Serbia’s new quarantine rule for Indians puts students heading to Canada in difficulty
When he left for Canada early Sunday, Nikhil Parashar had no idea he would be spending the next 24 hours at Belgrade airport. But a surprise seven-day quarantine requirement imposed by the Serbian government has put Delhi resident Parashar and more than 200 other Indians in dire straits. The Indian Embassy in Serbia intervened and facilitated travel following their appeals for help.
The new quarantine rule took effect on Friday, but Indian travelers were in the dark until they landed in Belgrade.
Serbia has become one of the transit points for Indians heading to Canada and the United States after the two countries banned direct entry in April and May, respectively. Canada requires passengers from India to take an RT-PCR test from a third country. As a result, many students travel from Serbia to Canada, spending up to Rs 1.8 lakh on plane tickets and two to three days stay in Belgrade.
In the case of the United States, a passenger must spend 14 days outside India to be allowed entry into the country. The US restriction does not apply to certain categories, including its own citizens and permanent residents.
Parashar, who tweeted about his experience in Belgrade, said he had no information about the rule change until he arrived there. âThe border guards refused us entry. Many students do not have the money to stay in Serbia for seven days and want to come to Canada. There are also families with children who are stranded at the airport. The Indian Embassy helped us, âhe said.
In a tweet, the Indian embassy said 120 of the 205 stranded Indians would travel by Lufthansa on Monday. Indians traveling by other airlines will fly on Monday or Tuesday. Embassy officials are in contact with airport authorities and airlines to ensure the departure of all Indians, he said. The embassy did not respond to an email request Commercial standard.
“We are working closely with the Serbian authorities and the Indian Embassy to support our passengers,” Lufthansa said in a statement.
Serbia allows visa-free entry to Indians for 30 days. As a result, the country has become a tourist and transit destination for Indians. However, last Friday the Serbian government declared India to be an area of ââconcern and instituted a seven-day quarantine for passengers arriving from the country.
âSerbia has become a popular transit point for Indian students traveling to Canada. This month we have had 20 clients so far, âsaid Madhav Pai, founder of WOW Holidays, a Delhi-based destination management company. But the quarantine requirement is now forcing students and families to reschedule their travel plans or change routes.
Serbia allows visa-free entry to Indians for 30 days. As a result, the country has become a tourist and transit destination for Indians
Egypt and Mexico also serve as transit and quarantine points for Indians traveling to Canada and the United States. H1 visa holders, students, and those who came to India to meet their families took this route back to the United States.
âWe had arranged plane tickets and arranged hotel accommodation and meals for passengers who traveled to the United States via Egypt in May. Most of it was covered and there were no sightseeing, âa Mumbai tour operator said, asking not to be named. âWe advised them to stay at the hotel and follow Covid-19 precautions. It would have been a challenge if even a traveler had contracted Covid-19 during transit. Luckily the trip went smoothly and they traveled to the United States hassle-free.
Foreign education consultants, however, advise students against traveling to Canada and the United States via a third country.
“We are warning students not to take the road to enter Canada from other countries as there may be immigration issues later when they land there,” said Rushali Kapadia, senior education expert at overseas at Yocket, a consulting firm. âHowever, the number of students leaving is low as it is only those who were already studying in Canada and had a study permit but came to India for a break who are trying to come back via other countries. “
Students, applying for the first time to study in Canada, have not yet obtained a study permit or visa since the process has just started and is heavier and longer than in the United States.
Students traveling to Canada via other countries like Serbia fear their study permits will expire and they will also face quarantine fees, which they are trying to avoid, consultants say .