India suspends tourist and OCI visas for a month

India suspends tourist and OCI visas for a month

Efforts to stop spread of COVID-19 after one man dies
Venkat Raman
Auckland, March 13, 2020

A group of students wearing protective masks at a railway station in Kochi, Kerala on March 10 (Reuters Picture by V Sivaram)

The Indian government has announced that all types of visas including those issued to ‘Overseas Citizens of India’ (OCI) will be suspended with effect from 1 pm New Zealand time tomorrow (Saturday, March 13, 2020), corresponding to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) 12 am.

However, those holding Indian passports, valid visas held for diplomats, government officials, representatives of the United Nations and its organisations and international bodies will be exempt from this suspension.

People holding employment and project visas will also be exempt and can travel to India.

However, everyone allowed into the country would be subject to a 14-day quarantine.

The notification followed rising concerns over the spread of new Coronavirus. A decision on the suspension of visas was taken at a meeting of ministers chaired by Federal Heath Minister Harsh Vardhan in the Capital yesterday (March 12, 2020).

One death in Karnataka

A Health Ministry official said in New Delhi that a 76-year-old man died of the disease in Kalburgi, in the Southern State of Karnataka. This was the first casualty related to COVID-19.

Karnataka State Health Minister B Sriramulu said that the man had returned from Saudi Arabia on February 29, 2020 after a month-long visit.

“He was screened at the airport on arrival but showed no symptoms. He had breathing difficulties on March 5, 2020 and was taken to the hospital immediately. We are trying to trace and isolate those who travelled with him,” Mr Sriramulu said.

Advice to foreigners

The Federal government notification said that visas of all foreigners already in India will remain valid and that they should contact the nearest office of the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) through e-FRRO module for extension or conversion of their visa or grant of any consular service if they choose to do so.

“Visa free travel facility granted to OCI card holders shall be kept in abeyance till April 15, 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13, 2020 at the port of departure of any foreigner for onward journey to India. Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reasons may contact the nearest Indian Mission for a fresh visa,” the notification said.

It is understood that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals arriving from any destination and having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany on or after February 15, 2020 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

This order will also come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13, 2020 at the port of departure of such travellers.

International traffic restricted

“International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated Immigration Check posts with robust medical screening facilities. These will be notified separately by Ministry of Home Affairs. In addition to the above visa restrictions the following travel advisory is hereby issued in accordance with instructions of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,” the notification said.

Indian nationals presently abroad are advised to avoid non-essential travel.

They are hereby informed that they can be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days on their arrival in India.

At the time of reporting, WHO said that there were 125,288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 4614 deaths spared across 118 countries.

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