The Centre on Wednesday eased visa restrictions for some categories of foreigners and said healthcare professionals and engineers will now be allowed entry to India as part of “Unlock 1” of a three-phase plan to lift the nationwide lockdown. India banned entry to foreigners on March 22 to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the revised rules, people engaged in business who want to travel to India on a business visa in a non-scheduled airline or a chartered flight, will be allowed to do so. The government has also eased restrictions on health researchers and technicians visiting the country to work with Indian sector facilities. Managerial, design or other specialists coming on behalf of a foreign firm located in India can now apply for a visa too.

For technical specialists who want to visit for installation, repair and maintenance of foreign-origin machinery and equipment, the government said they will be allowed to come if they have an invitation from a registered Indian firm.

However, all foreign citizens will have to obtain a fresh business visa or an employment visa. The Ministry of Home Affairs added that restrictions imposed via an earlier order “would not apply to any aircraft, ship, train or any other vehicle” by which any of the foreign visitors mentioned in the list may travel to India.

India extended its coronavirus lockdown until June 30 in high-risk zones but permitted restaurants, malls and religious buildings to reopen elsewhere from June 8. The first phase of the ease on the lockdown, called Unlock 1, will restrict curbs to containment zones – areas that have been isolated due to coronavirus outbreaks. The new guidelines also gives states more power to decide and strategise lockdown implementations locally.

On May 22, the Centre eased visa and travel restrictions for certain categories of Overseas Citizens of India cardholders stranded abroad. This included minor children born to Indians abroad, OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies such as deaths, among others.

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