Air Suvidha web portal), including a travel history of the past 14 days. They must also upload a negative RT-PCR test conducted within 72 hours of the departure date.
Alternatively, they can upload a certificate confirming that they are fully vaccinated. This alternative option is only available for passengers arriving from the 72 countries whose vaccination program are recognized by the Indian government. They include Canada, Hong Kong, USA, UK, Bahrain, Qatar, Australia, New Zealand, and some European countries.
See here for the official notification on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare portal.
- Australia will reopen its borders for international tourists from February 21, subject to conditions. The move comes after almost two years of pandemic-linked travel restrictions. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while making the announcement: “The condition is you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it.” However, travelers to Australia should note the state-wise rules and restrictions.
- Vietnam reported to reopen for tourism, welcome foreign travelers from March 15, 2022. See here for information pertaining to travel to Vietnam.
- On February 5, Bali reopened its borders for international travelers and resumed direct international flights. See here for information on travel to Indonesia.
- On February 4, the state of Kerala released revised guidelines for international travelers. (See here for the official notification by the Kerala government.) Any international traveler coming to Kerala, irrespective of their duration of stay, must undergo symptom surveillance. If they are found symptomatic, they must undertake an RT-PCR test at cost at the airport and take further action as per the test results.
The revised rules advise home quarantine for international travelers who do not show symptoms; they must self-monitor their health for 7 days from the date of arrival and undergo testing if they develop symptoms. Rapid Antigen Test is advised on the 8th day after arrival.
There will be random testing of 2% of international travelers on the flight, irrespective of the country of departure, and the costs will be borne by the Kerala state government.
- Singapore Airlines has restarted the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with India. VTL flights allow quarantine-free travel into Singapore. There are VTL flights from Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai into Singapore.
(Singapore has also restarted its vaccinated travel lane with Malaysia.) Passengers should note that there are limited flights and reduced seat quota on these routes.
- The West Bengal state government announced on January 31, that it is rolling back its ban on all international direct flights coming from the United Kingdom to Kolkata.
- Indians who are fully vaccinated can reportedly travel to these seven countries: UK, Thailand, Singapore, Cyprus, Vietnam, Israel, and Saint Lucia in the Caribbean.
- Canada has relaxed COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers from India, starting January 28, 2022. People traveling on direct flights or on a one-stop flight from India do not have to show a negative RT-PCR test done at the Delhi airport within 18 hours of their departure. However, Canada still requires travelers from India to show an RT-PCR test report from an ICMR-approved lab. Fully vaccinated travelers must upload their relevant details onto the ArriveCAN app or website.
- India’s Ministry of External Affairs – Guidelines for International Arrivals – Quick Access to Documents: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/GuidelinesforInternationalarrivalsupdatedon10thFebruary2022.pdf
- India has extended the ban on scheduled international commercial flights to 23:59 February 28, 2022: Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). This ban does not apply to international all-cargo operations and the DGCA-approved flights. The notification was released by the DGCA on January 19, 2022.
- Hong Kong bars flights from India, U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Pakistan, and Philippines over Omicron fears, reports The Hindu (Jan.5, 2022).
- Countries reported to be requiring mandatory vaccine booster shots for travelers include Kuwait, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Croatia, Austria, Greece, and Israel.
- Gulf News is reporting that India is currently making a “day to day” assessment on the resumption of normal international flights. “One has to balance the concerns of public safety and travel,” said Rakesh Kumar Verma, Additional Secretary, Tourism, Government of India. “We will take very expeditious action as and when things improve and the assessment is carried out. I’m hopeful that [full] international travel will resume soon.”
- Starting January 1, 2022, India’s air bubble arrangement with Saudi Arabia will be in effect.
- India has reached an air bubble agreement with Australia. According to reporting from Livemint: “Australian airline Qantas has recently started flights between Sydney and New Delhi. The airline is also set to start flights between New Delhi and Melbourne before Christmas. Air India also operated direct commercial flights connecting New Delhi with Melbourne and Sydney before scheduled international flights were suspended by the Indian government. Air India flights between India and Australia will resume in coming days, said a senior official with the airline.”
- As of December 7, 2021, India’s Civil Aviation and Health Ministry has made contactless self-declaration at Air Suvidha Portal mandatory for purpose of contact tracing. Exemption forms from the Air Suvidha portal has been discontinued. All international passengers arriving in India must fill in all the details.
- 108 countries recognize India’s COVID-19 vaccination certificate for travel purpose as per data available on December 6, 2021.
Commercial international flights were suspended in India since March 25, 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Travel restrictions have begun to be gradually relaxed from October 2021.
Below we highlight the latest guidelines for international travel to and from India.
Status of India’s international air operations
- On March 8, an order from the government confirmed resumption of regular international flights from March 27, 2022. “After being recognized the increase of vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with the stakeholders, the government of India has decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger services to/from India from March 27, 2022, ie [that is] start of the summer schedule 2022,” said the order. India had suspended international flights for the first time in March 2020 and began operating air bubble arrangements since July 2020.
- As of February 28, 2022, India has extended its suspension of scheduled international flights “till further orders”.
- India rolled back its intention to resume normal international flight schedules from December due to the emergence of the Omicron COVID variant. On December 9, 2021, the civil aviation regulator announced announced the postponement of international scheduled commercial flights till February 28, 2022. Air bubble and evacuation flights schedules, approved flights, and air cargo will function.
