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Travel to India during COVID-19: a guide for employers

Written by
Kochhar & Co., one of India's leading and largest full-service law firms.
Travel to India is currently subject to significant restrictions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article provides details of the rules now in force.

This article has been updated based on the available information until 20 February 2021. As Government notifications are constantly revised, it is advisable to consult your attorney or visit the website of the relevant Government agency prior to travelling. Further, in addition to the guidelines published by the Central Government, passengers are also requested to refer to State specific official websites for information on any additional requirements. 

The Ministry Health of Family & Welfare in consultation with the Ministry of Civil Aviation has constantly reviewed the situation to control inward traffic to India by international travellers to minimise the risk of importation of COVID-19 variants. In view of this, the authorities have periodically issued various guidelines with respect to pre-travel and quarantine requirements which must be adhered to by airlines as well as travellers coming to India. These requirements may also differ based on the point of embarkation of the individual. 

Who is permitted to travel to India?

Presently, the following categories of individuals are permitted to enter the country: 

  • All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders and PIO cardholders holding passports of any country.
  • All foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose (including their dependents on a dependent visa), except those on Tourist Visas.
  • All existing visas, except electronic visas (e-Visa), Tourist visas and Medical Visas, which remained suspended, shall stand restored with immediate effect. If the validity of visa has expired, the foreign national may obtain a fresh visa of the appropriate category/sub-category from the Indian Mission/Post concerned.
  • Ifforeign nationals not covered by categories mentioned in the first bullet above need to visit India urgently due to any family emergency, the Indian Missions/Posts are authorised to issue single entry X-Misc visa for the appropriate period. 


Travel Requirements

Due to the numerous COVID-19 variants present in the UK, Europe and the Middle East, the authorities have prescribed additional guidelines for international travellers coming to India from these destinations. In view of the same, the obligations (pre- travel and post arrival) to be undertaken by each traveler, have been divided into the below categories:  

  • Category AAll international travellers except travellers coming through flights originating from the UK, Europe and Middle East; and 
  • Category BAll international travellers coming/transiting through flights originating from the UK, Europe and Middle East. 


These guidelines are in effect from 23 February 2021 until further notification by the requisite authority.  

A. All international travellers except travellers coming through flights originating from the UK, Europe and the Middle East

1. Pre-travel requirements  

Prior to boarding the flight, All travellers must upload the following documents on the Air Suvidha portal: 

  • A self-declaration form (SDF) in the format as provided on the portal. Kindly also carry a printed copy of the said declaration while travelling;  
  • a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report. This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey. Further, a copy of the said report must also be carried in person;  
  • a declaration with respect to authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution, if found otherwise; and  
  • an undertaking on the portal or otherwise to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt. of India, through concerned airlines that they would abide by the decision of the appropriate government authority to undergo home quarantine/ self-monitoring of their health for 14 days, or as warranted, if required. 


All passengers are advised to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices. 

Travel to India without negative COVID-19 test report is only allowed for those traveling because of a death in the family. In the event such an exemption is sought by an individual, s/he must apply on the online portal at least 72 hours before boarding. These passengers will be tested upon arrival at the India airport.  

2. On arrival 

All travellers are required to adhere to the following protocol upon arrival:  

  • The SDF filled online must be shown to the airport health staff. 
  • passengers found to be symptomatic during temperature screening will be immediately isolated and taken to medical facility as per the prescribed guidelines. 
  • Passengers who have uploaded RT-PCR negative test certificates on the Air Suvidha app may exit the airport or take transit flights. However, these passengers are required to self-monitor their health for 14 days. In the event any passenger develops symptoms of COVID-19, s/he must inform the requisite State/National Call Centers. 

B. All international travellers coming from/transiting through flights originating from UK, Europe and the Middle East

In addition to all the obligations described in Part A above, the heightened measures described below with respect to testing, quarantine and isolation also apply to passengers coming from/transiting through flights originating from the UK, Europe and the Middle East.  

