COVID-19 is here to stay for at least the next 12 months. Our lives have been interrupted like never before. The people caught in the middle of closed borders are suffering the most.
As Europe closes its doors to the USA, the Government of India is working hard to clear the path for citizens and Overseas Citizens of India, Persons of Indian Origin to come home. Please see the answers to some of the most pressing questions.
Can I travel to India?
If you are an Indian
national stranded abroad, or an OCI Card holder under special circumstances, you may be eligible to travel via the Vande Bharat Mission.
Employment and Project visas are still being issued to travel to India. Other categories of visas including visa-free travel facility granted to OCI Card holders (except some cases, as stated below) stands suspended till further notice due to the Coronavirus epidemic.
E-visas for tourists are no longer being issued.
If you are a foreigner in India on a long term Visa, please reach out to your local FRRO. Visa services are being granted free on account of COVID-19.
Can I apply for an E -Visa to India?
E Tourist Visa has been suspended until further notice due to the Coronavirus pandemic. You can apply for a Business Visa, only if you are sponsored by your employee, are a diplomat, are on an important mission. Please see the circular from the Ministry of Health:
All existing Visas granted to Foreigners except to those belonging to Diplomatic, Official, UN/International organizations, Employment and Project categories shall remain suspended till prohibition on international travel of passengers from/to India is lifted by the Government of India.(Vide MHA OM No. 25022/24/2020-FV/FI(i) dated 5th May 2020).
I am an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India), Can I travel to India?
Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has relaxed Visa and Travel restrictions imposed in response to COVID -19, permitting certain categories of Overseas Citizen Of India (OCI) cardholders, who are stranded abroad, to come to India.
This information was released on 22 May 2020.
The following categories of OCI Cardholders stranded abroad have been permitted to come to India:
• Minor children born to Indian citizen parents residing abroad and holding OCI cards can accompany parents back to India.
• OCI cardholders who wish to visit India for emergencies like a bereavement.
• Couples where one spouse is an Indian citizen, the other is an OCI cardholder and they have a permanent residence in India.
• University students residing abroad who are OCI cardholders with Indian citizen parents living in India.
All other OCI Card holders are required to obtain fresh Indian visa from Mission/Post and allowed in India except from restricted countries.
All passengers coming from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom effective 12.00 GMT on March 18, 2020 (Port of Departure) and passengers coming from the Philippines, Malaysia and Afghanistan effective 15.00 IST on March 17, 2020 (Port of Departure).
Can I travel with my PIO (Person of Indian Origin) Card?
Ministry of Home Affairs has informed that the Bureau of Immigration (BoI) will accept all Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards (including handwritten PIO cards) as valid travel documents till December 31, 2021,(Updated Feb 10, 2021!) along with a valid foreign passport.
All Indian Immigration Check Post (s) will continue to consider PIO cards valid for exit from / entry into India till 31 December 2021 instead of the earlier circulated deadline i.e. 31st March 2020. (updated, Feb 10, 2021)
This extension of the timeline is subject to the condition that if in the meantime any deadline is notified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) thereby making handwritten PIO cards invalid, then PIO cardholders may have to obtain appropriate visa from Indian Missions / Posts.
All PIO cardholders are meanwhile advised to convert their PIO cards to OCI cards well in time.
(a) OCI card is a smart card
(b) Possession of an OCI card will facilitate quicker immigration clearance at Immigration Check Posts
(c) It will help in obtaining various Consular Services from Indian Missions/Posts
(d) For those who are resident in India, it will facilitate in availing various services in India. ·
The fee for conversion of PIO card to OCI card is $100. The fees for the issuance of fresh OCI cards will remain as $275. ·
Details regarding obtaining OCI in lieu of PIO card can be seen at on the Cox and Kings Website
Click here to view a copy of the Official Press Release about this.
Will I be quarantined if I travel to India?
Yes, you will be quarantined for 14 days in your home, if there are no persons above the age of 65 at your place of residence in India.
If senior citizens are present then you will be quarantined at a facility you can choose, this is provided by the Ministry of Health, you will bear the cost for this. In the South of India, some of the daily charges are about INR 5000 per night. You will have to arrange for your own food delivery.
