In this article, Sanghamitra Sengupta discusses the legal consequences of overstaying in India.
Entering a country on any visa requires you to leave at some point. Stretching your visit over a period of time can result in a legal fiasco. There are different reasons for one’s visit or stay in India such as education, tourism, employment, internship, business, conference, medication, and transit. Whatever the reason be, just like any other country, India too does not tolerate one’s stay in their country, after their visa has expired.
What is a visa?
- A travel visa is granted by a country to a foreigner visiting the country for a specific period of time. The travel visa authorizes the foreigner’s stay in the country. Every country has different rules, with regard to travel visas.
- For instance, Qatar easily grants a visa on arrival on payment of a small fee which can be charged on the spot on a credit card. Such a system does not involve any tedious procedure before travel journey to a foreign country commences. Some countries which provide a visa on arrival may require you to provide evidence of solvency and hotel booking.
- Some countries like Algeria require a foreigner to apply for a visa long before their travel to the foreign country and even carry an authorization letter from their government.
- Some countries exempt citizens of a particular country from obtaining a visa. For instance, Nepalese do not require a visa to travel to India when traveling from Nepal. Similarly, U.S citizens do not require a visa to stay in Japan for 90 days.
Who needs a Visa to visit/stay in India?
- If you are a foreigner, i.e., not an Indian citizen, you require a visa to travel or stay in India.
- Only citizens of Nepal and Bhutan have been exempted from obtaining a visa to travel to the country. Nationals of Maldives do not require a visa to stay in India for tourism purposes for maximum 90 days.
- One cannot depend on their Indian origin to not obtain a visa to travel to India. The visa must be approved before you travel to India.
- Currently, there are 12 different types of visas offered by India. You can opt for one, as per your type of stay and visit to the country.
- Indian visas are usually granted for a period of 6 months, 1 year, 5 years or 10 years, depending on one’s citizenship, type of visa and fee paid.
- A foreigner can now apply for a visa online by clicking here. An interview may then be conducted where documents required for processing of visa will have to be submitted.
- Every foreigner entering India on a visa that is valid for 180 days or more has to register themselves with the Foreign Regional Registration Office (FRRO), within 14 days of arrival.
- Pakistani nationals have to register with the FRRO within 24 hours of arrival and not 14 days.
- Foreign diplomats, OCI, children aged 16 years and below need not register themselves with the FRRO.
- If a foreigner does not stay in India for 180 continuous days, no registration is required.
- FRRO monitors and regulates the stay of foreigners in the country. A late registration with the FRRO would attract a fine and a lengthy process of explanations and justifications.
- A foreigner may extend his visa if he wishes to do so by seeking permission of the FRRO before the visa expires. Tourist, internship and transit visas cannot be extended.
- A visa is extended only on reasonable grounds, for instance, medical reasons.
- A visa granted by India can be extended at least 60 days prior to the expiry of the visa.
- You must carry your confirmed air ticket, copies of your passport photo, and a photocopy of your passport in order to obtain an extension of visa. Carry extra copies to be on the safer side.
- In case of overstay in India, a foreigner has to obtain an exit visa from the FRRO.
123-D, Ranjit Avenue, Amritsar-143001
Office of the FRRO, 5th Floor, ‘A’ Block, TTMC, BMTC Bus Stand Building, K.H. Road, Shantinagar,
Bangalore – 560027
Shastri Bhawan, 26, Haddows Road,
East Block-VIII, Level-II, Sector-1, R.K. Puram, New Delhi-110066
Office of the FRRO, Old Begumpet Airport, Begumpet, Hyderabad
237, Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose, Road, Kolkata-700020
3rd floor, Special Branch Building, Badruddin Tayabji Lane, Behind St. Xaviers College, Mumbai-400001
What is an exit visa?
Exit visas have to be obtained by those who had entered the country without a visa, for instance, a foreigner’s child born in the country and those who have overstayed their visa in the country.
- In order to avoid punishment and imposition of fine, the foreigner is expected to extend the visa if an extended stay is desired or apprehended.
