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As travel restrictions ease, who can fly abroad, and where?

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With various countries gradually lifting travel restrictions from India under air bubble arrangements, both Indian and foreign airlines are offering a number of flight options for those who want to travel to countries such as the US, Germany, France, Canada, the UK and the UAE. However, travel is subject to certain conditions imposed by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the governments of the destination countries.

What are air transport bubbles?

Transport bubbles are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are reciprocal in nature, meaning airlines from both countries enjoy similar benefits. India has created air travel arrangements with countries like the US, France, Germany, the UK, Canada, the UAE and Maldives.

Who can travel abroad from India?

According to the guidelines for these air bubbles, in addition to citizens of the respective countries and foreign nationals who want to transit through these countries, Indian nationals can also travel subject to certain conditions. For the countries with which India has air transport arrangements, Indian nationals holding a valid visa with validity of at least one month — other than visa for tourism purpose — are allowed to travel. The UAE, in fact, has also allowed tourists to travel into its borders. This means that visa holders of various categories such as student visa, business visa, work visa will be allowed to travel outside from India. The US Embassy in India resumed processing of student visas from Monday (August 17) on a limited basis, which could help students who want to join the fall semester.

The Home Ministry guidelines state, however, that all such travel shall be “entirely at the risk of the person seeking to travel, bearing in mind the existing restrictions on International travel”.

Who can travel into India from abroad?

In addition to Indian nationals being allowed to travel on inbound flights operated either by Indian carriers or foreign carriers, certain categories of foreign nationals are also allowed to travel to India. Until recently, only certain holders of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards were allowed to enter India but the government has now allowed all OCI cardholders to arrive into India.

For other foreign nationals, the categories allowed to enter India include foreign businessmen coming to India on a business visa (other than on B-3 visa for sports); foreign healthcare professionals, health researchers, engineers and technicians for technical work at Indian health sector facilities, including laboratories and factories (subject to a letter of invitation from a recognised and registered healthcare facility, registered pharmaceutical company or accredited university in India); and foreign engineering, managerial, design or other specialists travelling to India on behalf of foreign business entities located in India (these include all manufacturing units, design units, software and IT units as well as financial sector companies, both banking and non-banking financial sector firms).


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