Visits will resume in care homes once local authorities and local public health directors say it is safe.
Residents will be limited to seeing the same one visitor, where possible, the guidance says.
Some providers began allowing outdoor, socially-distanced visits in June, in the absence of government guidelines.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was now possible to "carefully and safely" allow visits to care homes, while taking into account "local knowledge and circumstances for each care home".
People in registered residential care and those in nursing homes for people with learning disabilities, mental health or other disabilities in England will also be able to welcome visitors under the same guidance.
The government said visits could resume after the rate of community transmission of coronavirus had fallen, but staff, residents and visitors should observe its guidance to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
It says care providers should consider whether visits could take place outside, without people having to go through a shared building, and visitors should stick to social distancing guidance and avoid hugs or handshakes.
Ad hoc visits should be discouraged and providers should collect contact details of visitors to support NHS Test and Trace, the guidance says.
Visitors should also be encouraged to wear a face covering and risk assessments must be carried out before homes reopen.
Gifts for residents should be easy to clean by care home staff. "It is unlikely that they will be able to bring flowers but a box of chocolates that could be sanitised with wipes would be allowed," the guidance says.
Care England, the country's largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, said it was "disappointed" the guidance had come so late.
Chief executive Professor Martin Green said: "This guidance should have been with care providers last month.
"We are at a loss to understand why the Department of Health and Social Care cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it is deaf to the comments and input from the sector."
It comes as the UK recorded the deaths of another 79 people who tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths to 45,501.