This article is written by Pragya, a student of New Law College,BVDU, Pune.
Imagine a foreigner asking you for guidance about the legal issues related to tourism. You could be a travel agent, a hotel manager, or even a friend. If you do not have a clue about the procedures, formalities and the seemingly endless number of forms, this article is for you.
India is famous for its tourist hotspots and attracts a lot of tourists from across the world who come to see India and all the wondrous attractions. The good news is that getting a tourist visa is not all that difficult. The bad news is the seemingly endless barrage of legal formalities to comply with. The confusing nature of the Indian legal system doesn’t really help either.
This article is also useful for foreign tourists as it will help them understand the actual requirements and legal formalities. For example, if a foreign tourist wants to rent a villa in Goa and her broker tells her that as she is a foreigner, her verification will take 3000 rupees (Broker’s commission extra). Hopefully, by the end of this article, you, dear tourist, will be better informed.
(Hint- There is no such rule. You need to get a new broker. )
The Acts and laws applicable to foreigners
Almost everything that a foreigner needs to know in terms of compliance is based on the following-
- Passport (Entry into India ) Act of 1920
- Registration Of Foreigners Act of 1939
- The Foreigners Act of 1946
While you don’t necessarily have to read these arcane laws, you need to pay attention to a few mandatory formalities. They are-
1. The Foreigner’s Registration Office
Based on our conversations with (the few) foreign nationals we have spoken to, it seems that the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) is the most dreaded institution in the eyes of foreign tourists. The reasons for this apprehension range from the number of documents and forms that are needed to the implicit demand for “Speed Money” to actually move things along. Unfortunately, The Foreigner’s Registration is the procedure every foreign national entering into India absolutely must go through. The good news here is that as a foreign national, you can register yourself in the airport itself (assuming you have arrived by air).
Most foreign nationals must register themselves within 14 days of arrival into India. An exception to this are Pakistani nationals who must register themselves within 24 hours of landing in India. All Afghan nationals are required to register with the FRRO/FRO concerned within 14 days of arrival except those Afghan nationals who enter India on a visa valid for 30 days or less. This exemption is based on the proviso that the Afghan national concerned gives his/her local address in India to the Indian Mission/FRRO/FRO. The Afghan nationals who are issued visas with an ‘Exemption from police reporting’ are exempt from Police reporting and are not required to obtain Exit permission, provided they leave within the Visa validity period.
If the visa of the foreign national has special endorsement such as “REGISTRATION NOT REQUIRED IF EACH STAY DOES NOT EXCEED 180 DAYS” then they are exempted from registration at the FRRO.
2. Legal issues relating to staying in a hotel
Rule 14 of Registration of Foreigners Rules requires hotel-managers to follow some procedures. A register needs to be maintained by the management of the hotels. As a foreign tourist, you will also need copies of the Form C and Form F from Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1932. You can get them from any Foreigners Registration Office and online.
According to the Rule 14, every hotel-keeper needs to take down the name, nationality and signature (or thumb impression by which he/she, i.e. the foreigner, is accustomed to attest a document) on the arrival of a foreign national. The management of the hotel/guest house must inform the police of the arrival of the guest within 24 hours.
The visitor shall furnish all the documents as specified in Rule 14, such as passport, photographs, Identity proof etc. (Please see items 4 to 10 of the register to be maintained under Form F).
The visitor at the time of his departure from such hotel must furnish the particulars necessary for recording, in the said register, the date and time of his departure and the address to which he/she is proceeding.
According to the rule, a “Hotel” in this context includes any boarding-house, club, dak-bungalow (government guest house), rest house, paying guest-house, sarai or other premises of like nature.
3. Provisions relating to Restricted or protected areas
There are some indigenous areas in India which are protected for security reasons. If you want to travel to these areas you need a restricted/protected area permit. Some of these areas are not tourist attractions (for example, a military research facility).
A foreign national is not allowed to visit the protected/restricted areas until and unless the Government is satisfied with the extra-ordinary reason to visit such areas.
An application has to be made to obtain the restricted/protected area permit with the concerned authority. If the powers have been delegated to such authority by the Government of India, then approval for such permission should be sent to Ministry of Home Affairs at least eight weeks before the expected visit for further approval.
Permission should not be issued to the nationals of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Foreign Nationals of Pakistani origin and China without the consent and approval of Ministry of Home Affairs.
The special instructions to be followed while issuing such permit:-
- The permit is valid for group tourists consisting of two or more persons only.
- The permit holder must keep sufficient number of photocopies of the permit as he/she may be required to deposit a copy at each point of entry/exit.
- The permit is valid for the specific tourist circuit/route and the specific entry / exit point. No area other than the ones indicated in the permit shall be visited.
- The permit holder shall not stay in the restricted/protected area after the expiry of the permit.
- A foreigner must enter/exit the North-Eastern States by air only.
- A foreigner can travel within the North Eastern states through the National Highways or by air. While travelling by road, the tour should be undertaken largely through the National Highways. Where the places to be visited are situated on a National Highway, no other road should be utilized. In cases where the places, which are to be visited, are not on a National Highway, the tour should be undertaken in such a way that the maximum distance is travelled on a National Highway, restricting the utilization of other road routes to the minimum.
The following links can be referred for further information:-
Hopefully you are now more informed, and a little less intimidated by our laws. We hope that this article has been of some help to the foreign national who really wants to visit India, but has heard horror stories about the cumbersome legal issues. We hope that now, she, can start planning her vacation here.