India introduces new sub-categories, changes to key visa programs

25 Apr 18

INDIA

IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? India has made sweeping changes to key visa programs, introducing new visa subcategories and instituting changed application procedures, registration rules and salary minimums.

What does the change mean? The changes will ease visa procedures for many applicants. While the subcategories will force some applicants to be more specific about their travel intentions, other changes will allow applicants to apply for visas in any country, obtain a short-term visa without cancelling a previously issued long-term visa, and make it easier for visa holders to travel shortly after arriving in India

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: All Indian visas, including E-Visas, Tourist Visas, Business Visas, Employment Visas, Intern Visas, Film Visas, Student Visas, Research Visas, Conference Visas and Entry Visas.
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign nationals visiting India for work, study, business, tourism, research, or to undergo medical treatment. Changes will also affect visa holders’ dependent family members.
  • Impact on processing times: Most of the changes will not have significant impact on processing times. However, Business Visas may be able to be obtained on a case-by-case basis within 48 hours. Other changes will save time in the visa application process by allowing foreign nationals to obtain a short-term visa or seek medical help without first cancelling a previously issued long-term visa.
  • Business impact: The changes are generally seen as welcome developments for employers and business travelers.  

Key information: India recently introduced new sub-categories for many visas, including Tourist Visas, Business Visas, Employment Visas, Intern Visas, Film Visas, Student Visas, Conference Visas and Entry Visas. Key subcategories for these visas are as follows:

Category Sub-category Purpose
Tourist Visas T-1 Individual tourists.
T-2 Group tourists.
T-3 Tourists on a cruise ship.
Business Visas B-1 Short-stay business visitors attending meetings, technical meetings/discussions, related activities.
B-2 Business visitors from small- and medium-sized companies, i.e., companies with turnover up to Rs.10 crore.
B-3 Business visitors from large companies, i.e., companies with turnover of or Rs.10 crore or more.
B-4 Foreign investors.
B-5 Crew of nonscheduled airlines, chartered flights operated by such airlines and special flights.
B-6 Foreign academicians/experts coming under GIAN (Global Initiative for Academic Networks).
B-7 Business partners and company directors.
B-8 Business visitors whose do not fall under another subcategory.
B-Sports Foreign nationals who are engaged in commercial sports events in India on contract with remuneration.
B-1X, B-2X, B-3X, B-4X Dependents of B-1, B-2, B-3 and B-4 visa holders. Dependents of visa holders in other business subcategories will not be granted BX visas.
Employment Visas E-1 Paid work up to six months.
E-2 Paid work longer than six months.
E-3 Intra-company transfers.
E-4 Honorary work (no salary) with non-governmental organizations registered in India.
E-5 Staff and faculty at South Asian University and Nalanda University.
E-1X, E-2X, E-3X, E-4X, E-5X Dependents of E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4 and E-5 visa holders.
Film Visas F Foreign nationals coming for shooting of a feature film/reality TV show and/or commercial TV serials.
Student Visas S-1 Students in regular courses in India at colleges/universities.
S-2 Students with short-term coursework.
Conference Visas C-1 Participants in government conferences.
C-2 Participants in nongovernmental conferences.
Entry Visas X-1 Persons of Indian Origin who do not hold an OCI card.
X-2 Spouses and children of Indian citizens/persons of Indian origin/OCI cardholders.
X-Misc. Foreign nationals applying for visa for a purpose not specifically covered under any visa category.
X-SP Sports persons.

Foreign nationals (other than Pakistani nationals) coming to India on any type of visa will be allowed to conduct activities that are permitted on Tourist Visas. Previously introduced e-visa subcategories for tourists, business travelers and medical visitors will also remain in place. Authorities recently stated that foreign nationals traveling to India on e-business visas may conduct any activity permitted under normal Business Visas. Visit this site for more information on the visa subcategories.

Authorities recently implemented other key changes, touching on:

  • The countries from which applicants can lodge applications. Foreign nationals can now lodge applications in any country, not just the applicant’s country or origin or country of domicile.
  • Business Visa processing times. Foreign nationals may be able to obtain Business Visas within 48 hours of lodging an application. This requires applicants to convince the relevant Indian mission that they have urgent travel needs, however. The e-visa, which has a standard turnaround time of 72 hours, may be a better option for those who need to travel on short notice.
  • Registration procedures for Business Visa holders. Business Visa holders are now required to register with the appropriate Foreigner Regional Registration Offices/Foreign Registration Offices if they intend to stay in India for more than 180 days in total in a calendar year. Business visitors should complete registration procedures as soon as they become aware that they are likely to stay more than 180 days.
  • Registration procedures for foreign nationals with immediate travel plans. Under a new rule, foreign nationals who would typically be required to register within 14 days of arrival, but who intend to travel within that 14-day period, will not be required to complete registration processes after returning to India from their travel. This exemption does not apply to Pakistani nationals.
  • Salary minimums for Employment Visa holders. The minimum salary threshold for Employment Visa applicants has been set at US$25,000 per year. Employers of Employment Visa holders who will be in India for less than a year must calculate the minimum salary on a pro-rata basis. This salary can include allowances and accommodations. The salary threshold is lower (US$14,000 per year) for teachers at specified institutions.
  • Rules for when Employment Visa holders may switch employers. Employment Visa holders who hold senior positions will be permitted to switch employers (without having to obtain a new visa) if the switch is between joint ventures and consortiums and if prior approval has been granted. Previously, this exception was only available to Employment Visa holders switching between a registered holding company and the company’s subsidiaries or vice versa.
  • Procedures for visa holders in need of a second visa. Foreign nationals holding long-term visas will now be able to apply for a separate short-term visa without first cancelling their long-term visa.
  • Requirements for foreign nationals in need of medical care. Foreign nationals holding Employment, Business, Tourist, Student or Research visas will be able to obtain medical treatment, provided it does not require ongoing treatment of more than 180 days, without obtaining a new visa. Instead, visa holders will be required to obtain a medical permit from the appropriate FRRO/FRO. Medical visas will be required for treatment that exceeds 180 days or the length of stay permitted on the foreign national’s visa.
  • Eligibility requirements for Intern Visa applicants. In order to be eligible, applicants must not have more than a two-year gap between when they graduate or complete post-graduate work and when the internship begins.

BAL Analysis: Employers are encouraged to become familiar with the new visa subcategories and other changes. The changes were introduced in recent weeks and the interpretation and implementation at different embassies, consulates, high commissions, FRROs and FROs may vary. BAL is able to work with employers in determining which visa option is best for their employees and can help applicants through the application process.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in India. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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