India clears extension of business visa to 15 years
IN A move towards a friendly visa regime, the government has allowed extension of business visa from the existing five years to 15 years, relaxation in grant of internship visa, conversion of visa into medical category in an emergency, and also expanded the scope of ‘X-Misc’ visa category for foreign nationals living in India for at least 15 years.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba highlighted the policy initiatives taken to liberalise the visa regime at a conference on “Streamlining of India’s visa regime” here Tuesday, which was attended by state representatives, officials from Foreigners Regional Registration Office, tourism, civil aviation, health and higher education ministries.
He said a friendly visa regime is also a part of ‘Ease of doing business’. Besides allowing extension of business visa for up to 15 years, those who have long-duration visas can also seek permission to attend conferences.
The Centre has asked the states to screen first-time visitors and focus on those who violate visa conditions rather than create hurdles for foreigners who visit frequently.Advertising
According to MHA officials, four new categories have been included in the ‘X-Misc’ visa category to cover foreign nationals living in India for at least 15 years who are working in NGOs or doing voluntary work in religious institutions; staying in ashrams/ gurukuls/ religious institutions, leading a spiritual life or practicing yoga, vedic culture etc; stateless people married to Indian nationals; and Iranian citizens living in India for a long time, subject to the usual checks.
“We have strengthened the ‘X-Misc’ visa which can now be used by foreign nationals staying for 15 years and above,” said a senior MHA official. “If such a foreigner has to go out the country, he/ she may, if required, obtain a return visa for the appropriate period from the FRRO concerned,” says the visa manual amended last month.
The internship visa rules have been relaxed to include students who are still pursuing a course in the country without remuneration. Earlier, only a graduate who was drawing remuneration could obtain internship visa.
Gauba also emphasised the need to strengthen security/ verification using technology. He said the number of e-visas issued has seen a spurt over the last four years, from 5.17 lakh in 2015 to 21 lakh till November 30 this year. The e-visa facility is now available in 166 countries, and foreigners can obtain these within 72 hours for travel related to tourism, business, health, medical and conference purposes, according to MHA.