Entry, stay and exit of foreigners into India is governed by the Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920, Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950, Foreigners Act 1946 and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1992. The policy, acts and rules relating to entry of foreigners into India are framed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) , Government of India.(website: http://mha.nic.in)
Visa regime is implemented abroad by Indian missions & posts and in India by Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRROs), home departments & district administrators in the states besides immigration posts. PV-II Section of CPV Division provides the interface with MHA in formulation and implementation of visa policy and is also entrusted with advising Indian Missions/Posts on visa matters. PV- II also formulates policy on grant of diplomatic and official passports. Other important functions and responsibilities of PV-II are appended.(Appendix I )
The basic principle of the visa policy is non-discrimination, subject of course to underlying considerations of reciprocity, security and national interests. While a large majority of foreigners is covered under general visa rules, specific visa rules and procedures apply to certain categories of nationals.
Visa is not a matter of right and it is entirely up to the competent authority to decide on issue of visa to any foreigner.
Visa like passport and consular services is a service and a fee is charged for grant of visa in accordance with the scale laid down by the Government of India. Visa Fees, once charged, are not refundable. Details of visa fees applicable since 1st July 2008, are appended. (Appendix II). However, it is advisable to also consult the website of the concerned Indian Mission/Post for scale of visa fees applicable.
All foreigners entering India must have a passport or any other internationally recognized travel document and visa.
Nepalese or Bhutanese nationals entering by land must have some Photo Identity Papers as proof of their nationality. But in case of entry by air directly from Nepal/Bhutan or from a country other than China, they must have a passport. No visa is required. However, they must have visa if they are traveling from China
The visa applicant should ordinarily be within the jurisdiction of the mission/post or else it is necessary to make a reference to the Indian mission/post in the country to which the applicant belongs. Additional fee is chargeable for making reference to the concerned mission/post.
Gratis visa is granted to diplomats and officials , UN officials traveling on duty or those traveling to India on invitation of Government of India as its guest. Those granted scholarship under Cultural Exchange Programmes are also granted gratis visa.
The following types of India visa are issued to foreign nationals in accordance with the purpose of their visit. Details of requisite documentation may please be accessed at the website of concerned Mission/Post or Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi.
Type of visa
Diplomatic/Official/UN Official Visa: Diplomats/Officials assigned to their countries Missions/Posts in India or Diplomatic/Official/UN passport holders working in UN or international organizations located in India and their spouses/children holding any type of passport are granted diplomatic/official visas.
Transit Visa: Transit visas valid for up to 15 days and up to two entries are issued to foreign nationals passing through India on their way to another country. The applicant should possess an air ticket for onward journey to a destination beyond India.
Entry Visa: Entry visa is issued to a Person of India Origin, foreign spouse of Indian national and to spouse/children of foreigners holding any type of visa other than tourist/transit visa.
Tourist Visa: Tourist visa is issued to foreigners who do not have a residence or occupation in India and whose sole objective of visiting India is recreation, sightseeing, casual visit to meet friends and relatives etc.
Indian Missions/Posts abroad may issue multiple entry tourist visas for a maximum period of ten years to US nationals and five years to UK nationals, with the stipulation that stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days. However, should the visa holder desire to stay continuously for more than 180 days, he/she should register with the concerned FRRO/FRO within 180 days of arrival.
Indian Missions/Posts abroad may issue multiple entry tourist visas for a maximum period of five years to nationals of Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and Vietnam with the stipulation that stay during each visit shall not exceed 90 days.
In respect of foreigners holding multiple-entry tourist visas valid for 5/10 years, there should be a gap of at least two months between two successive visits.If a tourist visa holder needs to return to India within two months of his/her last departure from the country due to exigencies like death or serious illness in the family, non-availability of connecting flights to return to his/her country of origin or travel to another country using India as a transit point or any other exigent situation which can be duly justified with proper documentation to the satisfaction of an Indian Mission/Post abroad or immigration authorities in India, the condition of two month's gap can be waived. In all such cases, the foreign national should register with the FRRO/FRO concerned within 14 days of arrival.
Foreign nationals holding six month tourist visas valid for up to three entries would not be subject to the above condition of two month's gap between two visits if they submit their itinerary and confirmed air tickets for travel to neighbouring countries.
Travel agents of foreign travel agencies and foreign tourists visiting India frequently for genuine tourism may be granted multiple-entry tourist visa with the condition that stay on each visit should not exceed 180 days.
Tourist visa on arrival has been introduced on experimental basis for nationals of eleven countries viz. Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Tourist visa on arrival is valid for 30 days with single entry facility and is granted by Immigration Officers at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata international airports.
Tourist visa is neither extendable nor convertible into other type of visa except, in very exceptional circumstances.
Employment Visa: Employment visas valid for one year at a time are granted to foreigners provided the foreigner is a skilled and qualified professional or a person who is being engaged by a company, organization, industry or undertaking in India on contract or employment basis at a senior level, skilled position such as technical expert, senior executive, or in a managerial position. Proof of employment in the form of employment contract is necessary.
Project Visa: Project visa is a sub-set of employment visa and is granted to foreigners employed for executing Steel and Power Sector Projects.
Student Visa: Student visa valid up to five years or duration of course (whichever is less) is granted to a foreigner coming to India to pursue a course of regular and fulltime academic studies in a recognized institution. The applicant should furnish proof of admission in a recognized/reputed educational institution and evidence of financial support. In case of admission to a medical or para-medical course, a no objection certificate from the Ministry of Health must be furnished. Student visa valid for up to 6 months can be granted for exploring admission or for taking admission tests. There is no restriction on the number of courses of study that can be pursued or with respect to change of course or institute or both. The list of recognized institutions/universities is available on the website (www.education.nic.in).
