New Delhi: The government on Thursday decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic, tourist and medical categories, almost eight months after their suspension following the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent imposition of a nationwide lockdown.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also announced giving permission to all Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card holders and all other foreign nationals to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa.
The move will enable foreign nationals to come to India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies and research.
The ministry said in a statement that in view of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government had taken a series of steps to curtail the inward and outward movement of international passengers since February, 2020.
The government has now decided to make a graded relaxation in visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals and Indian nationals who wish to enter or leave India.
Under this graded relaxation, the government has decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic visa, tourist visa and medical visa, the statement said.
If the validity of such visas has expired, fresh visas of appropriate categories can be obtained from Indian mission or post concerned.
Foreign nationals intending to visit India for medical treatment can apply afresh for a medical visa, including for their medical attendants.
The government has also decided to permit all OCI and PIO card holders and all other foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa, to enter by air or water routes through authorised airports and seaport immigration check posts.
This includes flights operated under 'Vande Bharat' mission, air transport bubble arrangements or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
All such travellers will, however, have to strictly adhere to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare regarding quarantine and other health/COVID-19 matters.
While the restrictions on visas were imposed following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in February, commercial flight operations were suspended when the nationwide lockdown came into effect on March 25.
However, the government has been allowing limited operations of Air India flights under the 'Vande Bharat' mission for certain categories OCI and PIO card holders and those Indians who were stuck due to COVID-19 outbreak since June.
The number of coronavirus infections reported in a span of 24 hours remained below 60,000 for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday as India's caseload went past 77 lakh, while recoveries have crossed 68 lakh, according to data updated by the Union Health Ministry.
The active cases of coronavirus infection remained below eight lakh for the sixth consecutive day.