In this blog post, Lalrinngheti Sangsiama, pursuing M.A. Business law from NUJS, Kolkata, explains the conditions vital to get a business visa in India.
A business visa, one of the two types of work related visas (the other being an employment visa, ‘E’ visa), is designated as ‘B’ Visa.
The difference between the two is that employment visas are for applicants who are applying to work for an Indian company whereas a business visa is granted to the following types of foreigners as listed by the Ministry of Home Affairs:
- To explore possibilities of establishing an industrial or business venture in India.
- To purchase/sell industrial or commercial products.
- To attend technical/board meetings/discussions for providing business services support.
- For recruitment of manpower.
- Who are partners in a business or functioning as directors in a company.
- For giving consultations or participation in exhibitions, trade fairs, etc. This is different to attending conference or seminar or workshop being held in India for which the applicant should apply for ‘Conference Visa’.
- For transacting businesses with suppliers in India or provide services relating to goods or services procured from India.
- For experts or specialists in a project to monitor work or provide high-level technical guidance.
- For pre-sales activity not amounting to the actual execution of any contract or project. Those who want to come to India to execute contracts/projects will have to get an employment visa.
- For students on internship by AIESEC or other project based work in companies/industries.
- For trainees of foreign companies coming for in-house training in the concerned company located in India.
- Senior executives of firms, experts, tour conductors and travel agents who are visiting India in connection with projects of national importance and public sector undertakings. However, as long as these personnels are continued to be employed by foreign firms and are merely relocated to India to work on a specific assignment, they must get an employment visa.
The difference between a business visa and an employment is a point of confusion and concern as obtaining a visa under either category while carrying out activities of the other may result in termination of the visa and thus, deportation.
The confusion is particularly heightened because both business and employment visa require an Indian company sponsor. This is why it is important to make sure that applicants obtain the correct visa for the purpose of their travel.
- Business Visa is issued to applicants who wish to go to India for genuine business purposes. Unlike the employment visa, applicants under the business visa need not be working for an Indian employer.
- An Employment Visa is issued to a highly-skilled and qualified professional who is taking up assignment/employment with companies registered in India. Those going for volunteer work should also apply for the employment visa.
- A business visa is usually granted for 3 months to 1 year or 5 years with single or multiple entries. The period of stay for each visit is limited to six months only. This means that the applicant has to leave India after 6 months and then re-enter if necessary.
The Consulate has discretion to grant a 5 year or 10-year visa with multiple entries. Furthermore, if the visa is for more than 180 days, the holder of the visa must register him/herself within 14 days of arrival in India at their respective country embassies in India.
The 10-year business visa is usually granted to foreigners who set up joint ventures in India. Business Visas must be applied before arriving in India and cannot be granted on arrival.
A Foreign National must fulfill the following conditions for getting a Business Visa:
- A valid travel document is required to be produced by the applicant
A valid travel document means a passport. Some nationalities are required to also have a re-entry permit. The passport must have at least two blank pages available for visa stamps and be valid for six months beyond the applicant’s stay in India. In making a visa application, a photocopy of the passport is required.
The applicant must fill out the Indian visa application form, declaration and provide passport photos.
A filled and signed Indian visa application form including its copy is required and can be filled online from the Indian Government website under the button ‘Regular Visa Application’.
The form is supplemented by an ‘Additional Particulars Form for Visa Services’ which must be filled and signed. Two recent passport photo is also necessary.
The applicant must provide documents to prove bonafide purpose (company’s letter etc).
Documents to prove bonafide purpose are usually in the form of –
- ‘Certificate of Incorporation’ which is issued by the inviting company in India or a ‘Letter of Invitation’ which is written by the inviting/sponsoring company in India.
It must be signed, sealed and written with the company letterhead. This letter must contain all the corresponding information of the applicant and describe their relationship, purpose of travel and details of the job.
- ‘Business Cover letter’ is to be written by the applicant’s current employer in their home country which shall contain information about the applicant’s employment status and state the purpose of visit to India. The letter must mention the sponsoring company in India and the validity of visa applied for i.e. a 1 year, 5 year or 10 years visa.
For the 5-year and 10-year visa, the letter must also explain the reason for future trips.
The business cover letter, like the letter of invitation, should be written in the letterhead and signed and sealed.
- ‘Proof of address’ must be shown and must match the present address on the visa application. It can be a driver’s license, state-issued ID or any recent utility bill.
- Business-related papers on the authenticity of the business.
- Copy of permission from Reserve Bank of India and approval of government of India in the case of joint venture/collaboration.
- Undertaking from one of the directors.
- Letter from AIESEC or other companies in case of the internship.
