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Mega Immigration Changes in India and The Possible Impact on Expat Hiring

“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:

    • Tourist
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Conference
    • 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.

2. e-FRRO

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 info@lexagent.net for any case specific consultation. Visit www.lexagent.net for immigration related updates!

 

Returning expats settle in India

Welcome Back – Helping returning expats settle in the home country

The US survey on international migrant trends from a couple of years ago reported that India had the largest diaspora in the world with over 16 million Indian’s living and working in other countries. This is only half the story though. Since 2010 or so, there has been a steady flow of these Indian expats returning to the home country to make a mark here. In fact, a few months ago, the Economic Times reported that leading recruitment and search were “inundated with requests from Indian in the US, the UK, the Gulf, even Singapore, and Hong Kong”, who were looking to move back to India.

 

People like Srikumar Misra returned to their native land driven by a sense of purpose and founded start-ups to solve the problems faced by the locals there. Misra quit his job at Tetley Tea in London and returned to his native place in Orissa and founded Milk Mantra – the first Indian venture capital-funded agri-food start-up. The people in this area faced scarcity of this commodity and Srikumar Misra found an opportunity in it. “All I wanted was to make a difference to the people of my state. We now have a networked group of 40,000 farmers from whom we procure milk at 300 centres,” Misra told Business Line.

 

The emergence of India as the world’s fastest growing economy in recent years has seen a corresponding shift in its expat communities across the globe. The opportunities for competent and ambitious Indians once lay outside the country but that’s not the case anymore. There are equal, if we may not say more, opportunities in the home country today. With a large number of MNCs setting base and/or expanding their operations in India, a thriving start-up ecosystem, and a steep growth in opportunities to make an impact in the rural economy, these opportunities are bound to witness an exponential growth.

 

The booming Indian market and an increase in the protectionist environment in the European and American markets have led many Indian expats to return to explore opportunities in their homeland. In many cases, the returning expats are being hired by MNCs and large Indian corporates like you. But life for the returning expat is not without its challenges. So, as the HR group in the companies that employ them, what can you do to help them settle in?

 

Difficulties faced by a returning expat

You probably have a settled process to address the relocation of foreigners to India. Much of what you do for those incoming expats would also apply in case of your returning NRI employee. But there are a variety of specific issues that a returning expat must face in the home country. Resettling is no cakewalk. Especially for those who have spent long years outside the homeland, it takes time to acclimatize to the environment of another country.

Here are 3 specific issues faced by the returning expats:

1) Reverse Cultural Shock

The biggest difficulty of a returning expat is to readjust to the culture of his native land. After spending a significant amount of time in a foreign land, a person gets molded into that environment. The dual challenge for these people is that the environment in India is sure to be unlike what they were used to in their foreign home, but is also sure to be different from what they were used to before left the country. India has changed dramatically in the last few years. Returning expats may find a land that is nothing like the simple, cheap, and innocent land they left behind. We are now a confident, aggressive, and opinionated people who believe that we are ready to lead the world – this change of personality can be hard to adjust to. Returning expats need cultural sensitivity training too – maybe even more than foreigners.

2) Food and Drink

This is a physical as well as a mental issue. Many are the story of expats facing tummy or gut issues because of reduced immunity brought about from years of protected eating in their foreign home. Ill-advised attempts at revisiting the spicy, oily street food of their youth have laid many returning expats low. The process of readjusting the gut to spices can be slow and long, especially for the kids who have been born abroad. The same goes for water consumption. Even filtered water can be hard to stomach (literally). Hence it is advisable to start slowly and gradually making the digestive system to adjust with the introduction of spices in the food. If the worst happens, then you may need to familiarize them with the available healthcare options – availability, suitability, costs etc. may all be mysteries to them.

3) Accommodation & Family Resettlement

You must be helping all your expat employees find suitable accommodation but there is a chance that the demands of your returning expat employee could have their own complexity. Many such expats have no concept of how housing has changed in India in recent years. They are often unfamiliar with the amenity-rich, luxe condos in most Indian cities today. They may be outraged and flabbergasted by the rents in such locations. They may seek accommodation of types or in areas that used to be “posh” back in the day, but where accommodation is near-impossible to get now. The modern age also has its own problems – safety, security, privacy, and controlling access to name a few. Returning expats may not quite appreciate the extent of these problems while seeking a house or while building a life here. Exposing them to these realities – shiny as well as harsh will help them make the right choices in these areas.

