India Opens Up for International Commercial Passenger Flights

Fully vaccinated international travellers to be allowed subject to adherence to other regulations
Konark is one of the sites most visited by foreign tourists in India
Konark is one of the sites most visited by foreign tourists in India

International commercial passenger flights have started arriving in India from November 15 following the long ban owing to the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

According to reports, fully vaccinated international travellers can now visit India subject to fulfilment of regular and pandemic containment rules.

While schemes such as Vande Bharat and air bubble pacts with specific countries had already opened the skies for passenger flights, full-fledged commercial flights were not allowed to operate.

The central government also said it has planned to issue 500,000 free visas until March 2022 to boost tourism and related sectors.

In October this year, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had started granting fresh Tourist Visas to foreigners coming to India through chartered flights (with effect from October 15). And had announced that foreign tourists travelling to India by flights other than chartered aircraft would be able to do so with effect from November 15.

The ministry also said that all COVID-19 protocols and norms notified by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare have to be adhered to by foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India and other stakeholders at landing stations.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a guideline for international passenger arrivals on November 11, 2021, which provides protocols to be complied with international travellers as well those to be followed by airlines, points of entry (airports, seaports and land border) for risk profiling of passengers.

Some of the basic requirements include &ndash submission of self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel, upload a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report with test conducted within 72 hrs prior to undertaking the journey, submit a declaration with respect to authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution, if found otherwise, etc.

Children under five years of age are exempted from both pre- and post-arrival testing. However, if found symptomatic for COVID-19 on arrival or during home quarantine period, they shall undergo testing and be treated as per laid down protocol, according to the guideline.

The guideline also mentioned that there are countries which have agreement with India on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates of nationally recognised or WHO recognised vaccines. Similarly, there are countries which presently do not have such an agreement with India, but they exempt Indian citizens fully vaccinated with nationally recognised or WHO recognised vaccines. On the basis of reciprocity, the travellers from all such countries which provide quarantine-free entry to Indians are allowed certain relaxations on arrival, etc.

However, international travellers arriving through seaports/land ports will also have to undergo the same protocol except that facility for online registration is not available for such passengers currently, according to the guideline. Such travellers shall submit the self-declaration form to the concerned authorities of Government of India at seaports/land ports on arrival.

Detail guideline available here.

India had banned all international flights in March 2020.

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