Entering India During COVID: A Guide

Flying internationally is a complicated process during COVID-19, even if you are returning to your country of residence. On a recent trip home, Simple Flying had the chance to experience India’s new requirements for arrivals. Here’s an in-depth guide for your next trip!

Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The number of international arrivals has fallen to a fraction of previous levels due to ongoing restrictions. Photo: Getty Images

Stamp

The arrival process begins as soon as you enter the terminal building. My flight arrived at Delhi Airport at around 19:00 local time, not a very busy time for international arrivals. Right out of the jetbridge, there were two tables with CISF officers stamping boarding passes.

This step is extremely important, so be sure to keep your boarding pass on hand and get the stamp. The stamp indicates how long your quarantine will be and what rules to follow. Since I was arriving from the Maldives, a low-risk country according to India’s rules, the only requirement is to self-monitor your health for 14 days. However, others may have to take a test at the airport and self-quarantine.

Indian Passport
Keep your passport and boarding pass handy throughout the terminal for the multiple checkpoints. Photo: Getty Images

Just 50 feet ahead, another group of officers were checking boarding passes for the stamp. Since I arrived at one of the furthest gates from immigration, my boarding pass was checked at least four times by different officers on the way. This has likely been done for flights arriving at different gates, but means those further back must do it repeatedly.

The check is only second-long, with only a preliminary glance at the stamp. However, having it on hand is a requirement for all arrivals.

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Testing

Travelers who travel or transit through the UK, Europe, Middle East, Brazil, or South Africa, must be tested for COVID-19 at the airport itself. The testing center is located within the terminal and before immigration. Passengers exiting the airport only need to drop off their samples before heading to immigration, while those taking connecting flights must wait for 6-8 hours for their results first.

Delhi Airport India Arrival
Security checkpoints such as this one ensure that all travelers have taken their test or are exempt from doing so. Photo: Pranjal Pande | Simple Flying

The testing site is located at the arrivals gates near immigration and looks comfortable. Samples are taken on the departure side of the terminal (separated by a glass wall), and passengers can wait in a designated area with leather chairs for their results (if transiting). However, things can get busy in the late-night bank hours for European, US, and Middle Eastern arrivals.

Immigration

Once you’ve got your boarding pass stamped, testing done (if needed), and checked by officers, you can head to immigration. Here things are fairly standard, with staff checking passports or visas and clearing passengers. However, all travelers must fill an ‘Air Suvidha’ form for health declaration purposes beforehand and details are verified at immigration. The form includes a copy of your negative test taken 72 hours in advance or exemptions.

Delhi Airport Immigration India
The immigration process remains largely unchanged except for the health declaration and negative test. Photo: Pranjal Pande | Simple Flying

A few minutes later and you’re officially in India, greeted by a massive duty free section. Overall, the process was smooth for me personally, but this is likely due to only one flight arriving at the time. Expect things to get crowded quickly as more flights arrive and queues form for testing and checks.

What do you think about India’s border screening process? Let us know in the comments!

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