New Delhi: More than 32.79 lakh foreigners, including over 61,000 Americans, visited India in 2020 when the country was on a long spell of nationwide lockdown and other restrictions due to the Covid pandemic.
Among the foreigners who visited India included 4,751 Pakistani nationals.
According to the annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs for 2020-21, a total of 32,79,315 foreign nationals visited India between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
The maximum number of foreigners who visited India during this period were from the US (61,190) followed by those from Bangladesh (37,774), the UK (33,323), Canada (13,707), Portugal (11,668) and Afghanistan (11,212). A total of 8,438 German nationals, 8,353 French citizens, 7,163 from Iraq and 6,129 from Republic of Korea also visited India during this period.
These 10 countries accounted for 71.23 per cent of the total arrival of foreigners during the period April 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, the report said.
The coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown was first announced in India from March 25 to April 21 in 2020 and it was extended thrice till May 31, 2020.
Even though the government had announced gradual reopening of various activities from June 2020, many restrictions continued for the remaining months of 2020.
Scheduled international flights from India to international destinations remained suspended for two years from March 25, 2020 to March 27, 2022.
However, during this period, international flights were operated under the “air bubble” arrangements.
There were visa restrictions too on foreigners travelling to India after the COVID-19 outbreak.
The report said owing to the situation arising out of COVID-19 pandemic and in order to control its spread, the MHA took a series of steps to curtail the inward and outward movement of international passengers (both foreigners as well as Indians) in a calibrated manner since February, 2020.
However, with the phased unlocking in India, the central government has been relaxing the visa and travel restrictions in a phased manner since May, 2020.
The MHA issued orders on October 21, 2020 permitting following categories of foreign nationals to enter India by water routes or by flights including those under the Vande Bharat Mission or ‘air bubble’ (bilateral air travel arrangements) scheme or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Those who were allowed include Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cardholders holding passports of any country.
All foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose (including their dependents on an appropriate category of dependent visa) except those on tourist visa were also allowed.