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INDIA – US and Indian Immigration Update Following Total Lockdown

24 Mar

Effective midnight on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a 21-day lockdown requiring all 1.3 billion people estimated to reside in India to stay inside their homes.  Indian authorities had already grounded all domestic flights beginning the day before on Monday, March 23, 2020.

Below please find more information on the U.S. and Indian immigration implications of recent developments and this lockdown in response to the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic in India. 

U.S. Immigration Implications

Since March 16, 2020, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India had cancelled routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments and suspended processing of 221g refusals, also known as “administrative processing,” and has not provided a date for when processing may be resumed.  Since March 20, 2020, interview waiver via “dropbox” and biometrics appointments were also cancelled.  Emergency appointments may be available for true life-and-death emergencies. 

The U.S. Department of State on March 19, 2020, issued a global Level 4 health advisory recommending U.S. citizens to “avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.  In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.” U.S. Citizen Services may remain open for emergency passport and travel document applications for U.S. citizens and permanent residents needing to return home. 

More information may be found on the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India website here

Indian Immigration Update

A. Travel Restrictions and Quarantine Procedures for India

Prior to the lockdown announcement, the following travel restrictions had already been put in place by Indian governmental authorities: 

  1. From March 22-28, no scheduled international commercial aircraft allowed to depart from any foreign airport to India; 
  2. From March 23-29, no incoming scheduled international aircraft allowed to land and disembark its passengers in India; and, 
  3. From March 18-31, a travel ban prohibiting travel to India by non-Indian citizens as well as Indian citizens residing in the following countries:
    • Afghanistan
    • European Union Member States; 
    • European Free Trade Association Member Countries, specifically Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Ireland; 
    • Malaysia;
    • The Philippines; 
    • Turkey; and,
    • The United Kingdom

All non-Indian citizens traveling to India may be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days upon their arrival to India. All incoming travelers including Indian citizens who are arriving from or who have visited China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain, or Germany after February 15, 2020 may be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days upon arrival. 

B. Visa Restrictions for India

From March 23, 2020 – April 15, 2020, all Indian visa services, except for in-country registration, visa extension and other visa related formalities were suspended until April 15, 2020. India also temporarily suspended the visa-on-arrival facility for Japanese and South Korean citizens. 

The Indian Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRROs) and Foreigners Registration Offices (FROs) have been authorized to temporarily provide essential consular services for foreign nationals who are currently unable to leave the country due to travel restrictions.  Consular processed visas, electronic visas (e-visas) or stipulations of stay endorsed on the visas of all foreign nationals, which have expired or are set to expire during the period from March 13, 2020 (midnight) to April 15, 2020 (midnight), may be extended until April 15, 2020 (midnight) without a government filing fee by online application by the foreign national on the e-FRRO portal.  Foreign nationals whose visas have expired and who have made an application. 

Non-Indian citizens are not permitted to visit the FRRO or FRO without a prior appointment with regard to in-country Registrations, Visa Extensions, Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) applications and other visa related services.  OCI cardholders in India are in valid status, but OCI visa free travel facility typically granted to OCI will be suspended and cardholders who are outside India cannot travel to India until at least April 15, 2020. 

Since March 13, 2020, all existing visas other than diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment (and project) visas have been suspended until April 15, 2020. 

All employment visa holders and their dependents who are currently in India on their employment and dependent visas, respectively, also remain in valid status. However, if a dependent of an employment visa holder is not presently in India, their visa may be suspended until April 15, 2020. Visas of all foreign nationals who are already in India remain valid until their expiration date. 

Foster will continue to monitor developments in India arising from the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic and will make future updates available in Immigration Updates© and on our website at www.fosterglobal.com