OCI card holders from UK, US, Germany and France allowed to visit India using repatriation flights
NEW DELHI Aug 8: The Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday allowed Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders from countries with which India has signed 'air bubble' arrangements to visit India. The US, UK, Germany and France are among these countries. Other foreigners from these countries have also been allowed to avail Indian visa facility for business, medical and employment purposes. "The Ministry of Home Affairs has permitted OCI cardholders to enter India who belong to countries with which "air bubble" arrangements have been finalised by Ministry of Civil Aviation," Ministry of Home Affairs said in a tweet. The ministry said that other foreigners from these countries are also allowed to avail Indian visa facility for business, medical and employment purposes. "Other foreigners from these countries have also been allowed to avail Indian visa facility for business, medical and employment purposes. Indian citizens have also been allowed to travel to such countries on any type of visa," it said in a series of tweets. On 31 July, India further extended suspension on international commercial passenger flights till 31 August due to Covid-19 in the country, said Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). However, the government has allowed gradual movement of passenger traffic via 'Transport Bubble' agreements that have been signed with USA, France, and Germany and United Kingdom. Moreover, the Ministry of Health & Welfare Organisation on Sunday issued revised guidelines for international flight passengers who were arriving in India. The fresh orders will come into effect from 8 August 2020. Under the new guidelines, all travellers should submit self-declaration form on the online portal (www.newdelhiairport.in) at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel. They should also give an undertaking on the portal that they would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days i.e. 7 days paid institutional quarantine at their own cost, followed by 7 days isolation at home with self-monitoring of health, the order stated. Only for compelling reasons/ cases of human distress such as pregnancy, death in family, serious illness and parent(s) with children of the age of 10 years or below, home quarantine may be permitted for 14 days. Travellers may also seek exemption from institutional quarantine by submitting a negative RTPCR test report on arrival. This test should have been conducted within 96 hours prior to undertaking the journey. The test report should be uploaded on the portal for consideration, the order stated. The OCI card, which allows lifelong visa free travel to India with certain limitations to people of Indian-origin, was suspended by the Indian government on April 11 amidst a nationwide lockdown and travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The sudden decision had created chaos and anxiety among the hundreds and thousands of Indian-origin people. A large number of them had taken to the social media platforms like Twitter to vent out their anger. The travel restrictions on those having OCI cards were subsequently relaxed, which so far has been mainly in the emergency categories, those travelling for work or minors with OCI card holders whose parents are Indian citizens. Social activist Prem Bhandari, who has been taking up the cause of OCI card holders for the past several years, said that abruptly banning OCI card holders, even due to a pandemic, resulted in a lot of heartburn among the Indian-origin people. Bhandari said:“We welcome the decision of the Indian government on the OCI card holders from the US, the UK, Germany and France. This was long due. This decision and creation of an air bubble with these countries would end unnecessary harassment of thousands of Indian-origin people from these countries.” “If we cannot take shelter in India during a crisis like this, who else will help us?” he asked. Over the past few months, Bhandari, who heads Jaipur Foot USA, has been leading efforts on behalf of the Indian-American OCI card holders to lift travel restrictions. Bhandari said that he spoke with senior Indian officials, including Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla. In its notification, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it has further considered the need for visa relaxation and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals who want to travel to India and Indian nationals intending to visit other countries in the context of the air bubble scheme. Indian missions of these countries with whom the air bubble arrangement is in place will grant appropriate visa, provided papers of the applicants are in order and there is no adverse input about them. “We welcome the relieving news that the government of India has uplifted the travel sanction on OCI card holders. While being thankful, we urge the government of India to consider the OCI card holder community in virtually the same ballpark with nearly the same extended privileges as those extended to NRIs and Indian citizens,” said Ankur Vaidya, Chairman of the Federation of Indian-Associations.