India: Information on airport security screening procedures for passengers departing on international flights (2015-May 2017) [IND105780.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Agencies Responsible for Security Screening at Indian Airports
1.1 The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS)

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture [1] states that the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) "is the designated agency for providing security in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations" (India 21 Dec. 2015, para. 2). The BCAS website indicates the department "is the regulatory authority for civil aviation security in India" (India n.d.a). Sources report that the BCAS was founded in 1978 in response to the 1976 hijacking of an Indian Airlines airplane, and became a separate department under the Civil Aviation Ministry following the 1987 Air India Kanishka bombing (Indian Express 10 Feb. 2016; India n.d.a).

According to the BCAS website, its main functions are:

Laying down Aviation Security Standards in accordance with Annex 17 to Chicago Convention of ICAO for airport operators, airlines operators, and their security agencies responsible for implementing AVSEC [Aviation Security] measures.

Monitoring the implementation of security rules and regulations and carrying out survey of security needs.

Ensure that the persons implementing security controls are appropriately trained and possess all competencies required to perform their duties.

Planning and coordination of Aviation security matters.

Conducting -

Surprise/Dummy checks to test professional efficiency and alertness of security staff.

Mock exercise to test efficacy of Contingency Plans and operational preparedness of the various agencies. (India n.d.a)

The Standing Committee indicates that there are a number of security agencies responsible for security at individual airports, including "specialized Police agencies, State Police and airport security organizations," and adds that the BCAS "co-ordinates the working of the various agencies to ensure that all security norms are followed by them" (India 21 Dec. 2015, para. 3).

1.2 Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)

According to its website, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) was founded in 1969 to provide security for "Public Service Undertakings (PSUs)," but has since expanded to "become a premier multi-skilled security agency of the country, mandated to provide security to major critical infrastructure installations of the country in diverse areas" (India n.d.b). The CISF website adds that the force "is currently providing security cover to nuclear installations, space establishments, airports, seaports, power plants, sensitive Government buildings and [even] heritage monuments" (India n.d.b).

The Standing Committee reports that the CISF began providing security at airports in 2000 following a hijacking in December 1999, and thatthe CISF is currently in charge of security for 59 out of 98 airports in India; 53 of the 59 are under the Airports Authority of India (AAI) [2] and six are private/joint venture airports (India 21 Dec. 2015, para. 16). A list of airports covered by CISF provided in an annex to the Standing Committee report is attached to this Response.

The Standing Committee states that the CISF has three operational units under its Aviation Security Group:

  1. Anti-hijacking Unit dealing with Pre-embarkation security check of passengers and cabin baggage; and Access control of passengers, visitors, staff of various agencies, catering personnel, cargo and courier into the airport;
  2. Protection Unit dealing with the Protection of airport and perimeter; Quick Reaction Team; and Cordoning of aircraft during contingencies (except civil enclaves); and
  3. Intelligence and Surveillance Unit dealing with the Surveillance at airports for security. (India 21 Dec. 2015, para. 37, italics in original)

The Standing Committee further notes that "at certain airports where CISF is yet to be deployed, State Police Force is the primary security agency for security related functions such as pre-embarkation security checks, protection of airport premises and intelligence/surveillance" (India 21 Dec. 2015, para. 33). Without providing a specific timeline, media sources report that the CISF will assume security control over an additional ten airports, including airports in Jabalpur and Jamnagar (India Today 8 Mar. 2017; The Times of India 7 Mar. 2017 and Vijaywada (India Today 8 Mar. 2017).

1.3 Bureau of Immigration (BOI)

The AAI indicates that "[t]he immigration services at the major International Airports in India…are handled by the Bureau of Immigration (BOI)" (India n.d.c). The Standing Committee states with regard to airport security that the BOI "screens incoming and outgoing passengers from and to other countries" (India 21 Dec. 2015, para. 31). The website of the BOI notes that "there are 86 Immigration Check Posts (ICPs) all over India," and that "[o]ut of these, 37 ICPs are functioning under the BoI, while the remaining are being managed by the concerned State Governments" (India n.d.d).