- This is because not extending a visa by approaching the FRRO on time results in overstaying which is a punishable offense in the country.
- Foreigners must submit an application for extension of visa at least 60 days prior to its expiry to the Bureau of Immigration or the FRRO.
- FRRO can condone or regularise overstay up to three months beyond the validity of the visa, excluding tourist visa. However, the grounds of overstay must be reasonable. The FRRO charges an overstayal fee of US$ 30. A fee of US$ 40 is also charged for the extension of visa.
- No charge is imposed for obtaining an exit visa.
- A foreigner wishing to obtain an exit visa may apply for one online by clicking here. It is a government initiative to digitize the application process, making it easier for foreigners.
- It must be noted that the State Government or Union Territory administration along with FRROS have powers to grant an exit visa to foreigners holding Tourist/X Visas who have overstayed for three months or less. This is subject to no local objection, no LOC, no court case pending, and on payment of fees or penalty.
- FRRO offices are currently present in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Amritsar, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.
Steps to get an exit visa
The process is quite cumbersome and dreadful as it takes days to process an exit visa considering the number of formalities involved. Show up early at the FRRO, to get a chance to produce your documents early. Note down clearly the documents the officer at the FRRO demands from you as you’ll be asked to head back even if one document is missing. To be on the safer side, carry at least 2 copies of all documents required. Make sure all the copies of your personal documents are self-attested. All corporate documents should be attested by a gazetted officer. Lastly, be patient and friendly.
What happens if someone overstays?
- Overstaying in India amounts to a criminal offense and is dealt with seriously. A foreigner who overstays in the country may have to pay a fine, face imprisonment and even be barred from entering the country in the future if the circumstance demands so.
- A fine of 30$ has to be paid for overstaying in India when caught for overstaying.
- Regardless of whether one’s overstay is for a long or short period, the individual will be regarded as an illegal migrant.
- Under Section 14 of the Foreigner’s Act, 1946, a foreign national who overstays his visa will be penalized. This section of the Act provides for penalizing a foreign national who remains in India for a period exceeding the period allowed by the visa. The penalty may extend to an imprisonment term of 5 years along with a monetary fine.
Deportation of a Foreigner for overstaying
Deportation means sending a foreigner back to his country for not abiding by the immigration rules of a particular country. Such a person who faces deportation is not easily allowed to enter the country again. Under the Foreigner’s Act, 1946, the Central Government is empowered to deport a foreigner who has overstayed in India, by virtue of Section 3(2)(c) of the Act. The Central Government has delegated this power to all the state governments and UT administrations too.
In fact, the police also have the power to arrest a foreign national living illegally in India, by virtue of Section 4 of the Passport Act, 1920. According to norms, the police authorities must inform the embassy concerned with the arrested foreigner about his arrest and even offer a visit from an official of the embassy to the arrested foreigner. The Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs too must be intimated about the arrest.
Legal steps to take when you have overstayed
Stay calm. There are a couple of solutions which will lessen the hassle.
- Reschedule the flight
Often, people realize that their visa expires before their date of departure from India. In such a scenario, they are quite apprehensive about rescheduling their flight owing to increased airfare. But, it’s a wise option to not overstay in the country and reschedule your travel by departing earlier.
- Extend the visa
If your stay is necessary in India beyond the period specified in the visa, approach the FRRO and ask for a visa extension. It is not an easy task as a lot of questions will be directed to you making the process long and tiring. But, this seems to be a straightforward move. The authorities may require a proof of the residence as well for this purpose.
- Request for an exit visa
How to avoid overstaying in India
You must remember that the validity of your visa starts from the day it is issued to you. Most people confuse the validity of their visa to start from the day they have departed for India or have arrived in India. This is a highly erroneous understanding and can land you in problems. It is advised that you make your final travel schedule after obtaining the visa.
Being jailed or snubbed in a foreign country can be an individual’s biggest nightmare. Make sure you follow these guidelines to avoid any legal hassle in your trip.
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