“The Government’s objective is to create a simple and hassle free visa regime to facilitate arrival and stay of foreign travelers into the country.”: Rajiv Gauba, Union Home Secretary at a conference for ‘Streamlining of India’s Visa regime.’
At this recently conducted conference, Mr. Gauba emphasized upon the various initiatives taken by the Government to liberalize the visa regime after taking into account the suggestions and concerns raised by various ministries and industries like aviation, tourism, and education.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has adopted many measures to facilitate the smooth entry, stay, and movement of foreign nationals in the country while ensuring the security of the country. This is a note about the various steps taken recently to liberalize the Indian visa process.
1. e-Visa Facility
India boasts among the best e-Visa facilities across the globe. The e-Visa facility was introduced in 2014 by the Government to promote trade and tourism in the country. The e-Visa facility is available to the citizens of 166 countries and it can be availed for visits related to travel, business, conferences, and for medical reasons. About 40% of Visa applications today comprise e-Visas. The applications have increased from 5.17 lakhs in 2015 to a staggering 21 lakhs as of November 30th, 2018. The e-Visa facility is available at 26 airports across the country along with the major 5 seaports.
As per the new rules, the local Foreign Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) has been given the authority to extend the e-Visas beyond the period of 60 days up to 90 days. A foreign national can avail the –Visa facility thrice a year as opposed to twice earlier.
The e-Visa is available for 5 categories:
- Medical Attendant
The last two categories were recently introduced. This should make it easier to apply for visas for short-term, specific purpose visits to India.
The introduction of e-FRRO aims to assist the foreigners residing in India with any consular or visa related issues. These foreigners can avail 27 visa-related services through e-FRRO, a service which has been launched throughout the country. This means that the foreigners need not visit the FRROs by applying and receiving the consular or visa-related services online. To expedite the visa-related process, the FRROs have been vested with the powers of visa extension, visa conversion, visa registration, and exit permission.
This is a welcome move, for the expats residing here as well as for the companies that employ them. Making the services easier to access will help save time and effort for all concerned and make the whole process more transparent.
3. Visa Conversion
The FRRO can allow the conversion of any category of visa of a foreigner, who is married to an Indian citizen or to a person of Indian origin/OCI card holder, into an Entry Visa at any point. This could have a significant impact given the rising number of such cross-cultural wedding alliances -ala Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas!
4. Availing Medical Treatment and other Services
Earlier, to avail a medical treatment, the residing foreign national had to get the visa converted into a medical visa. This has been eased now. A foreign national residing in India can avail medical treatment and other services without converting their visa into a medical visa. This step has been initiated to provide relief in case of medical emergencies faced by foreign nationals while in India. This is another welcome move -foreigners residing in India need to provide for medical emergencies just like any other resident and this makes one complication less for them to worry about at this hard time.
5. Visa Extensions
To promote trade and business activities, the criteria for the extension of Employment and Business visas has been revised. The present 5-years extension of Employment visa has been revised to 10-years and the present 10-years extension of Business visa has been revised to 15 years. This is a very significant move and should promote longer-term expat assignments. This is especially key for expats coming in at leadership positions and should provide for greater stability and a longer-term view.
The revised rules also allow a foreign national, residing in India, to attend conferences/ seminars/workshops without having to avail of any specific permission from the FRRO.
6. Visa related to Restricted Area Permit (RAP) and Protected Area Permit (PAP)
There are certain areas in the country that have been classified as ‘Restricted’ or ‘Protected’ areas by the Union Government, State Governments, and the Union Territories. Foreign nationals wanting to visit these areas are required to procure a RAP or PAP. Such permits are granted only after a prior reference is made by the concerned State Government and Union Territory. These permits have now been dispensed with for the following conditions:
- Foreign nationals visiting a place that falls under RAP or PAP, for purposes other than tourism on a visa other than a Tourist Visa
- Foreign nationals visiting a place for tourism purpose which is not open to tourists
- Individual foreign tourists
The concerned State Government or the FRRO has been vested with the power to take this decision locally and grant PAP or RAP to such foreign nationals immediately.
7. Intern Visa
The Intern Visa provisions have been liberalized with a view to attracting foreign nationals to visit India for the purpose of undertaking internships in Indian organizations. A student of a foreign nationality can apply for an Intern visa at any time during the duration of the course. The remuneration condition for the grant of Intern visa has been reduced to Rs. 3.60 lakhs from the previous fee of Rs. 7.80 lakhs. As the Indian economy grows, so does its attraction to international business schools and technology colleges. Allowing easier flow of interns is a wonderful way to promote the available opportunities to this next generation of leaders. The lowered salary figure is also a realistic assessment of what organizations can afford to pay interns.
8. e-Event Clearance Module
To expedite the issuance and clearance of visas related to conferences, seminars, workshops, and other such events, the e-Event Clearance Module has been set up by the Government. This aims to issue visas without any delay to the foreign nationals looking to visit India for such events. Easier entry for such events will help to make these events bigger, the learning there better, and to raise the profile of India in the world of business events.
The booming Indian economy has opened the doors of opportunities to the world. To ensure the easy arrival and stay of foreign nationals -either for work, business, pleasure, or for any other purpose, the Government of India has made significant changes to the applicable visa regimes. The moves are welcome -and could signal an increasing flow of expats coming in to occupy key positions and contribute to our growing economy.
Note: These rules and regulations are as defined by the government. These may vary depending on the case, documentation available, nationality of the applicant and the powers delegated to each FRRO. Kindly contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org for any case specific consultation. Visit www.lexagent.net for immigration related updates!