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Several Recent Changes to India’s Immigration System

9 Mar

There have been several recent changes to the Indian immigration system, highlights include the following:

New Sub-categories of Business and Student Visas

Effective immediately, travel for all related business purposes will be specifically allowed under the electronic business visa (e-BV) e-visa scheme. The business visa classification has also had several new sub-categories incorporated, including:

  • Crew members of non-scheduled airlines operating chartered and special flights (B-5);
  • Academicians/experts covered under the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) (B-6);
  • Foreign nationals who are partners in a business or functioning as director of the company (B-7);
  • Miscellaneous categories eligible for the business visa but not covered by the provided sub-categories (B-8); and
  • Foreign nationals engaged in commercial sports events in India and who will receive remuneration (B-Sports).

The Indian student visa also includes a new sub-category for students involved in theological studies and missionary trips.

Change to Permitted Activities

All individuals traveling to India are still required to limit the purpose of their visit to the specific activities that were declared on their visa application. However, according to the recent amendments, all foreign nationals except citizens of Pakistan, may now undertake activities typically only permitted under the Tourist visa, regardless of whether they hold a business visa or work visa. This means that individuals who currently hold a valid work or business visa may also travel to India to undertake tourism activities without the need to secure a separate tourist visa.

Changes to Visa Cancellation Policy

Foreign nationals holding long-term, consular issued Indian visas may now obtain a short-term visa (conference visa, transit visa, e-visa) without cancelling their pre-existing visa. The long-term visa will be placed on hold for the duration of the short-term visa.

Visa Conversions for Persons of Indian Origin

Previously, e-visas could not be converted to another visa type within India. Now, Persons of Indian Origin who hold any short or long-term Indian visa and are also entitled to an Entry Visa, may convert to an Entry Visa from within India.

Visa Category Selection

When applying for an Indian visa, the applicant must generally choose the most appropriate visa sub-category as specifically listed on the application form. Under these changes if the applicant’s proposed activities are not covered by the limited options listed on the application form, the applicant can apply under the broader category of “visa.” The visa officer will now utilize their discretion and determine the most appropriate sub-category for the applicant and issue the most closely appropriate visa type.

Companies sending employees to India should consult with Foster to determine if these changes may impact any upcoming applications.