Growing interest in doing business in India has seen a rise in the
number of foreigners travelling to India and this is expected to
increase in the near future. Indian law does not place
restrictions on the number of foreign nationals that can work or
do business in India, but the entry, stay, movements and departure
of foreign nationals into India are regulated by various Indian
acts and rules framed by the Indian Central Government.
All foreign nationals planning to visit India should have a valid
passport or other travel document and an appropriate visa. All
passengers arriving in India are subject to immigration checks on
their arrival into and departure from the country. There are no
provisions for visas upon arrival. Those arriving in India without
a visa bearing the correct validity dates and number of entries
are subject to immediate deportation. Foreign nationals who have
obtained Persons of Indian Origin cards or are registered as
Overseas Citizens of India, which are granted to certain foreign
nationals of Indian origin or their spouses, are exempt from
certain visa requirements.
Applicants should apply to the
appropriate Indian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate (the
Post) depending on the location of their residence. For instance,
applicants who are citizens of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)
may apply for Indian visas at the Indian Embassy in Beijing.
However, PRC citizens holding Hong Kong ID cards can apply for
visas at the Post in Hong Kong. The Post at Hong Kong may issue
visas to applicants who do not normally reside in its
jurisdiction, after obtaining a clearance from the Indian Missions
in the applicant’s country of residence.
A foreign national should
apply for a visa depending on the category most suited to the
purpose of the visit, which cannot be changed once the foreign
national arrives in India. The Posts grant visas with validity
from the date of issue and for the period requested by the
applicant. There is a common visa application form for all
categories of visas, which has to be submitted with the prescribed
visa fee and supporting documentation. Visa fees once received are
not refunded even if the application is withdrawn or the visa is
In India, the Indian Bureau of
Immigration grants an applicant entry for a specific time
depending on the purpose of the visit. The change of visa status
from one category to another is normally not allowed. The Ministry
of Home Affairs (MHA) has the power to convert (in limited
circumstances) or extend visas within India.
Following are the most commonly used visa categories:
Tourist Visa (‘T’): Tourist visas may
be granted with a validity of 6 months up to 10 years.
Irrespective of the validity of the visa, the maximum period of
stay within India is limited to 6 months (180 days).
Entry Visa (‘X’): These kinds of
visas, granted only to persons of Indian origin, are valid for 6
months to 5 years stay with multiple entries. Further, members of
the family of a person employed in India are also eligible for
this visa. Foreign nationals accompanying their spouse who is on
an employment, business or other category long-term visa may
obtain an Entry visa before coming to India. However, if the
spouse wishes to take up any employment in India, then he or she
will be required to return to the country of origin and obtain a
requisite employment visa.
Business Visa (‘B’): Business visas
are issued with a validity of 6 months to 10 years, with multiple
entries to foreign nationals who wish to travel to India for
business, or in connection with joint ventures in India. However,
the period of continuous stay in India, for each visit, under this
category is limited but can be extended within India.
Employment Visa (‘E’): Foreign
nationals with high levels of professional skills and
qualifications are granted visas to take up employment in India.
The duration of the Employment visa would depend on the period of
employment contract and the validity of the applicant’s passport.
An application for this visa should be supported with documents,
including but not limited to, an appointment letter, employment
contract, applicant’s resume and proof of authenticity of the
employing organization in India.
Visa (‘S’): Student visas are valid for the period of study
and allow multiple-entries to bona fide students who wish to
pursue regular studies at recognized institutions in India.
Applicants for this visa should carry a letter confirming
admission from the institution along with evidence of financial
arrangements for their stay in India. If a student is in India on
a tourist or other type of visa and obtains admission into an
institution in India, the student will be required to return to
the home country and obtain a student visa.
