India has suspended visas for most foreign nationals traveling to the country due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
However, for overseas visitors already in the country, it is possible to extend an existing visa until April 15.
With COVID-19 having spread to many countries around the world, India announced that all visas would be temporarily suspended from March 13, 2020. The only exceptions would be for special cases, such as diplomats, representatives of the United Nations (UN) or certain other international organizations, and other official visits.
However, for those foreign nationals who are already in India, the opposite is true. The Indian government announced that they would be able to extend or renew their visas to allow them to stay in the country and avoid traveling.
Indian visas and e-Visas may be extended up to midnight on April 15 for overseas travelers who are currently in the country.
Why Has India Offered to Extend Visas to Foreigners Already in the Country?
There are a sizeable number of foreign nationals currently in India, many of whom are unable to leave the country due to travel restrictions introduced thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019, is now present in the majority of countries around the globe, and the number of cases continues to rise. Many sovereign states, including India, have implemented travel restrictions in an effort to control the spread of the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO), along with many leading scientists and world governments, advise against travel unless absolutely necessary until such a time as the COVID-19 outbreak is under control.
Rather than force foreign nationals to leave the country, India is ensuring that the essential consular services are available to extend their visas, allowing them to stay and avoid traveling.
Electronic visas (eVisas) for India may be extended in addition to consular visas.
If a visitor from overseas must remain in India after their visa has expired, they will be able to apply for a new one from within the country and will not receive a penalty for overstaying their visa.
Those whose visas are set to expire may request an extension up to April 15.
It is unknown whether this will be extended further if the crisis has not abated by this date. Travelers are advised to consult worldwide visa information for updates as the situation develops.
Visa Suspension for Foreign Travelers Outside India
On March 13, 2020, India suspended visas for the majority of foreign nationals, excluding those already in the country. Only certain exceptions, such as officials and diplomats, are permitted to enter the South Asian state at present.
The suspension of visas for India will remain in effect until April 15 at the earliest, although this date may be pushed back even further.
With no valid visas to allow entry to the country, the majority of overseas travelers are currently unable to visit India. This will continue to be the case until the suspension is lifted.
Following a meeting between Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and several Union Ministers at Nirmal Bhawan, a press release stated:
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International organisations, employment and project visas stand suspended till 15th April 2020. This will come into effect from 12:00 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure.”
On top of this, Indian nationals living abroad who hold an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Card are temporarily unable to travel to the country visa-free and will be unable to do so until at least April 15.
A foreign national who has a compelling reason to travel to India may contact their nearest Indian diplomatic mission (i.e. embassy or consulate) to make their case.
Special consideration may be granted, depending on the reason for travel, providing the individual meets normal India visa requirements.