Coronavirus: Govt suspends all visas till lockdown, bars travel by OCI card-holders

The government Tuesday suspended all visas granted to foreign nationals, barring a few categories, till flight operations remain shut owing to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

All existing visas granted to foreigners — except those belonging to diplomatic, official, UN international organisations, employment and project categories — shall remain suspended till prohibition on international air travel of passengers from and to India is lifted by the government, an order by the Ministry of Home Affairs read.

The ministry also said it has kept in abeyance multiple-entry life-long visas given to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders till international travel remains suspended. However, the OCI card holders who are already in India can stay in the country for “any length of time”, it said.

In a separate order, the Centre also extended on ‘gratis’ basis the visas of foreigners stranded in India due the lockdown for a period of 30 days beyond opening of international travel in the country.

All commercial flights, international and domestic have been suspended in the country since March 24 when the initial lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Air and rail services continue to remain suspended with the extension of the lockdown on April 14 and May 2, till May 17.

Regular visa, e-visa or stay stipulation of foreign nationals whose visas have expired post-midnight February 1 or would expire during the ban on international air travel from India would be extended on ‘GRATIS’ basis just on submission of an online application.

Such extensions would be for a period up to 30 days from the date of lifting of prohibition on international air travel without any overstay penalty, it said. Exit to such foreign nationals, if so requested by them, will also be granted on the same lines, it said.

All foreign visas were first suspended on March 11, the day the World Health Organisation first categorised COVID-19 a global pandemic. The country’s borders has essentially been closed since then, barring essential transportation of goods and evacuation of stranded citizens abroad.

In one of the largest evacuation exercises, named “Vande Bharat Mission”, the government will operate 64 flights from May 7 to 13 to bring home nearly 14,800 Indian nationals stranded abroad due to the coronavirus lockdown.

As many as 3,900 new COVID-19 cases and 195 fatalities were reported in the last 24 hours in the country, the biggest spike in a single day. The total number of cases now stand at 46,433 including 1,568 deaths and 13,160 recoveries.

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