Journalist Visa: Missions/Posts may issue Journalist visa valid for up to six months to professional journalists, press-persons, film-persons (other than commercial), representatives of radio and television organizations and similar personnel in the field of information such as travel writing, travel journalism, travel promotion/ photography, television production, advertising and those who write on fashion, costumes and sports. Holders of journalist visa are advised to contact on arrival in New Delhi, the External Publicity Division of M.E.A. and in other places, the Office of the GOI's Press Information Bureau, so that they could be given assistance in various matters including planning itineraries.
Business Visa: Valid for up to five years may be granted by Missions/Posts to foreign business persons to set up industrial/business venture or to explore possibilities to set up industrial/business venture in India or to buy/sell industrial/commercial products. Proof of financial standing and expertise in the field of intended business must be produced. For business visas valid up to one year, visa fee prescribed for one year business visa is charged even when the validity of visa issued is less than one year.
Missionary Visa: Visa to foreign missionaries, other than those holding No objection to return to India Endorsements, are granted only after clearance by concerned Ministry/Deptt in India.
Mountaineering Visa: Visa for mountaineering expeditions is granted only after clearance by concerned authorities in India.
Conference/Seminar Visa: Visas may be granted by Missions/Posts to foreign delegates to international conferences, seminars etc conducted by Government bodies, Public Sector Undertakings or Government aided bodies and NGOs provided necessary clearance by nodal Ministries/Departments of the Government of India/State Governments is in place.
Research Visa: Depending upon recognition/reputation of the research institution and eligibility of the applicant, Missions/Posts may grant research visa valid for up to three years or duration of research project, whichever is earlier, except scholars of certain nationalities or/and where research work involves visits to 'Restricted' or 'Protected' areas in India or areas affected by terrorism, militancy and extremism etc.
Medical & Medical Attendant Visa: After satisfying themselves, Indian Missions/Posts abroad may issue Medical Visa (MED) valid for one year or the period of treatment, whichever is less, to foreign nationals visiting India for medical treatment in reputed/recognized specialized hospitals/treatment centres in India. Visa is permissible for treatment under Indian system of Medicine also. Attendants/family members of patients coming to India for medical treatment shall be granted Medical Attendant visa (MEDX) co-terminus with the Medical visa of the patient. Attendants should be spouse/children or those having blood relations with the patient. Not more than two attendants are allowed.
Universal Visa: Universal visa is a multipurpose life-long visa which Indian Missions and Posts abroad or the Ministry of Home Affairs may grant to Foreigners holding Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card. The holder of universal visa can study, do business or take up employment in India and is exempt from the requirement of registration with FRRO/Police authorities for any length of stay in India.
Restricted/Protected Area Permits: Visas issued to foreigners are not valid for certain specified areas. Special permits viz. Restricted or Protected Area Permits are required to visit them. These permits are issued by Indian Missions/Posts abroad and MHA/State Governments in India. All Tibetan settlement are Restricted Areas.
Registration: Foreigners entering India on Student visa, Employment visa, Research visa, Missionary visa valid for more than 180 days are required to get themselves registered with the concerned Foreigners Registration Office within 14 days of their arrival in India. Foreigners holding any other type of visa valid for more than 180 days do not require registration if the period of their stay in India on each visit is less than 180 days. However, they must register themselves within 180 days of arrival if the period of their continuous stay exceeds 180 days. For more details, please access the website of MHA or Bureau of Immigration (www.boi.gov.in).
Pakistani Nationals and Foreigners of Pak Origin: Visa is granted to Pakistani nationals and foreigners of Pak origin only after clearance by concerned authorities. Pakistani nationals holding visitors visa are required to register themselves at the check post of entry within 24 hours of their reaching the specified places. Pak nationals are permitted to enter into and exit from India only through designated check posts.
Chinese Nationals: Only single entry Tourist and Business visas valid up to 3 months are granted to Chinese nationals. The visa may be extended up to 3 months by FRROs/Ministry of Home Affairs. All other types of visas fall in prior clearance category.
Extension of Visa: Extension of visa , while in India, is dealt by Foreigners Regional Registration Offices, Ministry of Home Affairs.
Gratis Visa: In view of the existing bilateral agreements/arrangements, all types of visas are issued gratis to the nationals of Afghanistan, Argentina(Tourist visa only), Bangladesh, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Jamaica, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, South Africa and Uruguay.
Diplomatic, official/service and ordinary passport holders of certain countries are exempt under bilateral agreements from visa requirement. A list of such countries is appended . (Appendix III)
Since 2006, a number of Indian Missions/Posts abroad have outsourced visa services. A list as on 1-4-2012 is appended (Appendix-IV). A few of the missions/posts have outsourced passport and consular services also.Details of Service Provider and visa procedure may be accessed at the website of concerned Mission/Post. The Missions/Posts abroad receive only the Visa Application Fee prescribed by the Govt. of India, through the Visa Outsourcing Agency which charges an additional fee from foreign nationals towards service rendered on account of collection of applications, travel documents and return of the same, after affixing visa by the Mission/Post. The Government of India, in no way, reaps any monetary benefit from outsourcing of visa services nor any funds from the Government exchequer are involved in setting up of visa outsourcing centres which are solely the responsibility of the Service Provider.