Under Indian law, the legal rights and the restrictions imposed on foreign nationals depend on whether they are categorized as residents or non-residents.
Entry into India generally requires a valid visa granted by an Indian Mission (that is, consulate of the Indian embassy) abroad. Furthermore, foreign nationals who enter India must register themselves with the Foreign Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within 14 days of arrival if they intend to reside in India for a consecutive period of more than 180 days.
The entry, stay and exit of foreign nationals into India are primarily governed by the following laws (among others):
An Employment visa is granted to a foreigner who is a highly skilled and/or qualified professional. Employment Visa shall not be granted –
(i) for jobs for which qualified Indians are available and
(ii) for routine, ordinary or secretarial/clerical jobs.
Employment visa is not granted to a citizen of Pakistan.
The foreign national being sponsored for an employment visa in any sector should draw a gross salary in excess of Rs. 16.25 lakhs per annum. However, this condition of annual floor limit on income will not apply to:
(a) Ethnic cooks employed by foreign Missions in India (this will not apply to ethnic cooks employed in commercial venture),
(b) Language teachers (other than English language teachers) / translators (this will not include teachers employed to teach particular subjects in foreign language),
(c) staff working for the concerned Embassy/ High Commission in India,
(d) foreigners, eligible for ‘E’ visa for honorary work with the NGOs registered in the country without salary,
(e) foreign teaching faculty employed in the South Asian University and the Nalanda University, and
(f) Circus artists.
Duration of Employment Visa
|Category||Duration of Employment|
|(i) A foreign technician/expert coming to India in pursuance of a bilateral agreement between the Government of India and the foreign government, or in pursuance of a collaboration agreement that has been approved by the Government of India||Duration of the agreement or for a period of five years, whichever is less, with multiple entry facilities|
|(ii) Highly skilled foreign personnel being employed in the IT software and IT enabled sectors||Up to three years or term of assignment, whichever is less, with multiple entry facilities|
|(iii) Foreigner coming for employment not covered in (i) or (ii) above||Up to 2 (two) years or the term of assignment, whichever is less, with multiple entry facility|
Registration: If the Employment visa is valid for a period of more than 180 days, the foreign national concerned should register with the FRRO/FRO concerned within 14 days of arrival. In the case of Employment Visa issued for a period of 180 days or less, registration is not required with FRRO/FRO.
Extension of Employment Visa: The Employment visa may be extended by the FRRO / FRO concerned beyond the initial visa validity period, up to a total period of 5 years from the date of issue of the initial Employment Visa, on a year to year basis.
A Business visa is granted to a foreigner for the following purposes –
(i) Foreign nationals who wish to visit India to establish an industrial/business venture or to explore possibilities to set up an industrial/business venture, other than Proprietorship Firms and Partnership Firms, in India.
(ii) Foreign nationals coming to India to purchase/sell industrial products or commercial products or consumer durables.
(iii) Foreign nationals coming to India for technical meetings/discussions, attending Board meetings or general meetings for providing business services support.
(iv) Foreign nationals coming to India for recruitment of manpower.
(v) Foreign nationals who are partners in the business and/or functioning as Directors of the company.
(vi) Foreign nationals coming to India for consultations regarding exhibitions or for participation in exhibitions, trade fairs, business fairs etc.
(vii) Foreign buyers who come to transact business with suppliers/ potential suppliers at locations in India, to evaluate or monitor quality, give specifications, place orders, negotiate further supplies etc., relating to goods or services procured from India.
(viii) Foreign experts/specialists on a visit of short duration in connection with an ongoing project with the objective of monitoring the progress of the work, conducting meetings with Indian customers and/or to provide technical guidance.
(ix) Foreign nationals coming to India for pre-sales or post-sales activity not amounting to actual execution of any contract or project.
(x) Foreign trainees of multinational companies/corporate houses coming for in-house training in the regional hubs of the concerned company located in India.
(xi) Foreign nationals coming as tour conductors and travel agents and / or conducting business tours of foreigners or business relating to it, etc.