The rooms are sanitized before your arrival and after your departure. By now the facilities have seen about 3 waves of check-ins and check-outs, so they are much more prepared for your stay, however, please note they are running on skeletal staff and your stay is not a regular stay at a hotel.
Here is the declaration travelers will be signing before they board a Vande Bharat Mission flight:
In the case of special flights arranged from the U.S. to India, I agree to:
Undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment-basis, on my arrival in India as per the protocols framed by the Government of India;
Bear the expenditure of travel and mandatory quarantine for self and family members;
Abide by the instructions and requirements as detailed by the crew of the flight/Embassy or Consulate/Government of India/ medical personnel before, during and after boarding of the flight, and also after disembarkation at the designated airport in India; and
Submit the undertaking as provided to authorized Embassy/ Consulate staff before boarding the flight.
Register on the Aarogya Setu App on reaching the destination.
How does an eligible OCI Card Holder travel to India?
VANDE BHARAT MISSION is the only way to purchase a ticket, at your cost and based on availability.
Here is the government advisory for Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders traveling to India by non-scheduled commercial flights
All OCI cardholders who satisfy the above conditions are requested to register themselves at this link on the Embassy of India, Washington DC [Registration link].
OCI cardholders who had registered earlier are also required to register online again to be considered for phase 4 of Vande Bharat Mission.
The OCI cardholders will not require any fresh emergency visa if they fall into one of the categories mentioned before.
In view of the limited number of seats and a large number of registrations, eligible OCI cardholders would be accommodated in the non-scheduled commercial flights on the basis of availability of seats.
The cost of travel from the designated airports in the USA to the designated airport in India will be borne by the passenger.
The Embassy/Consulates will share the details of passengers identified with Air India Offices that will contact them directly regarding booking of tickets and mode of payment. Refund or adjustments, if any, for previously booked tickets may be processed separately with Air India.
All passengers will be required to undergo medical screening before boarding the flight and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to travel.
All passengers on arrival in India will be medically screened and would have to download and register on Arogya Setu app.
All passengers will need to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival in India in institutional quarantine facilities on a payment basis as per the protocols framed by the Government of India.
COVID test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to applicable health protocols.
All passengers will have to follow the protocols and procedures including Health Protocols issued by the Government of the USA on departure and by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Civil Aviation and other concerned authorities of Government of India before, during the journey and on arrival in India.
All passengers will be required to sign an Indemnity Bond and Undertaking Form (Download Undertaking Form), which will be collected at the airport before boarding the flight.
What is the information needed for registration with the Indian Embassy in Washington DC?
This is the mandatory information, without which your application will be denied. It is best to get all travelers tested for COVID-19 and receive clearance before you apply for travel:
Applicant’s Name as in Passport First Name *
Last Name *
Date of Birth*
Contact No.in USA *
Present Residential Address in USA *
Zip Code *
Nationality of OCI Card Holder *
Reason (for travel to India) *
Present Residential Address in India *
Domicile State/ UT in India *
Pin Code *
Contact No. in India *
Where can I get the Vande Bharat Phase 4 flight schedule?
Please note: This is a dynamic list and is bound to undergo changes based on operational, technical, and other considerations. The list should not be considered as final and is only for the purpose of information. This list cannot be quoted for any legal claims. All visitors are advised to counter-check with Air India for confirmation of the flights, timings, dates, destinations, and other details.
Currently, a total of 1210 flights are scheduled from Bahrain, Oman, Frankfurt, USA, UAE, etc. About 215 are dedicated to transporting OCI and Indian citizens from the USA.
COVID-19 aka Coronavirus has shaken us, but we are a resilient people. With my own immediate family in India, I am waiting to ride it out till I get to travel to India from the USA and get an opportunity for a long, relaxed sabbatical with my parents and extended family.
How about you? Please don’t hesitate to ask questions and I will do my best to respond.
Watch this interview about “COVID Travel to Kerala” with India Tourism’s assistant director Ms. Sandhya Haridas here
P:S- I am still taking travel bookings for 2021 to India and Bali. Please reach out through my trip inquiry page.