So, you've fallen in love with an Indian citizen and have come to India to get married on a Tourist Visa. What happens next? How do you convert your Tourist Visa to an X Visa so you can stay in India?
The good news is that it can be done without leaving India. The bad news is that the process is quite time consuming. Here's how to do it.
Applying for Conversion from Tourist Visa to X Visa
Note: As of September 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has changed the procedure and is no longer accepting direct applications for Tourist visa extension and conversion. Instead, you'll need to apply at your local FRRO/FRO, which in accordance with Section 1, Note 2 of this document, must make a recommendation and forward it to the MHA in Delhi for approval if the matter is outside its delegated powers. This notice further states that the MHA will only directly accept cases that are pending with local FRRO/FROs for over 30 days, or in cases of medical emergency. If you have any queries, contact the Visa Support Center in Delhi on 011-22560198, 011-22560199 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the Mumbai FRRO website, two things are needed for Tourist to X Visa conversions: 1) Submission of a copy of registered Marriage Certificate. 2) Report from the relevant local police station about marital status, including observations, confirmation of living together, and security clearance.
The first step in the process is to apply for an extension of your Tourist Visa and conversion of the Tourist Visa into an X Visa (this is a residential visa without working rights). The only place in India that has the authority to authorize this is the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi. You'll need to go to the Foreigner's Division, which specifically deals with visa issues, and have an interview there.
Here is the address: Ministry of Home Affairs, Foreigner's Division, Jaisalmer House, 26 Mansingh Rd, New Delhi.
There are two ways of scheduling your interview.
- Appointments can be made online, up to 30 days in advance, using the Online VISA Appointment Scheduling System, or
- Simply turn up and take a place in the line.
If you use the appointment scheduling system, be sure to print all documents including application form and appointment slip.
If you do decide to just turn up and join the queue, be sure to arrive there before the office opens. Around 8.00 a.m. is a good time, as people start lining up early. You'll be given a number/token at the reception counter and then instructed to go upstairs to the main room in another building (where the appointments take place). The reception counter there opens at around 10 a.m. The staff member will hand you an application form. Alternatively, you can download and print a copy of the form here. You'll need to complete two copies of the form and submit it to the staff member at the reception desk, along with your token number and photocopies of supporting documents.
The documents that you'll require are: copy of passport and visa page, copy of passport of Indian spouse (or other documents that prove that he/she is Indian), copy of registered marriage certificate, and proof of residence. You'll also need passport sized photos.
The government officers who conduct the interviews arrive at around 11 a.m. and start calling people's names from the pile of forms that have been submitted. Interviews are typically quite short, and only last for around five minutes. You'll be told to return at around 5 p.m. to collect a letter with instructions to give to your local Foreigner's Regional Registration Office or Foreigner's Registration Office (outside major capital cities).
The Next Step: Registration and Police Verification
The letter from the MHA will instruct the FRRO/FRO to grant a three month Tourist Visa extension and conduct an investigation as to whether you're actually married and living together at your stated address.
Unfortunately, it's at this point in time that the process becomes a bit blurred due to the lack of consistency in procedures followed by each FRRO/FRO (particularly at FROs, which are smaller offices and have less authority than FRROs). When you hand over the letter, the first step is to register yourself and get a Resident's Permit. Next, the FRRO/FRO will arrange for police verification to be undertaken. This consists of a police visit to your home. The police will prepare a report and submit it to the FRRO/FRO. (This is where matters can get even more challenging, with police reports often disappearing without a trace or not being received by the FRRO/FRO).
If the investigation isn't completed within the three months of the visa extension, you'll still be allowed to stay in India but will need to return to the FRRO/FRO to get a "Case Under Consideration" stamp in your passport and Resident's Permit. (This is the way it works at the Mumbai FRRO).
Getting Your Application Approved
Once the police report is received, the FRRO/FRO will send all the documents to the MHA in Delhi for review and a decision to be made as to whether or not your X Visa will be granted. This usually turns into a frustrating waiting game, with no communication received. The MHA will provide another letter containing instructions to be given to the FRRO/FRO for processing. It's likely that you'll have to return to the MHA to collect the letter.
After One Year: Applying for a PIO CardIt's not possible to get Indian citizenship unless you've been living in India for at least seven years (and for anyone who comes from a more developed country, it's not an attractive option anyway due to the restrictions that come with having an Indian passport). The next best thing is a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) Card, which grants working rights along with most other rights of an Indian citizen (except voting and buying agricultural land).
As its name suggests, the PIO card is usually for people of Indian origin. However, anyone married to a person of Indian origin is also entitled to it (as long as they don't have any heritage from countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh).
You can apply for a PIO card in India after one year of marriage if you're on a long term visa (of a year or more) and registered with a FRRO/FRO. FRROs in major capital cities have the authority to process applications. Otherwise, all applications must be sent to the MHA in Delhi.