Returning expats have made a major commitment to the land where they were born. Their willingness to return is admirable proof of their intent to make a difference to their home country. As their employer organization, it’s up to you to support them as they work through the nuances of their move.

HR’s Worry List For Expat Relocation to India

71% of expats in India report high confidence in the Indian economy -more than anywhere else in South and Central Asia. 63% of expats recommend India for the career advancements. HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey of 2017 has plenty of interesting numbers but if we were to summarize the results in 8 words it would be “More expats love India than ever before.” This is, of course, a very good thing -top international talent coming to India in greater numbers is good for business, good for the economy, and good for the expats too. The only people who are not completely thrilled with the whole deal may well be the HR folks in the organizations that employ these expats. Not that they don’t care for business growth -just that some peculiar challenges arise when it comes to expat relocation.

Hiring and relocating expats is no mean task. There are many things to nail down before, during, and after such a move gets made. So much rides on a successful transition and there is so much more that can go wrong. Some of the major issues faced both by HR folks and the expats, concern family relocation, cultural acceptance, acclimatization to a new work culture, housing, government regulations etc. Lexagent has helped many expats relocate to India and it’s fair to say that, at this point, we have, more or less, heard it all when it comes to areas of concern. Based on that experience, here’s an “HR worry list” with the Top 6 HR concerns for expat relocation and how to address them:

  1. Government regulations

The most important task (and the biggest worry) for any organization is to be completely aware of the laws of the land before carrying out the expat hiring and relocation process. The HR groups responsible for making the move happen should prepare an extensive checklist covering every possible legal process to be fulfilled before hiring the expats. It includes work permits, visas, registration requirements, financial documentation, and other important documentation required for relocating to India. This will ensure that the expat employee faces no regulatory hurdles on landing here.

  1. Fitment into Indian work culture

Every country has a distinct professional and work culture. Even in India, the work culture differs across major centers like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru etc. It is a valid concern if expat employees will be able to fit in or perform in an alien environment. Things that they take for granted in their home environment may be unavailable here and that should not throw them off their stride. It is imperative for the HR groups to introduce the incoming expats to the prevalent work culture early in the move. This helps in faster acclimatization to the work environment and avoiding any work culture shocks.

  1. Home and Family Settlement

The biggest concern of the incoming expat, and hence of the HR group that would be caring for them, is the happiness and well-being of the expat family. This covers a gamut of areas – home, schooling, house help and staff, transport, social life, entertainment, and even community. All these are important areas. Discomfort or poor options in any one of these will distract the expat employee and ultimately frustrate and demotivate them. The HR group will have to take the onus of providing the expat with all the right information they need to make the right choices that will make their Indian life a happy experience. 

  1. Salary and Payment Schedule

Many reports now show that some Indian centers (like Mumbai) may be among the highest paying locations worldwide for expats. Clearly, money is a huge factor -and a huge worry for HR too. An extremely important aspect of consideration for expats while moving overseas is the salary and the terms of the salary. The terms of employment should be clearly stated. The salary should be transparently clear. The inclusions, and most importantly, the exclusions should be listed. The applicable tax laws should be identified, and all agreements should be in writing. This helps prevent any misunderstanding or debate later. 

  1. Cultural Assimilation

Starting a new life in a foreign land has its own challenges. We have written in the past how HR should help the expats settle into their new culture. Without this, the newly arrived expat could become lost, confused, and alienated. This support may include identifying Expat clubs and communities in the city. The case point is Pune Expat Club.These groups let expats socialize with other expat families to build a fulfilling social circle.  This may involve introducing them to the local festivals like Holi and Diwali. This inculcates a sense of belonging and oneness amongst the expats and their families. The sooner the expat feels at home, the better it will be for HR.

  1. Long-term v/s short-term

The tenure of the expat decides what kind of assistance the expats might need. The worries for HR are different in each case. If it is a short-term relocation then the chances are high that the expat might not be willing to get his family along. The focus is more on the expat himself and getting him (or her) up to speed on the job, settled into the new role, and providing them the specific support they need to hit the ground running. The worry here is often how to keep the expat employee motivated and engaged with the temporary assignment. If it is a long-term proposition then the family relocation becomes a major priority.

The expat’s performance depends upon how happy and welcoming they feel in your organization and country. The onus is on the HR group to make the expat employee feel welcome, settled in, and ready to take on the work challenges. As we have seen, that task is not a trivial one -but it’s something that organizations everywhere are taking on more than ever before. And, in many cases, they are doing so with help from Lexagent!

 

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