INDIA - Important Changes to Business Visa Category Affecting All Foreign Nationals

  • India
  • 10/13/2009
  • Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (“MHA”) has advised it will administer new visa guidelines per an internal memorandum from the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Specific guidelines are not yet available to the general public, but the general guidance addresses the stricter interpretation of allowable activities for obtaining a business (“B”) visa. The new MHA guidelines require that all “B” visa holders performing work-related activities must depart India on or before October 31, 2009 and apply for employment (“E”) visas at Indian consular posts in their countries of citizenship in order to continue performing these types of activities. The MHA has also announced that it is specifically reviewing “B” visa applications filed with Indian consular posts in the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”).

The immediate points of concern are as follows:

a) No “B” visa extensions by Foreigner Regional Offices/Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (“FRO/FRRO”) will be granted for “B” visa holders found to be performing activities connected to a formal project in India or related to performance of a contract.

b) “B” visa holders performing contractual work or work related to a project must depart India no later than October 31, 2009.

c) Current “B” visa holders will be required to obtain “E” visas prior to returning to India in order to continue performing contractual or project duties.

d) Current “B” visa applications pending approval by Indian consular posts will be returned if the proposed activities are contractual duties or involve project work.

e) PRC nationals who obtained a “B” visa on or after January 1, 2008 may be at risk for inspections by the local Immigration Bureau at their host sites in India. Given the gravity of these new regulations, PRC nationals are strongly urged to depart for China if there is any question as to whether their activities in India are beyond traditional business visitor activities (e.g., attending sales meetings, attending conferences or seminars, or concluding business negotiations with potential clients).

f) PRC nationals filing “E” visa applications will be required to undergo lengthy security checks that could delay issuance of employment visas by up to 60 days.

g) Indian consular posts have been instructed to process “E” visa applications only from applicants applying in their countries of citizenship. Currently, this regulation is not being implemented by every consular post. Therefore, prior to lodging any “E” visa application for a non-citizen applicant, it is strongly recommended to confirm whether the citizenship requirement is being imposed by a particular consular post.

As these are unpublished guidelines, it is BAL’s understanding that final regulations and application protocols are still being clarified. Please be advised that the above is neither a comprehensive nor a definitive list of changes and policy. BAL, along with its Indian network partner, is closely monitoring any changes and developments. We will issue further guidance on specific activities requiring “B” and “E” visas, together with guidance regarding consular application requirements for “E” visas and requirements for PRC nationals, as soon as this information is available.