6 December 2018
On 15th November 2018; the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has announced measures to facilitate the smooth entry, stay and movement of foreigners in India for legitimate purposes, while ensuring the security of the country. These steps are focused on simplifying the visa processes, reducing in-person interactions with multiple offices and the delegation of authority to jurisdictional officers.
The steps taken are:
- New categories of e-Visa and additional facilities have been introduced
- Delegation of authority to Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) to simplify the in-country process
- Reduction in the required remuneration for Intern Visas and allowing applications at any time during the course
- The e-Visa was available for only 3 categories (i. Business, ii. Tourist, iii. Medical)
- The online facility was only available in metro cities in India
- Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) only managed the registration, extension and exit permit which were applicable in their jurisdiction. Conversion of the visa and complex visa process was managed by MHA
- The maximum tenure for a business visa/ employment visa was 5 years
The steps to liberalize the visa processes in India will benefit foreigners entering India through the following:
- The E-visa is now open for five categories for nationalities of 166 countries and they can enjoy this facility at 26 airports and 5 seaports. The e-visa categories are: i) Business, ii) Conference, iii) Tourist, iv) Medical, v) Medical Attendant. Further, foreign nationals are permitted to apply for e-visas thrice (vis-a-vis to twice in the past) in a calendar year.
The FRRO has been delegated with more powers enabling the visa processes in-country to be smoother. Due to introduction of the e-FRRO early this year and now operational across India, major in-country visa process has been hassle-free. This has reduced the physical visit to the FRRO to complete the in-country visa process. The FRRO is now able to process the conversion of the visa and provide other visa-related services.
- Perhaps the most exciting announcement for expatriates is that Employment / Business visas can be extended for a period of ten years within India as against the five years at present. This will avoid the need for employees to exit the country during their assignment in India to apply for a fresh visa.
- The provisions related to issuance of Intern visas have been liberalized. The Intern visa is now available at any time of the course of study and the minimum annual remuneration for an Intern visa has been reduced from INR780,000 to INR360,000 (approximately USD5,000).
- MHA also announced that Foreigners’ married to an Indian citizen/ Person of India Origin/ OCI cardholder can convert any category of the visa to an Entry Visa at any point of time by the FRRO. This will avoid the need for the individual to travel to their home country and apply for an Entry visa.
Santa Fe Analysis:
The MHA has been working on streamlining various visa processes to improve the overall immigration experience. Maximum utilization of technology and the delegation of powers to the jurisdictional officers will help cut the long visa process that was followed previously.
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