Union Ministry of Home Affairs has stated that all such travel would be at the risk of the traveller himself, and he should keep in mind the existing restrictions on international travel.
International travel from India: Since the unlocking of India after the coronavirus pandemic, the restrictions and details around international travel have been blurry. Several countries have lifted the travel restrictions from India, arranging to have air bubbles to undertake travel, due to which Indian as well as foreign airlines have been offering numerous flights to different countries, including the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, the UAE and France, as per a report by IE. However, the travel is subject to certain restrictions that have been put in place by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, as well as the governments of the destination countries.
Here is all you need to know about international travel from India during the pandemic.
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Air transport bubbles explained
According to the IE report, transport bubbles are temporary arrangements that two countries have come up with so that commercial flights between them can be restarted in the absence of regular international flights, in this instance due to the pandemic. The bubbles are reciprocal in nature, and therefore, both the countries enjoy the same benefits. So far, India has managed to slate air bubble arrangements with Canada, Maldives, the UAE, the US, the UK, France and Germany.
Travelling abroad: Who is allowed?
The report cited guidelines for the air bubbles and stated that citizens of the respective countries and foreign citizens who wish to stop at these countries in transit can travel abroad. Apart from them, Indian nationals can also fly, but with some conditions. For these six countries, Indian nationals who have a valid visa with at least one month’s validity, other than for tourism purposes, are allowed to travel. This means that Indians would be allowed to travel outside of India for studies, business or work. In the UAE, tourists have also been allowed to travel. Apart from this, the US Embassy in India resumed processing the student visas from Monday on a limited basis, and so, some students might be able to join the US universities in the fall semester itself.
However, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has stated that all such travel would be at the risk of the traveller himself, and he should keep in mind the existing restrictions on international travel.
Traveling into India: Who is allowed?
Apart from Indian nationals who can travel on inbound flights operated by Indian or foreign carriers, some foreign nationals are also allowed to enter. The government has now allowed all Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders to enter India, modifying its earlier order only allowing certain cardholders. Moreover, foreign businessmen having business visas, foreign health researchers, foreign healthcare professionals, foreign engineers and technicians would be allowed to come to India for health sector facilities, including laboratories and factories, subject to a letter of invitation. Apart from this, foreign managerial, design, engineering or other specialists would be allowed to travel to India on behalf of foreign business entities that are located in India.
Airlines operating international flights
Air India, the national carrier, has been operating several international flights in major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad and they have been ferrying passengers to and from international places like Paris, Birmingham, Newark, London, Frankfurt, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco. The airlines of these countries have also been operating flights to and from India, being allowed to ferry passengers on both legs of the trips, which is what sets them apart from the repatriation flights which need one leg to remain empty. Air France, United, Air Canada, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and Etihad are other airlines that are currently operating internationally.
The report cited a Lufthansa statement as saying that since Indian nationals have now been allowed to fly into India from Canada, Germany and the US, the airline would be operating flights from Munich to Delhi and from Frankfurt to Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi. Apart from that, Virgin Atlantic is planning to operate return flights thrice-a-week from London to Delhi from September 1, and from London to Mumbai from September 16. Air Canada has also been operating thrice-a-week flights between Delhi and Toronto, the report added.
Private Indian airlines can also be expected to benefit from the air bubble arrangements and begin international operations, with Vistara likely to lead the charge.
Requirements for international travel
Earlier in August, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued some guidelines for international passengers arriving in India. According to them, all passengers are required to submit a self-declaration form at the official website of the New Delhi Airport, and this should be done at least 72 hours before travel. An undertaking must also be submitted that the passengers would mandatorily undergo a 14-day quarantine, out of which seven days would be at an institution, the cost of which would be borne by the travellers themselves, followed by seven days of home isolation to monitor their health.
For passengers who are travelling abroad from India, different countries have different norms regarding isolation and testing. The report stated that France requires that people arriving from 16 countries, including India, the US and Brazil, must undergo an on-the-spot test for COVID-19. The UK has a list of countries and people arriving from these places need not undergo self isolation upon arrival, but this list does not include India, which requires all people travelling to the UK from India to undergo self isolation for a period of 14 days.