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Visa norms for expats working at senior positions (Mumbai)

Expats working at senior positions in India will not need to go back home and seek a fresh Indian employment visa when they take intergroup transfers, the government has said in updated rules. This will provide flexibility to foreign companies that have multiple businesses in India in deploying their resources.

"Ministry of home affairs may approve change of employer only if the foreign national holds a senior or skilled position,"says the amended guideline issued by the ministry.

The earlier guideline was seen as a major irritant by expats and companies employing them as any transfer within the group would mandate a homeland visit and a fresh work visa.

This not just inflated costs for companies who employed foreign nationals but also led to loss of crucial work hours. The fresh clarification is seen as a welcome change by the industry that had been lobbying with the ministry for relaxation in these guidelines for some time.

Most multinationals and even Indian companies prefer to keep their senior and skilled expat employees largely on project basis.

A mandatory visit home and a fresh employment visa led to unnecessary hassle, said a senior executive with a multinational consultancy that faced this issued. Another firm had to lobby hard to get home ministry permission to retain its senior consultant in a subsidiary.

Experts say the new guideline would also make the process more efficient and transparent as they had to approach the ministry individually and each application was treated on a case by case basis.

However, the relaxation will only be limited to changing jobs between registered holding company and its subsidiary and between subsidiaries. In other cases, where the foreign national desires to change employer, he will be required to return to his home country and obtain a fresh employment visa.

Change of employer will be permitted only once during the tenure of five years of the original employment visa and five years of residency on employment visa would be counted from the original date of its issue and not from the date of change of employer.

However, experts say the new norm only partly addressed the issue and a further relaxation may be required.

Mumbai Forum