(xii) Foreign academicians/ experts coming under GIAN (Global Initiative for Academic Networks).
(xiii) Crew members of scheduled/ non-scheduled flights operated by scheduled airlines, nonscheduled and chartered flights operated by non-scheduled airlines and special flights.
(xiv) Foreign nationals intending to visit India to participate in cultural events/ activities with remuneration. [Such foreign nationals intending to visit India to participate in cultural events/ activities for short duration without remuneration may be granted Entry (X-Misc.) Visa.]
(xv) Foreign nationals who are engaged in commercial sports events in India on contract (including coaches) like Indian Premier League, Indian Soccer League, etc. with remuneration. They may be granted ‘B-Sports’ Visa with multiple entry facility for 13 appropriate period. Such a foreign national shall comply with all the statutory obligations like payment of taxes, etc.
Conditions for grant of Business Visa
(i) The foreign national should be a person of assured financial standing (sufficient proof of his/ her financial standing and expertise in the field of intended business will be checked thoroughly while granting the visa).
(ii) The foreign national should not be visiting India for the business of money lending or for running a petty business or petty trade or for full time employment in India, etc.
(iii) The foreign national shall comply with all other requirements like payment of tax liabilities etc.
Duration of Business Visa & other conditions
|Category||Duration of Employment|
|(i) Citizens of the United States of America or Canada or Japan or United Kingdom or South Africa||10 years validity with multiple entry facility|
|(ii) Nationals of 30 countries i.e. Iran, Egypt, Libya, Qatar, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, Turkey, Morocco, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Lebanon, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Belarus, Somalia, South Sudan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka||Duration of visa will be decided by the concerned Indian Missions/ Posts subject to a maximum of 5 years|
|(iii) Nationals of Bangladesh, China and Pakistan||provisions as available in the bilateral agreements/ policy guidelines, as issued from time to time, will be applicable|
|(iv) Nationals of other countries||Multiple entry Business Visa may be granted for a period of 5 years as a default option.|
This visa shall be issued with the stipulation that “continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days and registration not required.”
*In the case of urgent request, the Indian Missions/ Posts may provide visa for business travel within 48 hours of application.
VISA FOR DEPENDENTS
(a) No dependent visa will be granted to parents/ other family members of a minor child below 18 years of age coming on Student Visa. However, parents/ other family members of such a minor child can be granted any other type of visa subject to their fulfilling the eligibility conditions for the same.
(b) In the case of a foreign national coming on Student visa for higher education (graduation and above) and on Research visa, spouse and minor children accompanying the foreign national may be granted dependent visa of appropriate sub-category. Its validity shall be co-terminus with the validity of the visa of the latter or for such shorter period as may be considered necessary by the Indian Mission/Post. Such family members may also obtain Student/ Research Visa, if required, subject to their fulfilling the conditions laid down for the grant of such visa.
(b) Dependent visa of spouse and minor children of a foreign national who is granted Student /Research visa may be extended by the FRRO/ FRO concerned beyond the initial validity period co-terminus with the visa of the principal visa holder subject to no adverse inputs against the said foreign national.
(c) Visa of dependents of foreign nationals coming on Employment, Business, Student, Research Visa etc. can be converted into Student/Research Visa within the country by the FRRO/ FRO concerned provided such dependents fulfill the conditions laid down for the grant of Student/Research Visa.
(d) ‘X’ (Entry) Visa of a foreigner who has been studying on Entry Visa can be converted to Student Visa by the FRRO/ FRO concerned on attaining the age of 16 years or after 12th Standard subject to fulfillment of the conditions for grant of Student Visa.
(e) ‘X’ (Entry) Visa of foreigners born to Indian nationals may be converted to Student Visa by the FRRO/ FRO concerned subject to verification of the PIO status.
About the Author
Author is Neeraj Bhagat, FCA helping foreign companies in setting up and closure of business in India and complying with various tax laws applicable to foreign companies while establishing a business in India. He is also founder of Neeraj Bhagat & Co. Chartered Accountants, a Chartered Accountancy firm established in the year 1997 with its head office at New Delhi.