Foreign nationals will be able to apply for a visa for the first time since March 2020, when the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a strict lockdown in response to the pandemic.
“After considering various contributions, the MHA (Ministry of Interior) has decided to start granting new tourist visas to foreigners coming to India via chartered flights from October 15, 2021,” the Ministry of the Interior said on Thursday. ‘Interior in a press release.
He added that foreigners traveling to India via commercial flights will be able to enter with new tourist visas from November 15, 2021.
Tourism is an important sector for Asia’s third-largest economy, with the country recording 10.93 million tourist arrivals in 2019, according to government figures.
Restrictions on most categories of foreign visas, such as diplomats and businessmen, had been gradually lifted, but tourists remained banned even as most economic activities resumed.
The country of 1.3 billion people has been hit by a severe wave of coronavirus infections this year, with around 4,000 daily deaths recorded in May.
The spike was blamed on new variants of the virus and the government allowing major sporting events and celebrations for religious holidays.
Cases have since slowed sharply to around 20,000 new daily infections and 200 to 300 deaths in recent weeks.
The Home Office said all COVID-19 protocols “should be followed by foreign tourists, carriers bringing them to India and all other stakeholders at landing stations.”
The vast majority of Indians have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca vaccines made in India, which were produced by the Serum Institute of India. Others received COVAXIN, a vaccine produced by an Indian company.
Earlier this month, India announced that fully vaccinated British nationals arriving in India would be subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine, in response to similar measures imposed by the UK on Indian nationals.
The UK has not recognized the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield. India called the decision “discriminatory” and imposed restrictions on all British arrivals, regardless of their vaccination status.