India releases periodic guidelines for international passengers coming into India based on the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and emergence of regional variants and their threat assessment.
The latest travel guidelines for international arrivals to India were released on February 10, 2022 (and supersede previous notifications):
- The Air Suvidha portal for submission of Self Declaration Form, which is mandatory: https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration
For evacuation flight schedule Phase 14 (October 1, 2021 to March 26, 2022), see Air India Vande Bharat Mission here (download PDF): https://www.airindia.in/images/pdf/VBM-schedule-dtd-30sep2021-PHASE14.pdf.
The evacuation mission has been in place since May 7, 2020. For destinations operated under air bubble arrangement Phase 13 ( September 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021), click here for PDF download.
- As of April 15, 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has restored electronic visa (e-visa) facility for foreigners from 156 countries. The e-visa facility is applicable for international tourists who wish to visit India for conferences, medical purposes, or business. The e-visa also extends to medical attendants.
Air Transport Bubbles
India has also established “Transport Bubbles” or “Air Travel Arrangements”, which are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are reciprocal in nature, meaning airlines from both countries enjoy similar benefits.
The details of such arrangements were last updated in February 2022.
India now has 37 air bubble arrangements in place: Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Ukraine, UAE, UK, USA, and Uzbekistan.
More details can be seen on the government website here: https://www.civilaviation.gov.in/en/about-air-transport-bubbles
- Full service carrier Vistara has started non-stop flight services to Paris from Delhi under the air bubble agreement between India and Europe, according to reporting from The Economic Times. Under the air bubble pact, Vistara’s Boeing 787-9 (Dreamliner) aircraft will fly twice a week between Delhi and Paris – on Wednesday and Sunday. London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Doha, Sharjah, and Male are the other international destinations covered by Vistara, which is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines.
- The US will be lifting travel restrictions on foreign countries from November 8, Monday. Travelers must show proof of vaccination (WHO-approved vaccines); unvaccinated minors will be subject to testing requirements; and all travelers will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before departure to the US. See here for Reuters coverage of the changing rules.
- Air India will offer non-stop flights between Delhi and Sydney starting November 15, 2021. Air India will operate the thrice-a-week service on the Delhi-Sydney-Delhi route under the Vande Bharat Mission. Australia has also formally recognized Covaxin, India’s COVID-19 vaccine.
- India’s new visa norms stipulate that visas will be granted to foreigners only if they use water and air routes, not land routes. The Ministry of Home Affairs has allowed the gradual resumption of international travel to start from October 15, 2021 and tourist and e-visas will be issued for only a single entry per month. From November 15, all individual foreign nationals (on fresh tourist visas) will be allowed to enter India after observing prevailing COVID-19 protocols as notified by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
- The Union Home Ministry announced on Thursday that India will allow foreign tourists traveling by chartered flights (Vande Bharat and air bubble flights) from October 15, rest from November 15, 2021. Foreigner tourists will be allowed to come in on non-charter flights from November 15 unless the extended restrictions on scheduled flights is substantially lifted. See the Home Ministry’s press briefing here and reporting by the Economic Times here.
- The Hindustan Times reporting on October 2: “Australia’s visiting trade and tourism minister Dan Tehan said foreign students will be able to start “returning towards the end of this year and the beginning of next year”, ahead of the start of the first semester in February-March 2022. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of Australia listed Covishield and China’s Coronavac (Sinovac) as “recognised vaccines” after an initial assessment of data on protection offered by the two jabs.”
- CoWin, India’s digital platform for COVID-19 vaccination, is allowing travelers to download an international version of their COVID-19 vaccine certificate, which is compliant with WHO’s international travel guidelines. This feature went live on September 30, 2021, and allows fully vaccinated individuals to update their existing photo identity to passport number and date of birth to get their International Travel Certificate. See website: https://www.cowin.gov.in/
- The Indian Bureau of Immigration noted the specific categories of foreign nationals who are permitted to enter India by water routes or by flights, including those under the Vande Bharat Mission, or ‘Air Bubble’ (Bilateral Air Travel Arrangements) Scheme, or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in its notice MHA O.M. No.25022/24/2020-F.V/F.I dated October 21, 2020. See here for reference.
- Air India has said it will run direct services between Muscat and Vijayawada “once a week or thrice from the first week of July”. The Vijayawada International Airport resumed international flights to Gulf destinations, such as Dubai, Kuwait, Muscat in June, to Singapore in April.
- Budget carrier Air India Express will operate a total of 64 flights between Malaysia and India in July under Vande Bharat Mission. More below.
- Foreign nationals who wish to travel to India for medical treatment can apply for a fresh visa under this category and choose one attendant to accompany them as per the visa category provisions (that is, if the original applicant has their medical visa approved).
- On October 8, 2020, India’s civil aviation authority said the future of international flights will depend on the availability of a vaccine, hinting at the extension of air travel bubble arrangements into March-April next year.
- Low-cost carrier SpiceJet announces its new flight operations connecting Delhi and Mumbai with London, starting December 4, which will come under the India-UK air bubble agreement.
- New standard operating protocol announced August 22, 2020 for non-scheduled commercial flights under the repatriation scheme, Vande Bharat Mission, and Air Transport Bubble Agreements.
(Note: This article was originally published on August 4, 2020 and last updated on February 10, 2023.)
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