India’s Employment Visa Procedures

  • July 24, 2017

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 in India

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 2007-08, 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 July 2017.
Since its establishment in 1992, Dezan Shira & Associates has been guiding foreign clients through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assisting them with all aspects of legal, accounting, tax, internal control, HR, payroll and audit matters. As a full-service consultancy with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India and emerging ASEAN, we are your reliable partner for business expansion in this region and beyond.

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