India may start issuing tourist visas only to vaccinated travellers after 1.5 years of suspension
With the daily cases of Covid nosediving and the vaccination gathering pace, the Centre is considering to resume issuing tourist visas soon, but only to vaccinated individuals., news agency ANI reported. The Centre stopped issuing tourist visas in March 2020, when the nationwide lockdown was announced. As the situation improved, the government made some relaxations in the visa rules but it never resumed issuing tourist visas. Now the proposal is being considered as it will also open an avenue to boost the economy.
A senior MHA official confirmed to ANI that things have been formalised and a meeting has been called in the home ministry that will be chaired by the home secretary on Thursday to discuss plans to resume tourist visas.
In October 2020, the home ministry permitted all OCI and PIO cardholders to visit India for any purpose except on a tourist visa.
The official said that it will be done in a phased manner and as per the feasibility, it will be open to all those who are vaccinated. With this, the Centre may come up with a list of international vaccines which will be approved in India.
Before the suspension of tourist visas, around 7-8 lakh tourists used to come to India every month. Several countries have resumed issuing tourist visas, though negative RT-PCR tests remain the criteria for international travel as the proposal of a vaccine passport did not receive any unanimous support from the countries.
The issue of vaccine restrictions stipulated by some European Union countries posed a challenge to Indian travellers which was taken up by the highest level of the external affairs ministry and India raised the issue in diplomatic channels making it clear that if countries do not recognise vaccines being administered in India, India too will impose similar restrictions on people coming from other countries.
(With agency inputs)