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Covid-19: an immigration update from India

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Poorvi Chothani
LawQuest, Mumbai
poorvi@lawquestinternational.com

Ashwina Pinto
LawQuest, Mumbai
ashwina@lawquestinternational.com

 

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, immigration regulations around the world have changed drastically. Hopefully these changes are only temporary and will soon be reversed. This update briefly addresses certain key advisories issued by the Government of India to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Inbound travel

  • All scheduled international commercial passenger services will remain closed until 1830 GMT on 14 April 2020. Therefore, no incoming scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft will be permitted to land and disembark passengers in India until that date. This restriction will not apply to international all-cargo operations but to flights specifically approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
  • Indian domestic airlines have temporarily ceased services from 24 March 2020 until 14 April 2020. The Indian Railways have also suspended all passenger services until 14 April 2020.
  • Freight movement will continue to carry essential commodities across the country.
  • All Indian visa services (not including in-country registration, visa extension and other visa related formalities) stand suspended until 15 April 2020.
  • India has temporarily suspended the visa-on-arrival facility for Japanese and South Korean nationals.
  • Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders in India are in valid status. However, OCI cardholders outside India cannot travel to India until 15 April 2020.

Border restrictions

  • The Government of India has ordered a nationwide lockdown for a period of 21 days effective 25 March 2020.
  • Several states in India have closed their borders, therefore limiting travel within the country.
  • Several countries such as Germany, Israel, Malaysia, and the United States among others have obtained permission from the Indian government with evacuation flights having left India to support their citizens to get back to their respective home countries. Other countries such as the Singapore and the United Kingdom are working with the Indian Government and airlines by clearing flights to leave India.

Relief measures for temporary visa holders in India

  • Visas of all foreign nationals who are already in India remain valid until their expiry and there are special provisions (set out below) for their in-country extensions.
  • The Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices (FRROs) and Foreigners’ Registration Offices have been authorised to temporarily provide essential consular services for foreign nationals who are currently unable to leave the country due to travel restrictions. Consular-processed visas, electronic visas (e-visas) or stipulations of stay endorsed on the visas of all foreign nationals which have expired or are set to expire during the period from 1 February 2020 (midnight) to 30 April 2020 (midnight) will be extended until 30 April 2020 (midnight) on gratis basis. To avail of this service the foreign national must make an online application on the e-FRRO portal. Foreign nationals whose visas have expired and who have made an application to leave the country will be granted an Exit Permit without levying a penalty for overstay.

Health screenings on arrival in India

  • All incoming travellers including Indian nationals who have travelled to India from any location outside India must self-isolate for a minimum 14-day period on their arrival.
  • All incoming travellers including Indian nationals who have travelled or will travel to India once international flights are permitted to land and who have visited China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy or South Korea after 15 February 2020 will be quarantined for a minimum 14-day period on their arrival.

The World Health Organization has stated that India is ‘at a crucial juncture in its fight against Covid-19.’ Given the fluidity of the situation, the Government of India is constantly evaluating and issuing travel advisories in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

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