2. Screening Procedures for Departing International Flights
2.1 Airport Entry

Media sources report that in India, only passengers may enter the airport (Reuters 23 Mar. 2016; The Times of India 23 Mar. 2016). The Ministry of Civil Aviation's Aircraft (Security) Rules, 2011, state that "entry into aerodrome shall be permissible only to the persons having admission ticket or aerodrome entry permit" and further that "[n]o person shall enter into aerodrome without obtaining an admission ticket or aerodrome entry permit" (India 19 Jan. 2012, Sec. 18(5)).

The BCAS indicates in its notice regarding boarding passes obtained online, that

[p]assengers with confirmed etickets will be allowed access into the departure terminal only after the authenticity of such e-tickets and genuineness of its holder is established. For this purpose, passengers concerned shall produce a valid photo identity document (passport in case of foreign nationals) before being allowed to enter the Terminal Building. (India n.d.e)

According to the Standing Committee report,

[s]creening of passengers, staff and visitors at the entry gates of the airport through Door Frame Metal Detectors (DFMD)/Hand-held Metal Detectors (HHMD) and physical frisking on random basis are carried out depending on local situation and inputs received from the intelligence agencies. (India 21 Dec. 2015, para. 20)

The Hindustan Times, an English-language daily newspaper in India (HT Media n.d.), reports that there were numerous incidents of persons with fake or altered e-tickets gaining entry to Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in Delhi in 2015 and 2016 (Hindustan Times 9 Sept. 2016). The Telegraph (India), an English-language daily newspaper based in Calcutta (The Telegraph (India) n.d.), reports that such incidents occurred in seven major airports in India in 2016, including Indira Gandhi International Airport (The Telegraph (India) 24 Oct. 2016). India Today, a magazine based in India (India Today Group n.d.), reportsthat in 2015, "one person was caught every 15 days for entering into the airport with a bogus e-ticket" and that in 2016, "the CISF nabbed one person every 10 days for sneaking [in] with a fake e-ticket" (India Today 17 Sept. 2016).

Media sources report that in preparation for a visit by US President Barack Obama to India in January 2015, CISF personnel conducted drills at 59 airports across India (Mumbai Mirror 4 Jan. 2015; The Economic Times 22 Jan. 2015). The Economic Times, an English-language daily financial newspaper in India (Factiva n.d.a), reports that the drills sought to "check the readiness of the security staff" by having CISF personnel pretend to be passengers and look for security loopholes (The Economic Times 22 Jan. 2015). The Mumbai Mirror, an English-language daily in Mumbai (Factiva n.d.b), reports that a CISF team of four managed to enter Mumbai International Airport using fake e-tickets, but were stopped before they cleared security (Mumbai Mirror 4 Jan. 2015).

Sources reported that Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi was to conduct a pilot project to install barcode scanners to verify boarding passes in September 2016 (India Today 17 Sept. 2016; The Times of India 21 Sept. 2016). India Today cites a CISF official as explaining that the scanning system "will register information of a passenger when he or she enters the building, during [the] check-in process, after [the] security check and finally after crossing the boarding gate" (India Today 17 Sept. 2016). Similarly, the Times of India reports in a September 2016 article that Pune International Airport was due to introduce barcode scanners (The Times of India 21 Sept. 2016). Sources report that in the Bengaluru (Bangalore) and Hyderabad airports, the scanners were also being tested (India Today 17 Sept. 2016) or were "currently being implemented" (The Times of India 21 Sept. 2016).

2.2 Security Screening

The Aircraft (Security) Rules, 2011 state that "[b]efore embarkation, every originating passenger and transfer passenger boarding an aircraft and his hand baggage, if any, shall be screened by an officer of the Aviation Security Group or an officer duly authorized in this behalf by the Commissioner" (India 19 Jan. 2012, Sec. 21(1)). The BCAS notes that they have "developed standardized security screening procedures for all airports in the country. Therefore, you can expect that you will encounter essentially the same procedures at each airport you visit" (India n.d.f). Air India indicates that "[s]ecurity regulations are framed by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and are required to be implemented by all operators" and lists "some of the security procedures" as follows:

Your ticket / identity is checked at the time of entering the terminal building/counter

The checked baggage is passed through x-ray machines

Passengers are checked through personal frisking, and/or door frame metal detectors and hand held metal detectors

The cabin baggage is either checked through x-ray machines or physically examined

Security personnel put a security stamp on boarding passes and cabin baggage labels

In case of an alert situation a secondary security check is also carried out before embarkation

Passenger may be requested to identify his checked baggage. [H]owever, at some of the airports baggage matching / reconciliation is done

If you wish to come back from the security hold area after the completion of security check, you have to get a fresh boarding pass in place of the old boarding pass from AIR INDIA check-in counter. [I]n that case the passenger has to undergo the security check again. [T]his facility is available only in extreme emergency. (Air India n.d.a.)

