The question of visas is a vast and often confused one : 'tourist' visa, 'employment', 'business', 'X', which visa to apply for when you come to India ?
This is often more confusing as the visa regulations are intricately related to the rules for owning property, being employed etc...
The following is basic information about some of the most common issues facing Foreign nationals, for more detailed information and clarification- and before coming to India- you are strongly advised to contact the nearest Indian Embassy or Mission to you.
Visas & Residential Permits, Employment, Business, Property ownership, Volunteering, Courses and Training.
Recently India has introduced certain new restrictions affecting those with Tourist and Business Visa's. Whils't the general conditions for these Visa's have not been altered, a maximum number of days to remain in India has been introduced together with a minimum amount of days between each entry and exit. In addition the visa officers have been given a wider latitude and thus, depending upon their perceptions or suspicion of the real nature of a Visitors intentions, may impose further restrictions on their Visa.
The Constitution of India extends limited Legal Rights to Foreign Nationals. Particularly in matters such as Employment, Business, Property Ownership and Family issues (marriage, divorce, adoption etc.).
In addition The Constitution gives unrestricted right to the Government of India to Expel or deny Entry to any Foreign National without giving any reasons. The Courts of Law cannot interfere in this.
India and Indians, have a great reputation for their warmth, generosity and tolerance towards foreigners, we feel that the above cautions are necessary, as in any society, there are unscrupulous people (including Foreign Nationals in India), acting as Property agents, Adoption arrangers, Business brokers, Lawyers, Consultants etc. willing to exploit and defraud by providing incorrect information and illegal arrangements.
A Visa to enter India and remain for the designated amount of time does not confer any form of personal establishment rights, such as ownership of Immovable Property.
For this, Residential Status is required ; it has to be applied for in addition to the Visa.
For Residential Status in India, the foreign national must be (or intending to be) in India for more than 182 days (six months), and for this purpose must gain permission (by way of a Residential Permit) from the Government of India, before the Expiry of 182 days from the date that they arrived. (Clearly, there must be a Visa valid for more than 182 days.)
Note: If you have a Visa for more than six months, e.g. one year or five years , you are still required to leave India every six months (even if only for one day)- Unless you have a residential permit.
India follows the International convention of Reciprocity. For example; A Ten Year Tourist Visa available for USA nationals- because The USA allows the same for Indian Nationals- is not available for French Nationals since France does not allow it for Indian Nationals.
This is the most common visa for people coming to India.
Tourist Visa holders cannot engage in any form of formal work, (i.e. paid work.) or Business Activities.
Tourist Visas are generally granted for a period of six months.
A Tourist Visa cannot be extended or a new one given from within India. On expiry of the Visa the Foreign national must have left India.
These are granted to those coming to India to work for an Indian Company or Institution on a formal and verifiable contract of employment.
Generally these are granted for one year and they can be extended from within India.
Registration for Tax is required in India. Currently, the requirement is that tax has to be paid on the Indian minimum taxable earnings amount in the first year. After this, for the Visa to be extended, Tax has to be paid on a minimum earning of Rs. 600,000 per year.
Note: Increasingly the Indian Visa Authorities are also asking for proof from the employer that they have been unsuccessful in being able to recruit an Indian National for that particular employment, before granting or extending the Visa.
There are different categories of Business Visa. The most common one is for a "Liaison Office"- i.e. for liaison work between companies abroad and India.
Note: All other categories of Business Visa require substantial Investment as well as a host of clearances and certificates from various Authorities such as the Reserve Bank of India.
Generally, Business Visas are granted for One Year, however for certain types of Business, such as a "Joint Venture", Visas for up to Ten years can be granted.
This is a general visa with a number of different categories/limitations and can be granted for up to Five years. The purpose of this visa is similar to a Tourist Visa, however it allows for Voluntary work, such as with an NGO, and engaging in certain types of long term Cultural and Training activities such as Yoga, Arts, Therapies etc. These are the visas available for those entrying the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville for example.
These are Visas also granted to those accompanying people who are on Employment or Business Visa, such as Spouses and Children.
Note: Holders of this Visa cannot work in a paid capacity or engage in any Business activities.
Student Visas are granted to those pursuing studies in an approved and recognized educational institution in India.
Note: Medical Students are required to get a "No Objection Certificate" (NOC) from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and Engineering/ Technology/ Science students require a NOC from the Ministry of Human Resources.
Medical Tourist Visa are granted to those who are coming to India for Medical Treatment. Documentation supporting this from The Hospital/ Institution is required together with financial guarantees and payment details.
The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) has made it possible, as of the year 2000, for a Foreign National with a residential permit to buy and own Immovable Property (Non Agricultural) in India.
Non Residential Permit holders can hold Leases of up to five years.
Note: No Foreign National - including Persons of Indian Origin (PIO's) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI's) - may buy and own land designated as "Agricultural Land".
For a Foreign National to adopt a child from India is no longer a simple process.
This is due to India's deep concern for the prevention of "child trafficking", which has been a serious problem until recently, and has led to the development of very strict rules and procedures. In addition India is a signatory to the Hague Convention.
The following are the basic crucial points that any Foreign National should be aware of before deciding to adopt a child in India: