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Foreign journalists with visas to be allowed to come to India, says MHA

New Delhi: The government has allowed foreign journalists with valid visas to come to India along with family members.

A Home Ministry notification said the decision has been taken after considering the need for further relaxation of visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals who want to travel to India.

Accordingly, in addition to the categories of foreign nationals who were already permitted to enter India, it has been decided to permit foreign nationals holding Journalist (J-1) visas and their dependents holding J-1X visas to enter India, the notification said.

If they have J-1 or J-1X visas, which have been suspended, such visas shall stand restored with immediate effect to facilitate their entry into India.

However, the Home ministry said if the validity of such visas has expired, they may obtain fresh J-1 or J-1X visas, as the case may be, from the Indian missions or posts concerned.

It has also been decided that the existing restrictions on incoming passenger traffic into India through the immigration check posts will not apply in respect of these categories of foreign nationals, the notification said.

However, in respect of quarantine and all other health and COVID-19 related matters, guidelines of the Ministry of Health shall be adhered to.

Other foreigners from these countries have also been allowed to avail Indian visa facility for business, medical and employment purposes.

The government has restricted travel of foreigners to India since March 25 when the Coronavirus induced country-wide lockdown came into effect.

Meanwhile, India is negotiating with 13 countries, including Australia, Japan and Singapore, to establish separate bilateral air bubble arrangements for international flight operations, Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Tuesday.

Under a bilateral air bubble pact, airlines of both countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions.

Puri said: "We are now taking these efforts forward & are negotiating with 13 more countries to establish such arrangements. These countries include Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Bahrain, Israel, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea & Thailand."

Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to Coronavirus.

Going forward, Puri said, India will consider such bilateral arrangements with countries other than the ones mentioned above.

"It is always our endeavour to reach out to every stranded citizen. No Indian will be left behind," he said.

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