The Times of India reports that the Srinagar and Jammu airports follow the "concourse plan" of security whereby "passenger and baggage screening happens before entering terminals" (The Times of India 23 Mar. 2016). The Hindu, a daily newspaper based in Chennai (The Hindu n.d.), reports that at Srinagar and Jammu airports, passengers "go through six layers of checks, which include pat down search after entering the airport," adding that "[a]t Srinagar airport, passengers are not even allowed to carry handbags, while boarding the aircraft" (The Hindu 9 Aug. 2015).

2.3 Immigration Check

According to the BOI, an "[i]mmigration check is conducted for all passengers, Indians or foreigners, both at the time of arrival and departure" (India n.d.g.). The same source adds that "passports are duly stamped at time of arrival as well as departure" and recommends that passengers ensure their passports have been stamped before proceeding past the "immigration counter" (India n.d.g). Similarly, Chhatrapati Shivaji (Mumbai) International Airport and Indira Gandhi International Airport state that the immigration check is mandatory for all passengers arriving from or departing on international flights (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport n.d.; Indira Gandhi International Airport n.d.). Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport further notes that the immigration check takes place after the security screening (Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport n.d.).

According to the BOI,

Indian nationals travelling abroad require a valid Indian passport and travel authority for the destination country. The travel authority is normally in the form of Visa, which is obtained prior to the journey, except in case of countries where 'Visa on Arrival' is available (India n.d.h).

Air India similarly indicates that international passengers must have a "valid passport, valid visa and/or entry permits and health certificates as required" (Air India n.d.b).

Without providing further information, the website for Cochin International Airport in Kochi in Kerala states that there are four components to the immigration check:

Checking of passport/travel documents to identify the holder and to look out for cases of forgery etc.

To ascertain the eligibility of holder either to leave or enter the Country as per existing rules and regulations

Computer confirmation in clearing passenger

Health check on behalf of Airport Health Office (Cochin International Airport n.d.)

In a written response to the Lok Sabha [lower house of parliament] in December 2011, Minister of State Mullappally Ramachandran stated that the following measures had been put in place to verify travel documents:

  1. Use of magnifying glasses and Ultra Violet lamps at all International Airports for scrutinizing the features of the travel documents.
  2. Issuance of machine-readable passports and visas with improved security features;
  3. Installation of Passport Reading Machines (PRMs) and Questionable Document Examiner (QDX) Machines at major ICPs [Immigration Check Posts] for detection of sophisticated forgeries in the travel documents;
  4. Installation of Questionable Document Examiner (QDX) for verifying the genuineness of the passports;
  5. Installation of Immigration Control System (ICS) software which verifies the passport details of passengers to prevent impersonation;
  6. Particulars of Passports issued by the RPOs [Regional Passport Offices] and visas issued by some Indian Missions abroad, are made available to Immigration officers for cross checking;
  7. Special training to Immigration Officers at airports on a regular basis to detect forged/fake travel documents. (India 20 Dec. 2011)

The BOI reports that Indian nationals must fill departure cards at the time of departure, and provide the following information on them: name, date of birth, passport number, address in India, flight number, date of arrival, and date of boarding (India n.d.g). Air India states that "embarkation forms should be duly filled out and submitted to customs and immigration authorities before boarding the aircraft" (Air India n.d.a).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within the time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


[1] The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Culture and Tourism is one of 17 Departmentally Related Standing Committees who together "cover under their jurisdiction all the Ministries/Departments of the Government of India" (India n.d.i). Each Committee consists of "not more than 45 members," 30 of which are nominated from the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament), and 15 who are nominated from the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) (India n.d.i). The Committees have the following functions in relation to the ministries under their purview: considering grant requests, examining bills which are referred to them by either the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, considering Annual Reports, and considering "national long term policy documents presented to the House and referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha, as the case may be" (India n.d.i).

