At present, a foreign national coming to work in India is required to obtain an Employment Visa (“EV”) from the Indian Mission in his / her home country or country of residence. The accompanying spouse is required to obtain an Entry visa (“X” visa) to stay in India. A spouse who is on an X visa cannot undertake employment in India. To undertake employment in this case, the spouse is required to go back to his / her home country to obtain an EV. The Ministry of Home Affairs (“MHA”) has recently relaxed the visa norms and a spouse is now permitted to convert his / her X visa into an EV in India subject to the fulfillment of following conditions.

•           The X visa of a spouse of an employee can be converted into an EV only with the prior approval of the MHA after obtaining a report from the Foreign Regional Registration office (“FRRO”)/Foreigners Registration office (“FRO”) concerned.

•           The applicant must fulfill all the conditions laid down for grant of the EV, namely,

–           Being a skilled and qualified professional, and,

–           Drawing a salary of at least US $25,000 per annum.

Once an EV has been granted, all other standard conditions concerning the duration of the EV, its extension, etc. are applicable.

Conclusion –The relaxation of visa norms enabling spouses to convert their X visas into EVs within India is a big relief to spouses accompanying foreign nationals working in India. The accompanying spouse can now freely search for employment opportunity in India while on an X visa, and is not required to visit his/her home country to obtain an EV. This will not only save travel costs but will also be much more convenient for the spouse. This long-standing desire of foreign nationals has finally been met.

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