- Details of business activities of the applicant’s concerned companies in India and their respective country with the annual turnover of the specified minimum.
- Proof of partnership in the business and/or functioning as directors of the company.
- Proof of registration of the company under Indian Company Act.
Both the letter of invitation and business cover letter must have the following information –
- Addressed to High Commission of India or Consulate General of India (in their home country).
- Signed by authorized signatory of the company/inviting party.
- The purpose of visit.
- Applicant’s full name as stated in the Passport.
- Passport number with issue and expiry date of the passport.
- Duration of stay in India (per trip – if applicable).
- Specify the exact nature of the business being conducted.
- Specify requested number of entries and the length of visa required.
The applicant must have an Assured Financial Standing
The applicant must prove his/her financial standing to support the intended business visit to India. In addition to this, the Indian Missions will also check the applicants’ expertise in the field of his/her intended business. The applicant must prove his/her financial standing by producing recent bank statement(s), sponsorship letter, etc.
Those applying for a 5-year visa and beyond will have to provide the last two year’s tax return of the applicant.
The foreign national being sponsored for an Employment Visa in any sector should draw a salary in excess of US$ 25,000 per annum. This is not the case for obtaining a Business Visa.
The application must be made under good reason for application
The application should not be made for a full-time employment in India including payment of salary in India. It should not be made for the purposes of a business of money lending, establishing a petty business/trade or full-time employment in India.
The applicant must comply with other requirements such as Tax Liabilities.
The applicant must apply for the B Visa in the country of origin or residence if residence in the country has been for more than 2 years.
If the period of residence is less than two years then, the applicant has to go through a personal interview, get documents reviewed and get clearance from the Indian Mission when an intimation has been sent to the Indian Mission in the applicant’s country of origin.
The applicant must pay visa fees.
The visa fees may vary according to nationality or duration of the visa so the applicant must check the Indian Mission of the country he or she is applying from.
If the applicant wants to bring his/her family to India, an ‘X’ visa or also called a ‘Dependant Visa’ can be applied for their family members.
Its validity should correspond with the principle visa holder or for a shorter period. Therefore, in applying for an entry visa for a family member, the applicant must provide a copy of the business visa and a copy of the family register to prove the relationship between the applicant and the family member.
An X visa is called an ‘X’ visa because it does not fall into the other visa categories. People are not allowed to work in India on the ‘X’ visa but it can be extended in India and there is no need to leave every six months.
An Entry (X) Visa can only be granted to the following persons:
- A foreigner of Indian origin who wishes to come to India for visiting relatives, holiday etc.
- Spouse and children of a foreigner of Indian origin.
- Spouse/dependents of foreigners coming to India through any other type of valid visa like Employment, etc. This is where the business visa applicant’s family members fall under.
The business visa is non-convertible to any other kind of visa.
There are only three ways for conversion and each application for conversion will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
On conversion of business visa into ‘X’ visa/medical visa/‘Med X’visa, the following endorsement shall be made on the Passport/Residential Permit – Employment/Business not permitted.
- A business visa can be converted if the visa holder marries an Indian national during the stay and does not intend to continue on business visa.This conversion is subject to fulfillment of certain conditions such as submitting a registered marriage certificate and reporting to the FRRO/FRO about the marital status.
- A person who enters on a business visa but is also entitled to an ‘X’ (Entry) visa i.e. his/her family member has a business visa or other visa then, the applicant’s business visa can be converted to an ‘X’ Visa.
- If the holder of a business visa falls ill after entering India and can no longer travel or work but instead requires specialized medical treatment then, the business visa may be converted to a medical visa, if they are eligible for a grant of medical visa and a medical certificate is obtained from government/government-recognized hospitals.If this happens then, the family members of the person holding the business visa (whose ‘Business’ visa is converted into Medical Visa), who were holding an ‘X’ visa, may also be converted into medical attendant (Med-X) visa co-terminus with the Medical visa of the foreigner.
A Medical Visa is given to those seeking medical treatment only in reputed/recognised specialised hospitals/treatment centres in India.
Up to two attendants who are the blood relatives are allowed to accompany the applicant under separate medical attendant visas and the medical attendant visa will have the same validity as the medical visa.
Serious ailments would be of primary consideration such as neurosurgery, heart-related problems, etc. The initial duration of the visa is up to 6 months or the period of the treatment, whichever is less. The visa will be valid for a multiple entry during the 6 months.
The Business Visa is extendable in India if –
- The gross sales/turnover from the business activities is not less than 1 crore per annum.
- The first extension is granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Further extensions may be granted by state governments/UT administrations/ FRRS/FROs on a year-to-year bases based on good conduct and proper production of necessary documents.