[2] The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is an organization, established via an Act of Parliament in 1995, which is responsible for "creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure both on the ground and air space" in India (India n.d.j).


Air India. N.d.a. "Security Procedures." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

Air India. N.d.b. "Documents to Carry." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. N.d. "Passenger Travel Information: Immigrations." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

Cochin International Airport. N.d. "Airport Guide: Passenger Information." [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]

The Economic Times. 22 January 2015. "Obama In India: Government Tightens Airport Security." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017]

Factiva. N.d.a. "Source Information: The Economic Times." (Factiva)

Factiva. N.d.b. "Source Information: Mumbai Mirror." (Factiva)

The Hindu. 9 August 2015 (Updated 29 March 2016). Vijaita Singh. "Relax Security Norms at Airports: J&K." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2017]

The Hindu. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 7 Apr. 2017]

Hindustan Times. 9 September 2016. "Fake E-Tickets Cases Grow at Delhi Airport; Security Agencies on Alert." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

HT Media. N.d. "Hindustan Times." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017]

India. 21 December 2015. Parliament of India, Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture. Two Hundred Thirtieth Report. Issues Related to Security at Airports in India. [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

India. 19 January 2012. Ministry of Civil Aviation. Aircraft (Security) Rules, 2011. [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

India. 20 December 2011. Ministry of Home Affairs. "Steps Taken to Check Fake Visa Travel." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

India. N.d.a. Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). "About Us." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

India. N.d.b. Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). "CISF." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

India. N.d.c. Airports Authority of India. "Structure of Bureau of Immigration." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

India. N.d.d. Bureau of Immigration (BOI). "About Bureau of Immigration." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

India. N.d.e. Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). "Access of Passengers on the Basis of Soft Copy of E-Ticket." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

India. N.d.f. Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). "Passengers and Users." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

India. N.d.g. Bureau of Immigration (BOI). "General Information/Instruction." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

India. N.d.h. Bureau of Immigration (BOI). "Indian Passengers." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

India. N.d.i. Parliament of India. "Parliamentary Committees." [Accessed 20 Apr. 2017]

India. N.d.j. Airports Authority of India (AAI). "Organization." [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017]

India Today. 8 March 2017. Ajay Kumar. "CISF to Expand Security Cover, Maintain Vigil at 10 More Airports." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

India Today. 17 September 2016. Ankur Sharma. "Barcode Scanners at Airport to Plug Security Gaps." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

India Today Group. N.d. "Publications." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017]

Indian Express. 10 February 2016. Sunny Verma. "Airport Security: A Safety Check for Better Co-ordination." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

Indira Gandhi International Airport. N.d. "Know the Rules: Security and Baggage Advice." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

Mumbai Mirror. 13 January 2015. Aditya Anand. "Undercover CISF Men Breach Airport Security." (Factiva)

Reuters. 23 March 2016. Victoria Bryan and Jane Wardell. "Airport Security in Spotlight after Brussels Attacks." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

The Telegraph (India). 24 October 2016. Sumi Sukanya Dutta. "Tighter Flight E-Ticket Checks." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

The Telegraph (India). N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017]

The Times of India. 7 March 2017. "ISRO Station, 10 Airports to Get CISF Cover." [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

The Times of India. 21 September 2016. Pune Mirror. "Now, Barcodes Soon On E-Tickets to Verify Flyers." [Accessed 20 Apr. 2017]

The Times of India. 23 March 2016. "Brussels Airport Attack Exposes Chink in India's Airport Security." [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: India – Bureau of Immigration (BOI), High Commission of India.

Internet sites, including: BBC; Chennai International Airport; Factiva; The Guardian; India – Ministry of Civil Aviation; IndiGo Airlines; Jet Airways; Kempegowda International Airport; Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.


India. 21 December 2015. Parliament of India, Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture. "Annexure - I." Issues Related to Security at Airports in India: List of Categorization of Airports under CISF Cover. Two Hundred Thirtieth Report. [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]