How to Navigate India’s Employment Visa Procedures

By Adam Pitman

Posted: 4th December 2014 09:10

In September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to relax visa restrictions for Non-Resident Indians. Expatriates have long been seeking a simplified application process for employment visas in India, and the reform initiative has buoyed the hopes of foreign nationals with an interest in the country.
 
While the Indian government may introduce tourist visas on arrival to boost the tourism industry, employment visa reform will prove a tough sell for a government that needs to create more jobs for its growing workforce. Expatriates employed in India will therefore need to learn and master the current visa regime.
 
Employment visas are an annual headache for foreign businesses and businesspeople in India – Indian authorities typically issue one-year multiple entry visas that can be renewed for up to five years. To ensure a quick turn-around time on a successful application, applicants and employers should take a collaborative, hands-on approach.
 
Documents Required from Applicants
 
Indian authorities require documentation from the applicant and his or her employer. While the necessary documents are dependent on the applicant’s nationality, the majority are the same for developed economies in Europe and North America. Still, applicants and their employers should verify all required documentation with the Indian consulate in the applicant’s home country.
 
The documents the applicant can prepare are straightforward and should not take more than a day to complete. In addition to various checklists, order forms and disclaimers, foreign nationals from most developed economies must ordinarily provide the following documents in their application:
 
 - A completed visa application form;
 - A valid passport;
 - A passport sized photo;
 - Proof of address, such as a driver’s license or utility bill;
 - A detailed resume or curriculum vitae.
 
Documents Required by Applicant’s Employer
 
In contrast to the applicant, the documents the employer needs to prepare can take up to one business week to gather and complete. Employers ordinarily need to provide the following documents to support visa applications:
 
 - A permission letter that requests approval for the applicant’s visa;
 - A sponsorship letter that pledges responsibility for the applicant’s activity in India and promises to repatriate the applicant at company cost if any adverse conduct comes to notice;
 - A tax liability letter pledging responsibility for the applicant’s income tax in India;
 - A justification letter that confirms that the employer was unable to find a qualified Indian candidate for the job and details the applicant’s unique specialization and professional capabilities;
 - An appointment letter detailing the job role and salary;
 - A comprehensive employment contract;
 - A copy of the company’s Permanent Account Number (PAN) card;
 - The company’s Incorporation Certificate.
 
With exceptions for the Incorporation Certificate and PAN card, which can be scanned or photocopied, every other document provided by the employer needs to be an original copy. Each of these original copies need to be drafted on company letterhead, signed by a senior manager, and marked with the company’s official stamp. Due to these stipulations, overseas applicants need the employer to send original copies by mail.
 
Eligibility for a Working Visa
 
A part of the reason that application protocol is so stringent is because the Indian government has sought to limit the number of young and unskilled foreign workers in the country. Following the global financial crisis of 2007-8, many fresh college graduates from Europe and North America relocated to gain job experience in India’s booming economy. The Indian government subsequently sought to protect its growing white-collar workforce by introducing eligibility requirements for the employment visa.
 
Consequently, foreign nationals that would like to work for a company or non-governmental organization in India need to meet the following eligibility conditions:

 - The applicant seeks to visit India for employment in an entity registered in India, or for employment in a foreign company engaged in a project in the country;
 - The applicant is a highly skilled and qualified professional, who is being hired by a company on a contract or employment basis;
 - The applicant is filling a role that the employer was unable to staff with a qualified Indian employee;
 - The applicant will not be working in a routine, secretarial or clerical job;
 - With the exception of language teachers, ethnic cooks, staff working for an embassy or the Indian High Commission, and voluntary workers, the foreign national must have an annual salary in excess of US$ 25,000.
 
Companies that have successfully sponsored visas for personnel in the past are often well prepared to support visa applications. However, companies that have not previously sponsored visas should consider contracting an India-based firm that provides visa support services.  Indian consular staff scrutinize, and sometimes investigate, the language of key documents, such as permission and justification letters. Visa consultants are well acquainted with the application process and can provide form letters and useful advice to mitigate any potential problems.
 
Although employment visa applications can be a headache for employers, well-prepared organizations can navigate the process with ease. Meanwhile, the benefits of placing expatriate staff in India are manifold. Expatriate employees get to participate in one of the fastest growing economies in the world, while employers can create a culture-savvy workforce that is able to take advantage of the many opportunities emerging in India.
 
This article was first published on India Briefing.
 
Dezan Shira & Associates is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in emerging Asia. Since its establishment in 1992, the firm has grown into one of Asia’s most versatile full-service consultancies with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Vietnam as well as liaison offices in Italy and the United States.
 
For further details or to contact the firm, please email info@dezshira.com or visit www.dezshira.com.

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