India’s Visa Rules Undergo Modification
The Indian government, in recent months, has made sweeping changes to the employment, business, and tourist visa guidelines. The amendments to the employment and business visas are primarily triggered by the need to protect the interests of Indian workers; whereas, tourist visa guidelines have changed on concerns of internal security.
The erstwhile liberal policy of the Indian government on the issuance of employment and business visas has been replaced by a more stringent and interventionist policy. This is evidenced by amendments like strict eligibility criteria and purpose for the issuance of visas. More importantly, now there is a maximum cap on the number of employment visas.
The change in the tourist visa guidelines has been a mixed bag, so to speak. On the one hand, the government has introduced the ‘On Arrival’ visa facility for some countries; while on the other hand, a gap of at least two months has been prescribed for foreign nationals returning to visit India on tourist visas.
These changes have resulted in multiple issues that should be addressed by employers and their employees. Those companies sending their employees on secondment to India should consider taking another look at the overall assignment / secondment programs and restructuring their international assignment policies vis-à-vis their projects in India. If the assignees are on business visas, they are likely to be deported out of India as they can work in India only if they obtain an employment visa. Foreign tourists intending to visit India within two months may find the new rules difficult to adapt to and could be faced with the challenge of “restructuring” their itineraries.
The Indian government has provided approval mechanisms to help avoid the difficulties faced by employers, employees, and tourists, but those are in specific cases only. Overall, each company and foreign national should take another look at the visas obtained because the new guidelines are much stricter than the former ones.