By Sharell Cook
The Indian government has recently made changes to the types of Indian visas that it offers. Of particular interest are the new restrictions that have been introduced for Tourist visas and X (Entry) visas. This guide to Indian visa types will help you find out what Indian visas are available, and for whom.
Tourist visas are issued to people who want to come to India to visit friends and go sightseeing. Although tourist visas can be granted for more than six months, depending on the applicant's nationality, it's not possible to remain in India for longer than six months at a time on a tourist visa. In late 2009, India introduced new rules to curb the misuse of tourist visas in India (people who were living in India on a Tourist visas, and doing quick runs to a neighboring country and back every six months). Specifically, a two month gap was required between visits to India. This requirement was finally removed in late November 2012. However, some exceptions do still remain. Also note, that if you apply for another tourist visa within a month of expiration of your old one, processing may take up to 45 days as approval needs to be obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
An X visa used to be issued to people who didn't clearly fall into any of the other categories of visa applicants (such as volunteers). However, as of mid 2010, an X visa is only available to the following people:
Unlike Tourist visas, X visas are not subject to the two month gap. Therefore, people of Indian origin should apply for one of these visas when visiting India. It's not possible to work in India on an X visa. However, X visas can be extended in India, and there's no need to leave every six months.
Employment visas are issued to foreigners who are working in India, for an organization registered in India. Foreigners doing volunteer/intern work in India are now granted employment visas (as opposed to X visas, which was previously the case). Employment visas are usually granted for one year, or the term of the contract. They can be extended in India.
In order to apply for an Employment visa, you'll need proof of employment with a company/organization in India, such as a contract that states the terms and conditions. There's a new rule that applicants must be earning $25,000 a year or more. Exceptions are made for volunteers, ethnic cooks, translators, non-English language teachers, and members of Foreign High Commissions and Embassies.
Student visas are granted to people who wish to come to India and study at an officially recognized educational institution. This includes the study of yoga, Vedic culture, and Indian system of dance and music. The main document required is student admission/registration papers from the institution. Student visas are issued for up to five years, depending on the duration of the course. They can also be extended in India.
In regards to yoga, the term "Yoga visa" is often mentioned. However, it's actually a Student visa that's provided for the purpose of studying yoga. Most of the well known yoga centers in India will require those who study with them to obtain a yoga Student visa. A tourist visa is not sufficient.
Business visas are available for people who wish to explore business opportunities or conduct business in India. This type of visa differs from an Employment visa in that the applicant won't be working for, and earning an income from, an organization in India. Business visa applicants will require a letter from the organization that they intend to do business with, stating the nature of the business, duration of stay, places to be visited, and intention to meet expenses.
Business visas are valid for six months or more, with multiple entries. However, holders usually aren't allowed to remain in India for more than six months at a time (depending on the nature of the business). Ten year business visas can be granted to foreigners who set up joint ventures in India.
If you're a professional journalist or photographer, and you'll be making a film or documentary in India, you should apply for a Journalist visa. The main benefit of a Journalist visa is if you want access to a particular region or person. A Journalist visa is issued for three months. However, these visas can be notoriously difficult to get, so only apply if you really need to.
If you're employed by a media company, or if you list your occupation as journalist or photographer on your visa application, it's likely you'll be made to get a Journalist visa regardless of what you intend to do in India. India is very sensitive to people involved in the media (including editors and writers) coming to India, due to how they may portray the country.
Research visas are issued to professors and scholars who wish to visit India for research related purposes. This is another difficult category of visa to get. It's restrictive and comes with a lot of requirements. Applications are sent to the Department of Education. Ministry of Human Resource Development for approval, which may take three months to be granted. Many people choose to apply for a Tourist visa instead, if they're conducting research informally and not going to be in India for more than six months.
Visitors staying in India for less than 72 hours can obtain a Transit visa. Otherwise a Tourist visa is required. A confirmed airline booking for the onward journey must be shown when applying for the visa.