While filling the SDF, apart from providing all other information, required passengers are required to communicate whether they plan to disembark at the arrival airport or take further flights to reach their final destination in India. 

Mandatory RT-PCR test at the arrival airport 

All travellers arriving from/transiting through flights originating in the UK, Europe or the Middle East are subject to mandatory self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival at Indian airports. Certain airports also offer booking of the test on the online portal.  

Transit Passengers  

  • Ithe passenger is in transit, the SDF receipt (as received from the online portal) will display T (Transit) in easily readable and bigger font than other text. This receipt must be displayed to the State authority and/or Government officials at the airport upon arrival. 
  • Passengers should keep a minimum transit time of six to eight hours at the entry airport (in India) while booking connecting flights to undertake the mandatory molecular test. Passengers will only be permitted to exit the designated area after confirmation of a negative test result. 
  • If tested negative: transit travellers from UK, Brazil and South Africa who are found negative on testing at the airport will be allowed to take their connecting flights and would be advised to quarantine at home for seven days. They will be regularly followed up by the relevant State/District Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP). These travellers will be tested after seven days and if negative, released from quarantine. They must continue to monitor their health for a further seven days. 
  • If tested positive: All passengers who test positive must undergo the procedure detailed below. 


Exiting Passengers  

All travellers from the UK, Brazil and South Africa exiting at the arrival airport in India are required to undergo the following procedure with respect to testing and quarantine: 

  • Travellers must give their sample in the designated area and exit the airport. This will be followed up by the IDSP. 
  • The relevant State authorities/airport operators will collect and convey the test report to the traveller. 
  • If tested negative: If a passenger tests negative, s/he must remain in home quarantine for seven days and is regularly followed up by the relevant State/District IDSP. These passengers are tested again after seven days and if negative, released from quarantine. However, they are required to continue to monitor their health for a further esven days. 
  • If tested Positive: All the passengers who test positive must undergo the procedure as detailed below. 


All travellers from Europe and Middle East (other than those on flights originating from Brazil, South Africa and United Kingdom) who have to exit the destination airport must follow the following protocol:   

  • Travellers must give their sample in the designated area and exit the airport. Iwill be followed up by the IDSP. 
  • The relevant State authorities/airport operators will collect and convey the test report to the traveller.
  • If tested negative: If a passenger tests negative, s/he must self-monitor their health for 14 days. 
  • If tested positive: All the passengers who test positive must undergo the procedure detailed below. 

Procedure for travellers from Brazil, South Africa and United Kingdom Testing Positive

  • Travellers coming from Brazil, South Africa and United Kingdom who test positive either at the airport; or subsequently during home quarantine period must be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate isolation unit coordinated by the appropriate State Health Authorities.  
  • If the report of the testing conducting in the isolation facility is consistent with the current SARS-CoV-2 virus genome circulating in the country; the ongoing treatment protocol including home isolation/treatment at facility level as per case severity may be followed. 
  • However, if the test indicates the presence of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 then the patient will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit. While necessary treatment as per the existing protocol will be given, the patient will be tested on the 14th day, after having tested positive in the initial test. The patient will be kept in the isolation facility until his or her sample is tested negative. 
  • All the contacts of travellers arriving from UK, South Africa and Brazil who consequently test positive will also be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centers and would be tested on the seventh day (or earlier if they develop symptoms. 

International travellers on short stay

International travellers (covered under Part A or Part B) travelling to India for a short stay (less than 14 days) and who have tested negative and remain symptom free, must undergo all the procedures described above.  

Prior to departing from India, these travellers would be required to communicate their District/State health authorities and their departure wilbe subject to them fulfilling any requirements imposed by the airlines and the destination country. 

Vijay Ravi
Vijay Ravi
Senior Partner - India
Kochhar & Co.
Sabrina Sawhney
Kochhar & Co.