In a first step towards opening up of international travel, the Centre has revised visa and travel restrictions for Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders to visit the country.
Travel for OCI cardholders in four categories has been allowed. This includes minor children born to Indian nationals abroad; OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies like death in the family; couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national and they have a permanent residence in India; and university students who are OCI cardholders (not legally minors) but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.
In a fresh order issued on May 22, the Union home ministry said the travel restrictions imposed earlier this month would not be applicable to these categories who have been exempted for air, ship and train travel and also could travel by any other vehicle deployed for bringing them back to the country.
For now, the rest of the restrictions imposed on international travel will continue. However, government sources said this is the first step towards opening up of international travel and the COVID-19 health guidelines will continue to be applicable to all passengers.
To begin with, the visa relaxations have come for OCI cardholders, and gradually it can be expected that air travel will be opened up for other visa categories as well.
The visa restrictions imposed by India had come at a time when most countries had restricted international air travel. With countries coming out of the lockdown mode, the government is keeping a close watch on the developments internationally to ensure that its own strict visa regime does not become a roadblock in movement of travellers falling under various categories.
On May 5, the government had kept in abeyance visa free travel facility to OCI cardholders till prohibition on international travel of passengers to and from India is lifted. The international traffic through land borders was also restricted, and any foreign national, including OCI cardholders, were being asked to contact their nearest missions for a fresh visa in case they had compelling reasons to travel to India.
The latest move has come days after the government decided to open up domestic air travel from May 25 with one third of flights operating under strict rules.