• Conference Visa Replaces Business Visa for Seminar Attendees in Certain Cases
  • February 6, 2014
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Indian diplomatic missions worldwide have started to require foreign nationals traveling to India for the sole purpose of attending symposiums, international conferences, seminars, or workshops to obtain a conference visa rather than use a business visa, as was the past practice. Foreign nationals who will attend both business meetings and a conference or seminar during the same trip can use a business visa to enter India.

    Holders of existing valid business visas will need to apply for the conference if they are planning to travel to India for the sole purpose of attending a conference. Upon issuance of the conference visa, the holder’s previous business visa will be deemed canceled, though a cancelation stamp will not be placed on the visa.

    In the past, foreign attendees of conferences organized by an Indian ministry or government department were issued conference visas, but those attending conferences organized by a private entity could be issued either a business or a conference visa.

    Private entities organizing a conference must obtain security clearance from the appropriate nodal ministry. The nodal ministry is the government body that oversees the subject matter that will be the subject of the conference. Organizers are required to submit their proposal to the nodal ministry at least ten to twelve weeks before the event. Nodal ministries may grant a clearance directly or forward the clearance request to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs or both for further examination.

    Approvals from both the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs are mandatory for conferences that will be attended by restricted nationals or that will require participants to travel to restricted areas of India.

    Conference visas are issued for the duration of the conference. Visa applicants can request a longer stay to combine tourism activities with conference attendance; combined stays are at the discretion of Indian diplomatic officials.

    What This Means for Employers

    The new policy will inconvenience current business visa holders, whose existing business visas will be canceled if they obtain a conference visa to travel to India solely for a conference or seminar. It will also generally add administrative burdens of attending conferences and similar events in India.

    Conference organizers must ensure that all necessary security clearances are in place prior to an event that will be attended by foreign nationals.