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Written By : Moushumi Majumdar (Advocate)

  Search On:Laws in IndiaLawyers Search

Introduction
A foreigner is a person born in or coming from a foreign country. The entry of foreigners, stay, movements and departure is regulated by the Acts passed by the Indian Parliament and rules framed there under by the Central Government from time to time.

Visa Formalities
All foreigners desirous of visiting India should have a valid passport, all accredited travel documents and valid visa granted by Indian Mission in the country of their residence except Nepalese or Bhutanese citizens who should possess suitable documents for their identification. Foreigners should enter India through authorised check post or airport only. They are subject to immigration check at the airport or check post.All foreigners who enter India or depart from India either by air or sea shall furnish a true statement of particulars setting it out in form 'D' embarkation card.

The civil authority has powers to impose restrictions on the movement of any foreigner in India. The authority can also refuse a foreigner entry into India if he/she does not posses a valid passport, or is insane or is suffering from any infectious disease or has been convicted for an extradition offence or if his/her entry is prejudicial to the interest of the country.

Military installations and areas, defence organisations and research organisations are considered protected areas, where permits are generally not given to foreigners. Foreigners can visit restricted /protected areas only after getting a valid permit for such a purpose as visa alone is not enough to visit such places.

q Types of Visas
(1) Tourist Visas: Usually, a multi-entry visa, valid for a period of 180 days, is granted for the purpose of tourism. The visa is valid from the date of issue. As a rule no extension of stay is granted on a Tourist Visa.

(2) Collective Visas: The facility also exists for the issue of collective visas to group tours consisting of not less than four members and sponsored by a travel agency recognized by the Government of India.Such groups may split into smaller groups for visiting different places in India after obtaining a collective "license to travel" from the immigration authorities in India. However, they must reassemble and depart as the original group.

(3) Transit Visas: Transit visas are granted by Indian Missions abroad. 
If a foreigner wishes to come to India for a purpose other than tourism, he should come after obtaining one of the following visas.

(4) Business Visa: A foreigner can obtain one from an Indian Embassy abroad a multiple entry visa, which is valid for 5 years but with a cumulative stay in India of not more than 180 days, provided he wishes to come for some business. Foreigners of Indian origin can obtain a 5-year multiple entry visa for business, to meet their relatives etc.

The Indian High Commission/ Embassy usually issues the visas in the applicants country of residence. An applicant must present the following documents: -
i) Passport (valid for a minimum period of six months) 
ii) Non-immigrant visa application signed by the applicant
iii) Recent photographs 
iv) Proof of intent to return to his/her country of residence
v) Any supporting documentation to prove bonafide purpose (a letter explaining the nature of business and duration from the foreign company and a letter of invitation from an Indian company, etc.) 
vi) Appropriate visa fee 

If a Business Visa issued by the Indian Embassy contains a specific stipulation that the foreign national would be required to leave India after a stay of 180 consecutive days, then such a stipulation would not be subject to any negotiation and the foreign national would be required to comply with the same. If, however, the concerned foreign national is not in a position to leave on the day of expiry of his/her visa or the day immediately succeeding the stipulated period, and may not be able to
leave India for sometime to come, then he/she would be required to approach the offices of the concerned FRRO with an an application explaining the reasons for the need to extend his/her stay in India beyond the stipulated period. The FRO would examine the case on its merits, and make a decision which would be final and not be subject to any appeal.

(5) Student Visa: A student visa can be obtained from the Indian Embassy on the production of proof of admission and means of sustenance while in India, etc. The visa is valid for one year but can be extended in India for the duration of the course. 

(6) Conference Visa: Delegates coming to attend international conferences in India can be granted Conference Visa to cover the conference as well as for tourism in India. Delegates are advised to apply to Indian Embassies well in advance. 

(7) Employment Visa: Foreigners desirous of coming to India for taking up employment should apply for an Employment Visa or a Work Permit, which are issued by Indian Missions abroad. Initially granted for a period of one year, it can be extended in India upto the period of contract. 

