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A Pakistani friend who needs to go to India was informed (very late, near visa approval) by an Indian embassy official (in Singapore) that he can only enter* India through one of the four major airports: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

* By "enter" I mean that the immigration officers (perhaps the equivalent of "customs agents" in the US) will allow the person to enter the country through the immigration checkpoint of an airport, or be detained at the checkpoint and barred from entering the country. This is not related to "customs" which deals with importing goods, or to being inside a flight that lands at the airport.

Direct flights to and from a smaller airport were already booked, which are now being changed to two-stop flight plan landing at one of the four ports internationally then transiting to a domestic flight to the original destination.

We searched online for any information about such restriction but could not find any. Is this restriction as per Indian law? Where can a reference to this restriction be found?

  • @hippietrail customs-and-immigration (border control procedures; referred to as 'immigration' in most countries other than US) appears to be a better tag than regulations (Rules, regulations, and policies of organizations as opposed to laws of nations or governments.). – ADTC Oct 28 '14 at 6:35
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    That makes no sense. I mentioned "enter India", and by that I do mean whether the immigration officers (as noted, it's not called 'customs agents' outside US) will allow you to enter India via other airports, which is an immigration entry issue. This is indirectly related to visas as they can only be granted upon showing that you plan to enter India via one of these four ports, while it is directly related to immigration as mentioned. Do note that immigration means "entering the country" and not "permanently relocating to the country". – ADTC Oct 28 '14 at 6:50
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    I would suggest "customs" and "immigration" should ideally be separate tags. In Asia we all collectively understand "immigration" to mean getting a stamp on your visa/passport and entering the country, whereas "customs" means importing goods (whether they are dutiable or non-dutiable goods). This is our common understanding, and at airports here, we first pass through immigration checkpoint getting approval to enter country, then (after entry and collecting baggage) declare any dutiable goods at the customs. I don't know how people in USA understand "customs and immigration". Sorry. – ADTC Oct 28 '14 at 7:08
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    We call that "migration" or sometimes, "relocation/relocating". :) Perhaps: migration tag could be synonymous with immigration (with a note that it means the act of moving permanently, and one must not use it for checkpoint issues). And there could be an immigration-checkpoint or immigration-entry tag specifically for the act of getting approved at a port's checkpoint to enter a country through the port (air/land/sea). And then a customs tag for issues about customs (importing goods) and dutiable goods. It could be a good meta discussion. – ADTC Oct 28 '14 at 7:19
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    This discussion about tags should be happening on meta, not here. – Flimzy Oct 28 '14 at 14:17
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This has all the hallmarks of some jobsworth throwing his weight around. The existence of such a “regulation” is very unlikely if only because “through one of the four major airports” excludes the land crossing at Attari (Wagah). This form mentions that (though clearly is ancient!) but there are many more recent references to it also.

Silence is hardly conclusive but the details here are generally comprehensive and seem very likely to have mentioned such an arbitrary rule, were there one.

The issue may be the initially-chosen (smaller) airport. Not all Indian airports are manned with Immigration officers (for example, at T1, not even New Delhi) and it does make sense to me that Pakistani nationals are required to arrive in India via a point of entry that does have Immigration facilities (which the "select four" do have).

  • Could you revise your last para? Something seems wrong with the grammar. I'm not sure what you're trying to say there. – ADTC Oct 28 '14 at 15:22
  • Actually a lot of airports in India are manned with immigration officers directly from the government. Much smaller airports do have the local police acting the role but a lot of larger and medium-sized airports all over India have officers directly from the immigration bureau. In fact I saw the exhaustive list earlier. I can fetch the link later but you should be able to find it. So I don't think that is the issue. I really do think it's someone giving a hard time and causing unnecessary trouble. – ADTC Oct 28 '14 at 16:05
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Respectfully, when researching this question, I have found many references in official Indian rules that call out exceptions specifically for Pakistani citizens. I have not yet found the requirement to use those four, and only those four, airports, but there are enough other "these rules apply to everyone, except Pak citizens" rules that it would not surprise me at all. – CGCampbell Oct 28 '14 at 18:02
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    @CGCampbell: Due to the tensions in the political relations between India and Pakistan, you are likely correct, but I don't understand what pnuts is trying to say in his last paragraph. Even without any general and "googleable" rules, some countries list allowed points of entry in their issued visa (which may very well be the case here), but if ATDC's friend had a booked international flight to a smaller airport, I don't see why anyone should assume that there is no immigration control there. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 28 '14 at 18:49
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    Thank you both for the comments. Just want to clarify that "smaller" does not mean it's very small or rural. It's still a large urban airport with direct international flights from many countries and immigration checkpoint facilities. It's just not in the ridiculous list of "four allowed ports of entry by air travel for Pakistani nationals". I'm only trying to find out if this list is still enforced, or is simply a remnant of the past. For privacy and security reasons, I chose not to disclose the exact airport names chosen, but with or without such disclosure this is no special case. – ADTC Oct 29 '14 at 7:27

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