India Getting Tough on Business Visa Issuance

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Oct. 28 – India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry has announced that foreign workers in the country on business visas must leave the by the end of the month or on the expiry of their visas whichever is earlier to return to their home country and apply for an employment visa there.

Indian consulates will be issuing business visa only to those who qualify the set guidelines issued in August 2009 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Foreign nationals working on contracts will have to obtain an employment visa before they arrive in India. Indian consulates around the world have been instructed not to grant business visas to foreign nationals coming to work on projects or contracts in India with special care to be taken in case the foreign national was issued a business visa in another country.

The Ministry further instructed in an advisory issued in September that business visas will only be issued where there is a proven ‘bonafide business purpose’ according to set guidelines. Legitimate business purpose includes establishing an industrial/business venture; explore possibilities to set up industrial business ventures; and purchase/sell industrial products in India.

There remains ambiguity on how the term ‘bonafide business purposes’ will be interpreted by the Indian consulates and high commissions when issuing business visa applications. Some questions remain. For example, will a foreign national coming to India for training purposes or to attend a board meeting or to do a quality review of product be treated as a bonafide business visit?

The guidelines calls for strict adherence to the visa manual for issuing employment visas. The rules state the prime condition to be fulfilled for grant of an employment visa is that the foreign national is a skilled and qualified professional or is a person who is being engaged or appointed by an entity in India, or on a contract or employment at a senior level, such as senior executive, or a skilled person in a technical role or a managerial position.

Employment visas will not be granted for jobs which a large number of Indians are qualified for or for jobs which are routine, ordinary or secretarial/clerical in nature.