Due to the worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus, India has temporarily suspended all tourist visas and eVisas for citizens of other countries, although non-tourist visas issued by India remain valid.
The COVID-19 strain of coronavirus was identified in Wuhan, China on 31 December 2019. By March 2020, it had been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and as of September 2020, there have been over 31 million cases worldwide.
Many states, including India, have taken action to prevent the spread of the disease. This includes introducing a number of travel restrictions on individuals entering the country.
Can I Still Apply for My eVisa to Visit India?
Under normal circumstances, travelers from many countries were eligible for the electronic visa or eVisa for India. This service is currently suspended. This means that it is not possible to obtain the eVisa at present.
Foreign nationals are also subject to a travel ban and are not permitted to visit India. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as for diplomats or close family members of Indian nationals.
A minority of nationalities are able to apply at an embassy for a traditional consular visa for India, for purposes other than tourism.
On 2 February 2020, it was announced that visa services would be temporarily unavailable for certain travelers in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus. The list of travelers affected by the suspension was extended on March 13th to all nationalities due to the increasing number of cases worldwide.
I Already Have an Indian eVisa, Can I Still Use It?
All citizens of foreign countries are currently prohibited from entering India due to the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of whether or not they have a tourist visa.
There are a number of exceptions to this rule. The following categories of traveler may enter India:
- Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) with a card or booklet
- Children (minors and students) of Indian nationals and OCIs
- Spouses of Indian nationals
- Single parents of a minor that has Indian citizenship
- Nationals of Nepal and Bhutan
- International travelers transiting through India while returning home, except if through Delhi Airport
- Diplomatic and official passport holders
- Travelers who hold a Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card
Additionally, holders of a non-tourist visa for India (including diplomatic, employment, UN, and most business visas) are now able to travel to India once again.
When Will I Be Able to Travel to India With My eVisa?
It is currently unknown how long the India visa suspension and current travel restrictions for India will last. The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause new cases around the world and until the situation is brought under control, international tourist travel is likely to continue to be limited.
Once the number of COVID-19 cases in India has fallen, it is likely that the coronavirus travel restrictions will ease and foreign nationals will be able to use their eVisa to visit the country for tourism.
In the meantime, if it is absolutely vital that a foreign traveler enters India, the following advisory notice was released by the Health Ministry addressing individuals with exceptional circumstances:
“Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for a compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission.”
Coronavirus Travel Restrictions for India
Commercial flights to India are currently suspended until at least November 30, 2020. However, certain flights still operate for relief, repatriation, and humanitarian missions.
Indian nationals and foreigners who are residents of the country may return home to India via repatriation flights.
Passengers arriving in India must comply with the following requirements:
- Undergo medical screening and a 14-day quarantine
- Install the app Arogya Setu in their mobile device
- Complete a “self-declaration” form
It should also be noted that unless passengers have a printed medical certificate with a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) RT-PCR test result, issued at most 72 hours before departure, they will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival.
Which Visa Categories Are Travelers Allowed to Use to Enter India?
Foreign nationals are not allowed to enter India apart from those listed above.
Some categories of visa are not affected by the measures. Such exceptions include holders of:
- Diplomatic visas
- UN/ international organization visas
- Employment visas
- Project visas
- Business visa (excluding B-3 visa for sports).
If I Cannot Leave India due to Coronavirus, Can I Request a Visa Extension?
Travelers already in India and unable to return home due to border closures and the suspension of flights can apply for a visa extension.
Foreigners are requested to complete the India eVisa extension online rather than going to the office in order to maintain social distancing.
By doing so foreigners can remain in India with a valid permit until they are able to leave India.
How Has Coronavirus Affected India?
India has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 5 million cases and over 90,000 fatalities, while over 4.5 million have recovered.
India was quick to respond to the pandemic in March. 21 airports across India installed thermal screening and medical check-up stations, including at Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. Quarantine centers were established and those showing symptoms are being directed to these facilities for testing.
With these precautions and the temporary visa ban on travelers, India initially only had a limited number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, as the pandemic progressed, the virus spread through the country’s large population as it has done through the rest of the world.
Aside from coronavirus, international visitors should always discuss the vaccines needed to travel to India with their healthcare practitioner a few weeks before their departure.
What Is COVID-19
COVID-19, is a new strain of coronavirus that had never been seen in humans before December 2019. Being a novel virus, no cure has been found yet.
Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, ranging from 4 mild variants that cause the common cold to serious types that cause illnesses like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
COVID-19 causes mild disease in most patients. Some cases are completely asymptomatic, while other patients are seriously ill. Although only a small percentage of cases are fatal, the virus is highly contagious, with millions of cases worldwide. This means that many fatalities have occurred—mainly among the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Typical symptoms are similar to those of a cold or flu:
- Sore throat
There is a huge international effort to contain the spread of the virus and find an effective method of treating it.
What Measures Should I Take When Traveling to India During the Pandemic?
Travelers who are permitted to enter India during the COVID-19 pandemic should comply with the requirement to present a negative coronavirus test result, or they must quarantine for 2 weeks upon arrival.
After this, it is important to maintain social distancing and wear a mask to minimize the risk of accidentally spreading coronavirus. Good hygiene practices are also recommended.
Individuals who discover they have difficulty breathing should consult a doctor immediately and, if necessary, self-isolate.