• India: Authorities Issue New Guidelines on Employment and Business Visa Changes
  • August 23, 2010
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office

    The Indian government recently issued guidelines that introduce new criteria for employment visas and clarify the maximum validity and extension periods for business visas. The new guidelines also address in-country registration requirements for employment and business visa holders.

    Employment Visa Quota and Validity for Non-IT Positions

    Under the new guidelines, Indian employers that sponsor foreign nationals to work in sectors other than information technology (IT) remain subject to the employment visa quota introduced in 2009, which requires sponsoring companies to limit the number of foreign workers they employ in India to 1% of their total workforce or 20 foreign workers in total, whichever is less. However, where 1% of the company’s total workforce is less than five employees, the company may now sponsor up to five foreign workers for employment visas for non-IT positions.

    Foreign nationals working in non-IT positions may be issued an employment visa for an initial period of up to two years (increased from the previous one-year period), and may extend their visa in-country for a total validity period of up to five years from the visa’s initial date of issuance.

    The requirements for foreign nationals working in the information technology sector, reported here, are unchanged by the new guidelines.

    Registration Requirements for Employment Visa Holders

    The new guidelines clarify that employment visa holders are required to register with their local Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) only if they will remain in India for 180 days or more. If registration is required, it must take place within 14 days of the foreign national’s arrival in India. Registrants will be issued a residence permit that is valid for the same period as their employment visa. They are required to update their residence permit immediately following a change of address. Holders of employment visas issued for a period of less than 180 days are not required to register with local authorities unless otherwise indicated on the visa.

    Business Visa Validity, Extensions and Registration Requirements

    Business visas may now be issued to nationals of most countries for a total validity period of up to five years. U.S. nationals may be issued business visas with a validity of ten years. (In all cases, business visa holders can be admitted to India for up to six months per stay.) Previously, business visas were generally granted for an initial period up to one year, except to nationals of certain countries.

    The new guidelines clarify that business visas with a validity of less than five years may be extended in India for a total period of up to five years from the visa’s initial date of issuance, provided that the gross sales or turnover from the foreign business visitor’s activities in India equal or exceed 10 million rupees (approximately US$ 216,000) per year.

    According to the new guidelines, business visas will now carry endorsements that clearly identify the visa holders’ applicable terms of stay, including whether or not they must register with local authorities upon arrival. The endorsements will state either "each stay not to exceed 6 months and registration not required" or "registration required within 14 days."

    Visas for Training or Auditing

    The guidelines do not address whether foreign nationals entering India to impart training or to perform auditing activities require a business or employment visa. As such, the appropriate visa category for foreign nationals entering India to engage in either of these activities will be determined by the Indian consular official and will be subject to his or her discretion and interpretation of the guidelines.

    Implementation of the New Guidelines

    Fragomen is monitoring the implementation of the new guidelines by the authorities in India and by the Indian Missions abroad. It is expected to take some time before the guidelines are implemented fully and consistently across the various Missions.

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