The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on May 24 issued a Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for the movement of Indian Nationals stranded outside the country as well as for those stranded in India who are desirous to travel abroad for urgent reasons. This order is in supersession of MHA order, dated Mat 5, on the same subject. These SOPs would also apply to passengers arriving through the land borders.
In order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel of passengers has been prohibited under lockdown measures imposed on March 24. As per information with the Home Ministry, many Indian nationals who had traveled to different countries before the lockdown, on various purposes such as employment, studies/internships, tourism, business, etc, are stranded abroad. Due to their prolonged stay abroad, they are facing distress and are desirous of returning to India urgently. Apart from the above cases, other Indian Nationals need to visit India for medical emergencies or the death of a family member. There are also many people stranded in India, who desire to travel abroad urgently for various purposes. The Government is proactively working to meet these requests.
Travel of Indian Nationals stranded abroad
- Priority will be given to compelling cases in distress, including migrant workers/labourers who have been laid off, short term visa holders faced with the expiry of visas, people with medical emergency/pregnant women/elderly, those who have a death in the family, and students.
- Such people would have to register themselves with the Indian Missions in the country where they are stranded, with necessary details as prescribed by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
- They would travel to India by non scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) and ships as allowed by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA)/ Ministry of Shipping (MOS).
- The cost of travel would be borne by travelers. Further, only those who are asymptomatic would be allowed to travel to India.
- MEA would prepare flight/ship wise database of all such travelers, including relevant details, and share with the respective State/UT in advance. MEA would designate their State/UT wise nodal officers, who would co-ordinate with the nodal officers designated by the respective States/UTs.
- The schedule (day, place, and time of arrival) of the incoming flight/ ship would be displayed by MEA on their online digital platform, on at least two days’ notice.
- The Guidelines for international arrivals, including for quarantine arrangements, issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) can be found here.
- According to Health Ministry guidelines, before boarding all travelers would have to give an undertaking that they would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days – self-paid seven-day institutional quarantine, followed by seven-day isolation at home.
People stranded in India willing to go abroad
- They would have to apply to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) or to any agency designated by the MoCA for this purpose, along with necessary details, including the places of departure and arrival, as prescribed by the MoCA.
- The travel from India would be on non-scheduled commercial flights that have been allowed by the MoCA for bringing back stranded Indian Nationals from abroad. The cost of travel would have to be borne by travelers.
- Travel to destination countries would be allowed for those who are citizens of that country; who hold visas of at least one-year duration of that country; and green card or OCI cardholder.
- In cases of medical emergency or death in the family, Indian Nationals holding a six-month visa can also be allowed. Before the tickets of such persons are confirmed, MoCA will ensure that the destination country allows entry of such persons in that country.
- Indian seafarers/ crew seeking to accept contracts to serve on vessels abroad can travel on the non-scheduled commercial flights departing from India under the Vande Bharat Mission or other flights arranged by their employers, subject to clearance given by the Ministry of Shipping.
- At the time of boarding the flight, MoCA will ensure that all travelers undergo thermal screening as per health protocol. Only asymptomatic travelers would be allowed to board the flight.
- On the flight, required precautions such as wearing masks, environmental hygiene, respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene, etc, would have to be observed by everyone on board.
More instructions can be found here.