India Travel Update
As India is in the midst of a second and sweeping COVID-19 wave, scheduled international commercial passenger services remain closed. However, international scheduled flights are permitted on select routes on a case-by-case basis. India has established “air transport bubble” arrangements with certain countries (such as the U.S., France, Canada amongst others) by which the air carriers of these countries can operate a certain number of international flights.
While the normal processing of Indian visa services continues to remain suspended until further notice, the Indian Consulates are considering new employment or business visa applications on a case-by-case basis.
According to the latest guidelines issued by the Government of India, all international travelers must submit a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test report on arrival to India:
- This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.
- The test report along with a self-declaration form should also be uploaded to the online portal.
Travel history of passengers from the UK, Europe and the Middle East will be taken for the last 14 days. Such passengers will be required to undergo a self-paid confirmatory molecular test upon arrival.
All travelers from the UK, Brazil and South Africa (who have tested negative) must undergo home quarantine for a period of 7 days. Such passengers will be tested after a period of 7 days once again and if found negative, will be released from quarantine but must continue to monitor their health for a further period of 7 days.
The individual states in India impose their own protocols regarding quarantine and isolation and hence it is important that all travelers verify the travel requirements with the government sources and airline carriers prior to departure.
Document Legalization Update
Last year while India was in total a lockdown, to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Government of India had temporarily suspended all legalization services as the government offices remained closed.
It was only in the latter half of 2020 that the government offices resumed functioning albeit with minimum staff. Since legalization services were not considered essential and with the backlog of matters, the offices were not accepting any applications for legalization, apostille or birth record searches. It is only since January 2021, that the government offices have been accepting applications for legalization in certain jurisdictions and that to sporadically.
Consular Services Update for UK and Some EU Countries
In view of the ongoing COVID-19 related safety measures, many countries have issued detailed travel advisories/travel restrictions. While Visa Application Centers in some countries have yet not become operational completely, the British High Commission in India is accepting visa applications for work and business categories.
UK Visa Application Centers in India are operational and accepting visa applications. Appointments are readily available for work visas and visas required for urgent business travel and usual visa processing timelines are applicable. The British High Commission has reinstated the “Priority Visa Service” but not the Super Priority Service.
However, applicants upon entering the UK from India are required to either quarantine in the place that they will be staying at or in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days because of coronavirus (COVID-19). They are also required to get coronavirus tests done upon arriving in the UK which need to be booked prior to the travel.
As for the Schengen area/European countries, travel bans are being extended and border control measures are being tightened which makes obtaining visas for certain countries next to impossible. Set out below are few illustrations of how visa applications are being handled at different European country visa application centers in India.
Visa Application Centers for Greece in New Delhi and in Mumbai are accepting applications for specific purposes of travel. To name a few: Spouse and/or children of Greek/ EU/ Schengen area citizens, permanent residents in Greece/ the EU/ the Schengen area, Members of Diplomatic/ Consular Missions, emergency cases for “C” type Visa/ essential business or family emergency cases. Due to the impact of COVID-19 and following the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ latest instructions, the issuance of Schengen “C” type Visas is very limited and only for essential travelers. Additionally, until further notice National “D” Visas applications for Family Reunification and Employment are not being accepted.
While the France Visa Application Center in Mumbai is operational only on Mondays and Wednesdays with prior appointments (which are sparingly available). The Consulate General of France in Bangalore and Hyderabad are accepting visa applications only for certain categories, namely: Spouse/Partner of French/EU citizen, applicants for long-stay Family Reunion visa (only after prior permission to apply from the Consulate General of France) health professionals, students, foreign nationals working for diplomatic or consular missions, or an international organization with its headquarters or an office in France and intra-company transfer workers and their dependent applicants.
With effect from March 1, 2021, the Poland Visa Application Centers in India offer appointments for certain work visa categories upon prior online prepayment of the relevant service fee. All national work visa applicants are required to procure a letter from the employer confirming the willingness to still employ the applicant especially for those work permits which have been issued more than 3 months prior the date of the visa appointment.
At present, nationals of non-European countries (i.e. third country nationals) are only allowed to enter Italy for essential purposes such as work reasons, absolute urgency, health reasons, study, and domicile or residence. The Italian authorities have also reopened several visa application centers with either partial or full services. In India, the Visa Application Center in Mumbai is accepting a limited number of short and long stay category applications, whereas the Center in New Delhi is accepting re-entry visa applications, with operating hours from 10 am to 2 pm IST.