All expats on â€کbusiness' visas told to leave India

Vol 13, PW 11 (05 Nov 09) People & Policy

Foreign nationals working in India on â€کbusiness’ visas are anxiously wondering how to stay on in the country after police issued letters telling them to leave by October 31.

Many expatriate workers have even had their personal bank accounts frozen, we hear. Panic spread on October 29 when the Foreign Residents Registration Office (FRRO) of the Mumbai police despatched letters saying: “The government of India has directed all foreigners in India on â€کbusiness’ visas and engaged in executing projects/contracts to leave the country before October 31, 2009, including those whose visas are valid beyond October 31, 2009.

â€‌ â€کBusiness’ visas are popular among foreign companies with Indian business interests and project offices as they need far less paperwork than â€کemployment’ visas and are issued within three days. But Indian missions abroad, we hear, have been indiscriminately issuing â€کbusiness’ visas to unskilled workers, like hundreds from China, who work on construction sites.

“Indian authorities,â€‌ one expatriate tells us, “suddenly found these unskilled foreign workers doing jobs that Indian workers could easily do and cracked down.â€‌ India’s home ministry now wants all foreigners working at companies in India to hold â€کemployment’ visas, not â€کbusiness’ visas, and is also saying these foreigners cannot remain in India and convert their visas - they must return to their home countries and apply afresh! As a result, Indian missions overseas are jammed with â€کemployment’ visa applications.

“Because of this rush it could take between 18 to 20 days to get an â€کemployment’ visa,â€‌ says a worried expatriate. Projects involving foreign companies will undoubtedly be hit hard and there is another complication: to receive an â€کemployment’ visa, foreign nationals must prove that an Indian company employs them.

Luckily there is a way out – Indian missions can grant â€کemployment’ visas on submission of copies of employment agreements with foreign companies that have Indian business interests, copies of corporate documents, copies of the project office registration and CVs.