Visas for India
Getting a visa for India isn’t too difficult, but the process can take some time. Indian visa rules aren’t always clear and concise, so expats who plan on visiting or moving to India must begin by identifying the visa that’s right for their situation. It is best to start the process as far ahead of time as possible.
Tourist visas for India
Indian tourist visas are for travellers wanting to visit friends or sightsee. They are generally granted for six months from the date of issue (not the date of arrival) and applicants may have to provide biometric data like fingerprints when they apply.
Most foreign nationals will apply for their visa at a VFS Application Centre in their home country before they leave. But travellers from a list of 43 countries are eligible for getting a tourist visa on arrival, including Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the USA.
Work visas for India
Expats can either apply for an employment visa or business visa to legally work in India – no separate work permit will be needed.
Employment visas for India
Employment visas are issued to expats wanting to work for an organisation registered in India or to do volunteer work. Expats are eligible for employment visas if they are relocating to India on either an intra-company transfer or with a guaranteed offer of employment.
To obtain this type of visa expats will not only have to provide proof of a job offer but also proof of the academic/professional qualifications that enable them to do the job. Employment visas for India are usually valid for between two and five years, depending on the applicant’s profession.
Extensions and renewals can be obtained from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs or an expat’s local Foreign Regional Registration Office, but this is generally granted only after foreigners have worked in the country for several years.
Business visas for India
Business visas are available for expat entrepreneurs or investors who want to conduct business in India. Unlike employment visas, business visa applicants usually work on behalf of a foreign company for a limited time and won’t be working for a local employer. It is important to have Indian business contacts who can act as a business partner and provide a letter of invitation.
Business visas are generally issued with six month's validity or more, and provide for multiple entries. However, business visa holders aren’t allowed to remain in India for longer than six months at a time. A business visa cannot be converted into an employment visa.
Applying for a visa for India
Expats coming to India for employment should apply for a visa before they arrive. They can get application forms from their local Indian Embassy, or approach a VFS Global private processing agency appointed by the Indian authorities to process visa applications.
Aside from standard documentation like passports and passport photos, the documents expats would need to provide differ depending on various factors, including the type of visa. For example, employment visa applicants will need to provide proof of employment such as a contract with an Indian employer and business visa applications may need to be accompanied by letters from the applicant's employer and the local organisation they’ll be doing business with.
Residential permits for India
Expats who have a visa that’s valid for more than 180 days will need to register with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within two weeks of arriving to receive a residential permit. The FRRO has branches in numerous cities, and where they don’t, expats would need to visit the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the district.
The documents expats will need include application forms, passport copies and passport-size photos, a copy of their visa, a letter of guarantee from an Indian host or sponsor, and proof of residence.
The experience of applying for a residential permit will largely depend on the official handling the registration process. Some officials will ask for every possible document, and expats may want to have multiple copies of all documents on hand. Regardless, expats must ensure all information in their documents is correct and should bring any additional documents they think may be necessary. The process involves a lot of sitting and waiting, so expats will need to be patient.
FRRO offices are usually open from Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 1pm. Applicants should arrive early, otherwise a second trip may be required.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.