Usually, the employer who offers an employment opportunity initiates the visa application process in India. Alternatively, the applicant may apply to the Indian Embassy / High Commission in his country of residence. In both cases, the following documents are required: -
i) Recent photographs 
ii) Proof of employment i.e., appointment/contract letter, terms and conditions of employment etc.

(8) Recreation: Foreigners wishing to undertake any international sporting event, trekking, botanical expeditions, yoga, journalists, media men, documentary and feature film makers may be granted visas for the required duration on presentation of full details of he touring members, nature of the event, area to be visited and any other tourist information that may be asked for by the Indian Embassy. The Indian Embassies may grant visas for a period of one year which may be extended on an annual basis in India.

q Conversion/Extension of Visa
If a foreign national holding a visa valid for less than one year wants to convert it to a visa, which is valid for more than the above period, then he/she would be required to approach the Ministry of Home Affairs for conversion/extension of the said visa. Work permits or employment visas are also extendable in India. 

Foreigners who wish to stay in India beyond the visa period should apply for extension of stay 90 days before his residential permit is due to expire. The Central Government has delegated limited powers to the FROs to grant extension of stay to foreigners. 

q Landing Permit Facility
A tourist group consisting of four or more members arriving by air, ship or by a chartered or scheduled flight may be granted a collective landing permit for a period of upto 30 days by the immigration authorities on landing, provided the group is sponsored by a travel agency recognized by the Government of India and a pre-drawn itinerary is presented along with details of passport etc. of the members, and the travel agency gives an undertaking to conduct the group together. 

Children of foreigners of Indian origin below the age of 12 without a visa may be granted a landing permit by the immigration authorities upto a period of 90 days to see their relatives. 

Registration of Foreigners
All foreigners (including those of Indian origin), except those covered under special categories, as mentioned below, are required to register themselves with the concerned District Foreigners Registration Officer/Foreigners Regional Registration Officer, within 14 days of their first arrival in India, if they hold a visa for a period which is more than 180 days. 

Registration is required to be done only once during the validity of a visa irrespective of the number of times the foreigner leaves/re-enters India on multi-entry facility. Only if he/she enters India on a new visa will he/she be required to register again.

Pakistani nationals are required to register themselves at the check post of entry into India. They have to handover one copy of the visa application form, given to them by the Indian Mission abroad while granting visa, to the immigration authorities at the check post of entry,who in turn handover the Residential Permit to the Pak national. The Pak national has to carry the Residential Permit along with him/her, to each place of stay, for the purpose of police reporting. This Residential Permit has to be surrendered to the Immigration Authorities at the check post of exit, at the time of departure. Further, except those Pakistani nationals, who are granted visa with the endorsement Exempted from Police Reporting, others have to report their arrival and 
intended departure, at each place of stay as permitted in the visa, within 24 hours at the nearest police station.

All Afghan nationals are required to register themselves with the concerned FRO/FRRO within 7 days of arrival in India, irrespective of the validity of their visa.

Any violation of the above shall make a person liable for prosecution. (Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939)

q Registration Reportt
Every foreigner entering India is required to furnish the registration report containing a true statement of the foreigner's address in India and such other particulars as may be appropriate to the registration officer. They are also required to report change of their addresses, if any, during their stay in India. However, no such report is necessary for a foreigner holding visa for 180 days or less. Every registration report shall be made in writing in the English language and in quadruplicate. (Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1939)

Every foreigner, who enters India with a valid visa shall obtain from the Registration Officer having jurisdiction at that place at which he presents a registration report a permit indicating the period during which he is authorised to remain in India and also indicating the place or places for stay, if any, specified in the visa. (The Foreigners Order,1948)

q Registration
The State Registration Officer in the State capital functions as the liaison office between the Foreigners Registration Officers (FRO) and the government. The Foreigner Registration Officer is the primary agencyto regulate the registration, movement, stay, departure and also for recommending the extension of stay in India. Apart from New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, at other places, the Superintendents of Police of the Districts act as the registration officers. 

