Chalo Overseas

Exploring India’s Bilateral Air bubbles

With the Covid cases going down in many geographies, a lot of countries have eased restrictions and opened up their doors to travellers once again. However, as tourism begins to peak and Indians looking out to embark on international travel, there are a plethora of curbs and restrictions that need to be taken into consideration, with each country having different sets of rules in place.

There are a number of countries that Indians cannot visit currently due to travel restrictions and lack of operational flights. While there are many others who have issued their own quarantine rules and guidelines. However, exceptions are made for certain categories of people such as heads of state, officials and bureaucrats on diplomatic missions, those on international student visas and flights under the Vande Bharat Mission.

Can we visit foreign countries now?

Although India has extended its ban on international commercial flights till July 31. At the moment, commercial flights are allowed to operate to and from countries with whom India has bilateral air bubble agreements.

India currently has a bilateral air bubble agreement with 28 countries, which include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, the Maldives, Nepal, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Ukraine, the UAE, the UK, Uzbekistan and the US.

However, some of these countries banned air travel to and from India under the second wave of the pandemic. Among them were Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kuwait, New Zealand, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and UAE.

Some of these countries later lifted the travel ban.

Which countries Indians cannot travel to at the moment?

Canada has extended the suspension of flights from India till August 21, and said it will open for people from all countries fully vaccinated with recognized jabs from September 7.

India has been placed on the “red list” of countries which are barred from entering the UK at the moment. No fresh visas are being issued to Indians travelling to the UK. Even those who already have long-term visas cannot go to the UK directly from India and must travel to one of the countries which are on the “green list” and have spent at least 10 days there before travelling to the UK.

Moreover, nobody who has been in India for 14 days preceding their travel can go to the United States now. However, exceptions are in place for American citizens, students and those who can get approved under the National Interest Exception category from the US Consulate.

Among the other countries that Indians cannot travel to now because of the restrictions in place are Iran, Kuwait, Indonesia, Israel, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Italy, Oman and Djibouti.

Impact on Indian Students studying abroad

Even as hundreds of students get ready to start courses at universities around the world, several major English language campus destinations including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore remain closed due to travel restrictions and closed borders.

However, Canada remains a popular campus destination for Indian even amidst the post Covid-19 uncertainty. In fact, according to official statistics from Canadian High Commission in Delhi, for the first four months of 2021, nearly 100,000 study permits were issued to international students, up from 66,000 in the first four months of 2020, and from about 96,000 in the first four months of 2019.

Despite the unprecedented global travel restrictions, the Canadian government as well as the universities have taken several steps to welcome International students. From supporting students who were stranded in Canada and could not have been evacuated to taking final admission decisions based on predicted results of school board exams for freshers rather than wait for the final and providing financial need-based support.

Most of Canada’s well known universities are clearing the decks to welcome Indian students in the Fall 2021 semester.


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