Conference Visa (‘C’): These visas are for applicants who
want to attend international approved conferences, organized under
the aegis of the Indian Government. The invitation letters from
the organizers should mention details of clearance accorded by the
Registration of Foreign Nationals
Most foreign nationals, including those of Indian origin, visiting
India on a visa that permits a stay of more than 180 days must
register with the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office (FRRO)
having jurisdiction over the place where the foreigner intends to
stay within 14 days of his/her arrival. In addition, some foreign
nationals may be issued visas indicating that registration is
required, irrespective of the duration of stay, should be sure to
register with the appropriate FRRO within 14 days. A foreign
national is required to appear in person before the appropriate
Registration Officer along with relevant documents. Nationals of
certain countries are required to register within 24 hours to 7
days of their arrival. In addition, a foreign national may be
required to provide an HIV test report from a WHO recognized
Registration of Foreign Nationals staying
All foreign nationals are required to fill up Form-C under the
Registration of Foreigners Rules when they stay in any hotel or
commercial premises. It is the responsibility of the hotel owner
to ensure that the foreign national complies with this
requirement. This register has to be made available for inspection
on demand by designated officials. Even at the time of departure,
the foreign national has to provide information with regard to
date and time of departure and the address to which he or she is
Persons of Indian Origin [PIO]
A foreign national, who can prove his or her Indian origin up to
three previous generations (or the spouse of a citizen of India or
person of Indian origin), is eligible for a PIO Card (the Card),
which is valid for fifteen years from the date of issue. Citizens
of Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries as may be specified by
the Central Government are not eligible to receive these Cards.
The Card gives the holder
visa-free entry into India for fifteen years and exemption from
registration with an FRRO if the period of stay in India does not
exceed 180 days. In addition, PIO card holders enjoy parity with
Non-Resident Indians in economic, financial and educational
fields. PIO holders can acquire, hold, transfer or dispose of
immovable properties in India (except agricultural/ plantation
properties), open Indian Rupee (INR) bank accounts, lend INRs to
Indian residents and make investments in India. PIO card holders’
children can also obtain admission in educational institutions in
India on parity with Non-Resident Indians. However, they cannot
exercise any political rights, visit restricted/protected areas
without permission, or undertake mountaineering, research and
missionary work without additional permission.
The Card is issued to eligible
applicants through the Indian Posts in the country of their
citizenship. Those staying in India on long term visas may apply
for it from the appropriate FRRO.
Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI):
From January 2006, the Indian Government implemented the law
regarding registration of eligible foreign nationals as Overseas
Citizens of India (OCIs). Eligible foreign nationals include,
among a few other categories, certain persons of Indian origin and
individuals whose parents or grand parents migrated from India
after 26th January, 1950 and their minor children. This is subject
to the applicant being a citizen of a country which allows dual
citizenship in some form or the other. This provision is extended
to such citizens of all countries other than those who had ever
been citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Registration as an OCI is a
one time process that grants all the benefits that are available
to PIO Card holders with some additional benefits. These include a
life long multi-entry, multi-purpose visa to visit, live or work
in India and are not subject to travel restrictions within the
country or employment visa requirements that apply to PIOs. An OCI
is not required to register with an FRRO for any length of stay in
India. An individual registered as an OCI for 5 years and who has
lived in India for one year is eligible to gain "full" Indian
Citizenship. To avail of "full" Indian citizenship, a foreign
national will have to relinquish his foreign nationality.
The OCI registration process
is to be initiated online, at the Ministry of Home Affair’s
website, and completed by sending the supporting documents to the
appropriate office. An application fee has to be submitted with
the hard copy of the application. Individuals holding PIO cards
may pay reduced fees.
An OCI certificate is issued
to the applicant within a few weeks unless there are reports of
criminal cases, in which case it could take longer. All
applications are scrutinized by the Central Government of India.
The registration is subject to cancellation, if it is found that
such registration was availed of with the aid of fraud, false
representation or concealment of any material fact.
Individuals wishing to get a
PIO card have to apply only in their country of citizenship.
However, individuals can register as OCIs at the Indian mission or
post in the country where they reside or in some instances even
while they are in India.
Indian nationals who have recently acquired nationality of another
country are required to surrender their Indian passport to the
Post for cancellation at the time of applying for an Indian visa
for the first time with their foreign passport. Please note that a
PIO Card holder whose travel to India, is for a purpose other than
a visit, requires an appropriate visa. However, this does not
apply to an OCI. Certain foreign nationals may acquire citizenship
of India by naturalisation if he or she has resided in India for
the prescribed duration. Under the OCI scheme, eligible OCIs may
acquire Indian citizenship after staying in India for one year
provided he/she has been registered as an OCI for five years.
Immigration Laws in India:
Immigration Laws, provisions under the Constitution of India,The
Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, The Immigration (Carriers'
liability) Act, 2000 and the complete procedure to be followed for
immigration into India...