The following documents are required at the time of registration with the Foreign Registration Officers ("FRO") in India: - 
i) Photocopy of the passport and initial visa.
ii) Four photographs of the applicant.
iii) Details of residence in India.
iv) HIV test report from one of the WHO recognized institutions from people in the age group of 15 to 60 years, if the foreigner is visiting India on a visa for more than one year. 
v) Copy of the marriage certificate in case of those seeking extension of stay on grounds of being married to an Indian national.
vi) Bona-fide certificate from the University/college/institution in case of student visa.
vii) Accreditation certificate from the Press Information Bureau in case of Journalist visa.
viii) Approval of the Department of Company Affairs in the case of board level appointees in Public limited companies.
ix) Two copies of the approval of Government of India in case of a joint venture or a collaboration.
x) Copy of permission from the RBI in case of business/joint venture etc.
xi) Terms and conditions of appointments and copy of contract or agreements, in case of employment visa.
xii) Undertaking (in the format given below) from the concerned Indian company on the following lines in case of employment/business visa: -

UndertakingWe take full responsibility for the activities and conduct of Mr/Mrs _______________, national of ___________ during his/her stay in India. If anything adverse comes to notice during this period, we undertake to repatriate him/her on our cost.Date: Signature of competent authoritySeal:

The registration officers would issue a Certificate of registration and a residential permit upto the validity of the visa period.

q Exemption from Registration

The following categories of foreigners are exempted from registration requirements: -
i) Foreigners coming to India on tourist visas for 180 days or a shorter period. They can move about freely in the country, except to restricted/protected areas and prohibited places.
ii) US nationals holding 10 years tourists/business visas, provided their continuous stay during each visit does not exceed 180 days. 
iii) Foreigners of Indian origin holding 5 year multiple entry X visa with an endorsement that "stay should not exceed 180 days during visit".In case a foreigner of Indian origin wishes to stay in India continuously for more than 180 days or longer, then registration is required within 14 days of arrival in India.
iv) Foreigners holding five-year tourist visas, who are actively engaged in tourist/travel trade and are desirous of visiting India frequently over an extend period for promotion of tourism, etc. provided their visa contains an endorsement that "continuous stay should not exceed 180 days" 
v) Nationals of Bangladesh are exempted from registration up to 180 days.If their stay exceeds 180 days, they have to register themselves. 
vi) Children of foreigners under 16 years of age residing in India, who are exempted from Registration (Exemption) Order 1957. But they will be issued a residential permit for their stay in India. They should also obtain extension for their stay from time to time. 
vii) PIO cardholders provided their continuous stay does not exceed 180 days. If the continuous stay exceeds 180 days, the foreigner should approach the concerned FRO/FRRO for registration within 30 days of the expiry of 180 days, who will in turn register them.

q Other Regulations
If a person not domiciled in India intends to stay in the country for more than 120 days, an Income Tax Clearance' certificate is required in order to leave the country. This document will prove that the person's stay in India was financed by his own money and not by working or selling his goods. These certificates are issued by the foreign section of the Income Tax Department at Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai on being shown the person's passport, visa extension form and the currency exchange receipts, which have been used by the person.

Foreigners should not buy, sell or use psycho-tropic drugs or any other narcotic substances while in India, as their purchase, sell or possession is a cognizable offence punishable by imprisonment.

Foreign tourists are required to bring Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate conforming to International Health Regulation, if they are originating or transiting through Yellow Fever endemic countries. 

q Departure from India 
All visitors holding Registration Certificate have to obtain, before departure, exit endorsement from the Registration Officer of the district in which they were registered.

All persons, except nationals of Bhutan & Nepal, leaving India by air, road or rail have to fill in an Embarkation Card at the time of departure. 

Every foreigner who is about to depart finally from India shall surrender his Certificate of Registration either to the Registration 
Officer of the place where he is registered or of the place from where he intends to depart or to the Immigration Officer at the Port/Check post of exit from India. If the certificate is surrendered to other than the immigration officer at the port/check post of exit, the foreigners should produce the receipt indicating such surrender of the document to the immigration officer at the port/check post of exit.

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