Visas for India

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Getting a visa for India is not difficult; rather, deciding which visa to apply for can be a bit of a challenge. India Visa Application FormIndian visa rules are not as clear and concise as many other countries, so expats who plan on visiting or moving to India must begin by identifying the correct type of visa for their situation. 

Expats should keep in mind that, according to immigration rules, a work permit for India is synonymous with an employment/business visa. Expats wishing to work legally in India first need to obtain this valid Indian visa before beginning their job: no separate work permit is needed.  

Tourist visas for India

Foreigners can apply for a tourist visa if they are coming to visit friends or for sightseeing. Tourist visas are generally granted for six months from the date of issue (not the date of arrival in India). Before 2009, tourist visa holders could travel in and out of India within the six month period. However, to curb the misuse of tourist visas, the Indian government introduced new rules whereby anyone who has an Indian tourist visa must have a two-month gap between visits to India. So a tourist visa holder can return to India only after two months of leaving the country. Foreigners are not allowed to work in India while holding a tourist visa.

Most foreign nationals will need to apply for a tourist visa from the Indian embassy in their home country before leaving for India. However, currently nationals from 11 countries, including Singapore, Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Indonesia, are eligible for a tourist visa on arrival.  

Work visas for India

documents for India visa applicationTo work in India, an expat can apply for one of two visas:
  1. Business visa
  2. Employment visa

Business visas in India

Business visas are available for people who wish to explore business opportunities or conduct business in India. This type of visa differs from an employment visa, in that the applicant will not be working for, and earning an income from, an organisation in India. Instead they will be working on behalf of a company outside of India. Business visas are generally issued with six month validity or more, and provide for multiple entries. However, holders of a business visa are not allowed to remain in India for longer than six months at a time.

Employment visas in India

An employment visa, on the other hand, is issued to a foreigner who will be working in India for an organisation registered in India. Foreigners wishing to do volunteer work in India also require this category of visa. An employment visa is valid for one year, irrespective of the duration of the contract. A further extension of up to five years can be obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Foreign Regional Registration Office in the relavent  state in India, but this is generally granted only after foreigners have worked in India for a period of between three and five years.

Some other visas issued for specific purposes include media visas, conference visas, research visas and sports visas.

Applying for a visa for India

All foreigners coming to India for employment should apply for a valid Indian visa before they arrive. Applicants can obtain a visa application form from the Indian Embassy in their country, or they can also approach several private processing agencies, such as VFS Global, who have been appointed by the Indian Embassy to process Indian visa applications.

Documents required for visa applications

Employment Visa
  • Proof of employment with a company/organisation in India, such as a contract that states the terms and conditions of appointment.
  • To be eligIble for an employment visa, applicants must be earning 25,000 USD a year or more. Exceptions are made for ethnic cooks, translators, non-English language teachers, and members of foreign high commissions and embassies.

Business Visa
  • A letter from the organisation they intend to do business with, stating the nature of business, duration of stay, places to be visited and the employer's intention to meet expenses.

Tourist Visa
  • Passport with a minimum six-month validity
  • Recent passport-size photographs
  • Details of travel itinerary
Travellers can expect their tourist visa for India to take between five and seven days to process. .

Applying for a residence permit for India

Foreign nationals who intend to stay in India for a period longer than 182 days, or who have a visa for more than 182 days, will need to obtain a residence permit. To do this, register with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within two weeks of arrival in India. In case of late registration, a fine will be applicable.

The FRRO has branches in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Amritsar. Those staying in any other city will would need to visit the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the district. In Mumbai, it is also possible to register at the Chief Immigration Office.

Documents to be submitted for registration and residence permit

  • Prescribed registration form to be filled out on computer terminals at the FRRO office
  • Four passport-size photographs (4cmx4cm with white background, ears distinctly visible without spectacle or cap)
  • Registration booklet, available at the FRRO office.
  • Passport copy (information page with photograph, expiry date, etc. and page bearing arrival stamp of Indian Immigration)
  • Copy of Indian visa
  • Proof of residence (copy of leave and license agreement / electricity bill /  telephone bill)
  • Letter of undertaking from an Indian resident taking responsibility for the expat during their stay in India, and confirming to repatriate the expat at their cost if any situation arose. The undertaking needs to be duly signed by the authorised signatory of the expats company or guarantor, mentioning his name and contact number. A prescribed format for the undertaking is available on the Mumbai Police websiteCopy of Indian passport or election card of the person standing as guarantor should be included as proof of identity along with the undertaking.
  • Registration fee 

As is evident, an expat can only apply for a residence permit in India once they have secured an apartment and applied for their PAN card. Therefore, it is important for to start apartment-hunting and registering for a PAN card as soon as possible after arrival in the country. Without this, besides the FRRO registration, expats cannot proceed to open a bank account or get a phone connection.

In addition to the above, each category of visa requires additional documents.

Employment Visa
  • Company contract specifying salary, position and tenure of employment, in addition to other terms and conditions
  • Copy of PAN card and income tax papers for current assessment year. A PAN card is issued to all tax-payers in India and serves as a way for the Income Tax Department to track income tax payments. It also serves as a valid Proof of Identity.

Business Visa
  • Letter from the person or firm in India with whom the applicant intends to do business with, indicating type of business, volume of business in the current year, etc.
  • Contract or assignment letter from the company
  • Bank statements showing assured financial standing
  • Copy of Bill of Lading or invoices
Depending on the type of visa, the letter of intent or contract will change accordingly.

It is important to note that each experience of applying for a residence permit is entirely dependent on the official handling the registration process.

If the person is vigilant, applicants will be asked for every document possible and it is advisable to carry multiple sets of all  documents. At least three sets are recommended.  

If, on the other hand, the person is lackadaisical, the process may hardly take any time and there will be no problems at all. However, irrespective of this, expats must be to include all the dates correctly in their documents and bring any additional documents they think may be necessary. The process does involve a lot of sitting and waiting, so high levels of patience are required.

The FRRO is open from Monday to Friday between 10am and 2pm. Applicants should aim to arrive before 10am so that they can complete the registration on the same day. Otherwise, a second trip will likely be required.

Visa extensions for Indian permits

Many expats are lead to believe that it is easier to renew an visa for India in their home country, rather than in India. However, thanks to improved processes it is actually not too difficult to get visas renewed in India. Expats need to apply for an extension at least 15 days prior to the expiry of the current visa.

Officially, visas can be only be extended by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), located in New Delhi. However, for the convenience of foreigners, the FRROs/District Superintendents of Police (ex-officio FROs) are now empowered to make some conversions/extensions for certain types of visas without referring to the MHA.  

However, expats can get only a three-month extension from the FRRO, while simultaneously processing their request through the MHA. Once the FRRO receives an approval from the MHA, the balance of 9 months extension is confirmed. 

In the case of employment visas, the FRRO is known to issue one-year visa extensions without much fuss, provided of course that all  the documents are in order. Documents required are the same as those required for the original registration. The FRRO registration will be done simultaneously.

Expats should note that failure to renew their visa before its expiration is considered a serious offence and can potentially jeapordise any future visa applications. If one is not able to renew the visa in time, they should visit the FRRO as soon as possible to avoid any serious penalty. Applicants will need to provide documentation to prove why they failed to meet the deadline such as a medical certificate. They will also need to submit a letter of apology and pay a penalty fee. 

Penalty fees vary from case to case. Therefore, it is best to speak to an official at the FRRO Office beforehand as they can advise people appropriately. 

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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BeverlyRodrigues's picture
Mumbai, India
Mumbai, India
Born and brought up in Mumbai, I have seen its transformation take place from just another Indian city to India's mega...

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