- The period of extension cannot exceed five years.
- If the extension of visa is denied then the applicant must leave India upon expiry of the visa.
Business visas generally take within three to four days to process except –
- If going to areas for which Restricted Area Permit or Protected Area Permit is required.
- If applicant belongs to Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan or is of Pakistani origin.
Non-Indian nationals are eligible for applying for the business visa and so are people of Indian origin. There are different or additional procedures for such instances and also for applicants certain countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
For those who were previously an Indian national but who have renounced their Indian Citizenship, the applicant must provide proof of renunciation of Indian Citizenship.
If the Indian passport is officially canceled then, the applicant must provide a photocopy of the bio page.
If it is not officially canceled, the original Indian Passport must be submitted for cancellation and a ‘Surrender Certificate’ will be issued which will have to be submitted in the application.
This is because the Indian passport law does not permit dual-citizenship therefore, all Indian nationals obtaining a foreign citizenship must renounce their Indian citizenship.
In case the applicant does not have the Indian passports in their possession for any reason, they are required to furnish duly notarised affidavit in this regard. A police report is also required if the passport has been declared lost or stolen.
Pakistani applicants who hold dual passports must apply for an Indian business visa on their Pakistani passport.
Those who have either renounced Pakistani nationality or canceled their Pakistani passport would need to submit documentary proof of this.
The processing time for visa applications received from persons of Pakistani origin will be around seven to eight weeks or more. And the processing time for applications from those holding dual passports will be substantially longer.
The same is applied for Bangladesh and Sri Lankans i.e. they must submit their Bangladesh or Sri Lankan passports if they hold dual citizenships.
Visa approval for applicants of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Somalia or Sri Lanka origin are sought from officials in India. Processing time is considerably longer and additional consular fees may be charged. The current processing time is the minimum of eight weeks and an additional declaration visa form will be required.
In case where the applicant holds a New Zealand passport and are also a permanent resident of Australia, the applicant must submit a copy of his/her Medicare card.
Certain other countries are subject to conditions like –
- An applicant holding a Czech Republic passport must have at least one-year validity from the date of application and have present medical insurance for the entire period of proposed stay in India.
- An applicant with Chinese passport holding Type-P passport with the number beginning with the alphabet E can apply for Indian visa from mainland China only.
This list is not exhaustive so it is important for the applicant to check with the Indian Embassy in their respective countries.
- Vaccinations and other medical certificates.
Certain nationalities must check their respective country Indian Embassies or High Commission if they are required to show they hold necessary vaccinations.
For example, those who travel to India from Pakistan, Israel, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Afghanistan or Somalia are required to hold a valid polio vaccination certificate.
Similar medical certificate can be epidemics such as yellow fever certificate.
- Transferring a Business Visa
If the applicant needs to transfer an Indian business visa from an old passport to a new passport then both the expired passport which holds the valid India visa and the current passport must be provided.
Visas can only be transferred to a passport of the same nationality i.e. visa transferred from a US passport to another US passport.
- Schedule an appointment and get an appointment letter
Scheduling an appointment means that the applicant needs to appear in the Indian Mission in person and cannot be represented by his/her travel agent, relative, etc.
- The Fast Track Scheme
The same day service is available for urgent business travel. Many Indian Embassies are revamping a Fast Track scheme to increase the maximum validity of business visa allowed under the scheme and to further streamline the scheme. The new scheme is created to assist companies that have a long-term business association with Indian businesses and whose employees need to travel frequently to India.
The business visas under this scheme will usually be granted with a maximum validity of 3 years.
Companies that fulfill the following criteria will be eligible for the revamped Fast Track Scheme:
- Companies with an Indian subsidiary.
- Companies who are subsidiaries of an Indian company.
- Companies having substantial business relation with an Indian company with an investment of more than €50,000 or exports/imports of more than €50,000 in a year with the Indian company during the last 2 years.
- All companies who wish to be empanelled for the revamped Fast Track Scheme may apply giving the details of their business and other information requested based on which they may be empanelled. Existing companies in the Fast Track Scheme are also eligible to apply under the scheme if they fulfill the criteria of the scheme.
The grant of business visa is subject to the discretion of the Indian Mission or any instructions issued by the government of India on the basis of reciprocity with other foreign countries from time to time. This means that obtaining a business visa is not right.
The High Commission or Consulate General of India may seek more information or documents if necessary to process the application. Even if all the conditions have been met by the applicant, the Indian Mission can reject the application without reason.
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1. Ministry of Home Affairs, India
2. Indian Visa Online, Government of India