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Last updated on 10 November, 2020
COVID-19 has left many travel plans in tatters with people getting stranded around the world, particularly because the pandemic has forced many air travel facilities globally to shut down. India—the world’s second most populated country—faced this problem at large.
The government was under tremendous pressure to help stranded foreigners in India to go back and overseas Indians to come home; the latter from the UAE, especially, where a huge number of Indians were situated in.
Thus, the Government has commenced the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) from May 7 onwards in its bid to repatriate Indians looking to find their way home.
Does the Vande Bharat Mission extend to the UAE?
Hardeep Singh Puri, the officeholder of the Civil Aviation Ministry of India shared on his Twitter that VBM has successfully repatriated more than 2.94 million Indians, as of November 10. The largest number of repatriated passengers has been from the United Arab Emirates as reported by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India.
These repatriation flights have been carried out by the Indian national carrier, namely Air India along with its subsidiary Air India Express.
If you’re looking to get repatriated from the UAE, it’s imperative to note that the VBM is being carried out in a phased manner. Bookings for the current Seventh phase of the mission have been going on in full swing for flights from October 29, 2020.
Vande Bharat Mission, the biggest repatriation mission of its kind has facilitated international travel of more than 29.40 lakh people since 6th May 2020.
It continues to reach out to more people across the world everyday. pic.twitter.com/Qdd32sHia2
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) November 10, 2020
Am I eligible for repatriation from the UAE?
The Indian Government will only repatriate Indian nationals and OCI Cardholders stranded abroad. Even then, priority will be given to those with ‘compelling cases.’
Compelling cases are defined as the following:
- Those facing medical emergencies
- Those in need of returning due to death/bereavement in the family
- Those facing expiry of visas
- Students, pregnant women and the elderly
OCI Card Holders
- Children born to OCI cardholders abroad
- OCI cardholders requiring to return due to family emergencies such as a death in the family
- Couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national with permanent residence in India
- OCI cardholders who are university students (not legally minors), whose parents are Indian nationals and living in India.
Note: Fresh emergency visas will not be required for OCI cardholders falling into any of the above categories.
Update as of October 21, 2020: What comes as a major relief to travelers from the UAE is the recent update in the guidelines from the Ministry of Home Affairs which now allows all foreign nationals from these travel bubble countries with a valid visa (except e-visa, medical visa, or tourist visa) to travel to India.
I have established eligibility. What next?
You now have to register yourself to the Consulate General in Dubai. You can do so online by filling out this form.
For those intending to travel to Abu Dhabi in Dubai, you can check your eligibility at uaeentry.ica.gov.ae. You aren’t required to seek permission from the ICA to travel. A COVID negative RT-PCR report, not older than 96 hours from an ICMR-approved lab would be sufficient.
Before you fly, please make an effort to familiarize yourself and comply with the rules and regulations of the UAE government regarding international flights.
Where can I find the flight schedule and how can I reserve a seat?
With the commencement of VBM Phase 5, the number of flights from UAE to India has increased. The repatriation flights carried out by Air India and Air India Express are departing from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. Arrival destinations include New Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and other Indian cities.
Please consult the government-issued flight schedule for details.
You can find and reserve your plane seat at Air India’s official website or from any authorized partner.
Anything else I should know?
- Returning Indian nationals will bear all expenses of traveling from a designated airport in the UAE to the designated airport in India
- As per the UAE’s international flight guidelines, passengers will be required to test negative for Covid-19 prior to departure. Infected passerngers will not be allowed to travel.
- On arrival, returning Indians will be subjected to a 7-day institutional isolation period, followed by a 7-day self-isolation at home (14 days in total), and are obliged to install the Aarogya Setu app
** New guidelines issued by the Government has mandated 7 days of institutional quarantine and 7 days of home quarantine for everyone traveling to India. However, if one carries a PCR test, stating COVID-19 negative within 96 hrs of travel, they won’t need to go for institutional quarantine on arrival. 14 days home quarantine would ensue in that case.