Tourist visas to be issued from October 15: MHA
The Indian government will be issuing tourist visas once again from October 15, eighteen months after suspending them because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ministry of home affairs said in a statement on Thursday.
Initially, for a month, the tourists will be issued visas only for travel in chartered flights. From November 15, tourists could travel via non-chartered flights, particularly those run as part of Vande Bharat Mission or under ‘air bubble’ arrangements with different countries, MHA said.
“Once the demand for tourist visas picks up, regular commercial flights will also start operating,” said a senior ministry official not wishing to be named.
MHA said in a statement that it had received a lot of requests from various state governments as well as stakeholders in the tourism sector to allow foreign tourists to come again. The ministry then consulted the ministries of health, external affairs, civil aviation, tourism, and the state governments.
“After consulting various inputs, the MHA has decided to begin granting fresh tourist visas for foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from October 15. Foreign tourists entering into India by flights other than chartered aircraft would be able to do so from November 15 on fresh tourist visas,” the statement read.
The government added that the visiting tourists, carriers bringing them to India, and all other stakeholders at landing stations will have to adhere to the ever-evolving Covid-19 guidelines issued by the ministry of health and family welfare.
Following the first wave of infections in March last year, the issue of tourist visas to foreigners was stopped. But later (when), foreign travellers were allowed to enter India on visas other than the tourist visa.
Now, with Covid-19 cases plateauing, and 64.5% of the eligible population being inoculated with both doses of the vaccine, the international tourism industry in India can resume.
Last month, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant wrote to MHA and MEA to grant special permission to allow chartered flights into the state. “Goa is ready to start tourism and is open to welcome tourists. I think ours is the first state to welcome tourists during the pandemic,” Sawant said.
Goa, Lakshadweep, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Sikkim have inoculated 100% of their populations with the first dose, said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary of the health ministry.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an interaction with Goa’s political leaders and health workers last month, had said the Centre has decided to give 500,000 tourists free visas. “Travel and tourism stakeholders will be given loans of up to ₹10 lakh with a 100% guarantee by the government. Tourist guides are being given the facility of taking a loan of up to ₹1 lakh,” Modi had said.
Prior to the pandemic, Goa witnessed close to 90 lakh tourists, including around 9 lakh foreigners, directly contributing 16.43% towards the state’s gross domestic product, and employing nearly 35% of the state’s population, according to official estimates.