Visa restrictions relaxedApprox Read Time: 5 min
- The Government of India has relaxed visa restrictions for international passengers — barring electronic, tourist and medical visas — with immediate effect.
- In view of the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government had taken a series of steps to curtail inward and outward movement of international passengers since February 2020.
- The government had suspended all visas on March 11.
- Later, as part of ‘unlock’ regime since June, the curbs have been eased in a graded manner.
- For instance, since June, a certain category of OCI card holders and foreigners were allowed into the country, like minor children with OCI cards and whose parents are Indian nationals, an OCI card holder with an Indian spouse etc.
- The government of India has further extended the graded relaxation of Covid-induced visa and travel restrictions for foreign nationals.
- Except electronic, tourist and medical visas, the government has restored all existing visas with immediate effect.
- The easing of restrictions will mean foreign nationals will be able to visit India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies, research and medical treatment.
- In case the validity of restored categories of visas has expired, fresh ones of the appropriate category can be obtained from Indian missions or posts.
- They will be allowed to enter by air or water routes through authorised airports and seaport immigration check posts.
- This includes flights operated under Vande Bharat Mission, Air Transport Bubble arrangements or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the civil aviation ministry.
OCI and PIO card-holders permitted:
- The Centre has also permitted OCI and PIO card-holders who intend to visit India for purposes other than tourism, to enter by air or water routes.
Strict guidelines to be followed:
- All travellers will be required to strictly adhere to the guidelines of the ministry of health and family welfare regarding quarantine and other health and Covid-19 matters.
Some types of visas are not restored:
- Restrictions on electronic visa, tourist visa and medical visa have not been relaxed.
- However, foreign nationals and their medical attendants intending to visit India for medical treatment, can apply for a medical visa.
About: Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)
- An Overseas Citizen of India, or OCI, is a category introduced by the government in 2005.
- Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories as specified in the Citizenship Act, 1955 were eligible for being OCI cardholders.
- Some of the benefits for PIO and OCI cardholders were different until 2015, when the government merged these two categories.
- A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) was defined as a foreign citizen (except of some countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, China etc.) who at any time held an Indian passport Or who or either of their parents/ grandparents etc. was born and permanently resident in India as per GoI Act, 1935 etc.
- The Government of India, on application, may register any person as an Overseas Citizen of India, if the person:
- Was a citizen of India on or after January 26, 1950 or was eligible to become a citizen of India on January 26, 1950.
- Belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15 August 1947
- Based on parenthood:
- Is a child or a grandchild or a great-grandchild of such a citizen
- Is a minor child of such persons mentioned above
- Is a minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India
- For a Spouse:
- Is a spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder registered under section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- The said marriage should have been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application.
Ineligibility for OCI:
- Persons who served as a member of any foreign military are ineligible to receive an OCI card.
- An applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
Privileges for OCI cardholders:
- Multi-entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa to visit India
- Exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) no matter how long their stay
- If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
- They can open special bank accounts in India and also apply for a driver’s license and PAN card
- They can buy non-farm property and exercise ownership rights
- At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.
Restrictions on OCI cardholders:
- They do not have voting rights in India
- They cannot hold a government job and cannot run for a public office either
- They are not allowed to purchase agricultural or farm land.
- They cannot travel to restricted areas without government permission.