India has announced that it will start issuing tourist visas to foreign visitors, lifting a travel ban that has been in effect for over a year.
International tourists on charter flights will be able to visit Asia’s third-largest country from October 15, 2021.
Tourist visas for India will once again be available to foreign nationals from this date.
This move is expected to be a huge boost for India’s tourism industry, which has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one of the most important sectors in the country’s economy.
India is the latest country to announce the reopening of its borders to tourists as the COVID-19 situation improves. Cases continue to fall in India as well as in many other countries around the world.
After being hit hard by the pandemic, international travelers will finally be able to visit India with a tourist visa in the final part of 2021 and into 2022.
The Return of Tourist Visas for India
India stopped issuing tourist visas early in the pandemic. This was one of many COVID-19 travel restrictions put in place to control the spread of the virus.
Tourist visas already issued were also suspended, meaning that holders could not use them to enter India.
Since the country experienced a huge spike of cases in May 2021, the situation has been improving. India has already lifted restrictions on many visa categories.
For example, foreign nationals have been able to apply for business visas and medical visas through India’s online visa service.
However, tourist visas have remained suspended even as most economic activities in the country resumed.
Finally, Indian tourist visas are set to become available again to certain travelers from mid-October 2021. This marks the first time foreign nationals have been able to visit the country as a tourist since March 2020, when the first COVID-19 lockdown began.
When Can Tourists Travel to India?
According to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), foreign visitors will be granted tourist visas and will be allowed to enter the country from October or November, 2021, depending on the type of flight they arrive on.
The earliest that foreign tourists can get a visa to travel to India will be October 15, 2021.
This will only apply to those arriving on a charter flight.
Foreign passengers arriving on general commercial flights will be able to get an Indian tourist visa from November 15, 2021.
The MHA released the following statement:
“After considering various inputs, the MHA has decided to begin granting fresh Tourist Visas for foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from October 15, 2021.
“Foreign tourists traveling to India by flights other than chartered aircraft would be able to do so with effect from November 15.”
COVID-19 Protocols for Visiting India with a Tourist Visa
Although India is preparing to open its borders to visitors with a tourist visa, there are still a number of COVID-19 regulations in place. Travelers should be aware of these and stick to the rules.
The entry requirements may include the following:
- Complete a declaration form
- Test negative before traveling
- Take a test on arrival
- Quarantine for a certain amount of time after arriving in India
It is currently unknown whether arrivals from certain countries will continue to be banned. Similarly, it is unclear whether there will be a requirement to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
There are currently no vaccination requirements to enter India. However, the entry restrictions are updated regularly and may change later in October and/or in November when tourist visas become available.
It is advisable to check the exact requirements for entry before setting off for India.
The MHA said all COVID-19 protocols “should be adhered to by the foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India and all other stakeholders at landing stations”.
Boost for Indian Tourism Sector as Foreign Visitors Return
The decision to restart tourist visas has been welcomed by many in the tourism industry — a key part of India’s economy.
Nearly 11 million tourists came to India’s shores in 2019, according to government statistics.
The pandemic has seen this number fall substantially, with dire consequences for India’s tourism sector and economy at large.
This is one of the main reasons behind the move to reopen the borders to tourists from mid-October. It is thought that pressure from state governments and various stakeholders in the tourism industry has led to the Indian government’s decision to relaunch tourist visas.
India’s visa policy may be updated further in the future, depending on how the pandemic progresses.