Foreign nationals who wish to reside long-term in India (typically longer than 180 days) are required to visit the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office) within 14 days of their arrival in India.
The FRRO's role includes issuing residence permits, visa conversions, and addressing matters related to visa extensions related to non-nationals. In short, FRRO deals with all the legal formalities that need to be completed by those intending to stay long term.
Indian bureaucracy has a reputation for being lengthy and onerous but automation and IT are being deployed to ease these issues. However, for relocating employees and their HR teams, it pays to stay informed and to understand the FRRO rules in order to avoid frustration later down the line.
What is the FRRO?
The FRRO is the primary agency which deals with the registration, departure, arrival, and movement of foreign nationals wishing to stay in India long-term. This applies to non-nationals visiting India on a student visa, business visa, employment visa or research visa. The FRRO is also responsible for any extensions in India.
The FRRO offices are found in the following Indian cities: Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Calicut, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Trivandrum.
The FRROs work in conjunction with the District Superintendents of Police located across all other districts, so in addition to the 13 FRROs there are 674 FROs in India.
Foreign registration is necessary for all visitors or workers arriving in India on a visa which is valid for more than 6 months, except for certain exempted categories. Registration is required only once, irrespective of when the visa holder exits or re-enters using a multiple-entry visa.
FRRO registration requirements
Foreign nationals, including those of Indian origin, visiting India long-term and intending to stay for more than 180 days on a Student Visa, Medical Visa, Business Visa, Employment Visa or Research Visa need to register with the FRRO. The requirement is to register within 14 days from the date of arrival at a registered FRRO/FRO office.
No registration is required for children under the age of 16 years but in some locations they need to report in person or via an authorized representative at a specified FRRO office.
Registration may also be required in cases where there is specific mentioned of “registration required”.
FRRO advice to for employees living long-term in India
Prepare a checklist of required documents
Non-nationals must carry their original passport which contains the visa stamped by authorized officers, a photocopy of the passport and the original visa, four photographs, and details about residence in India. A copy of the marriage certificate may be required for those seeking an extension on the grounds of their spouse being an Indian national.
For students, a bona fide certificate from the university or institute may also be required.
For an employment or business visa, an undertaking from the respective Indian company may have to be produced for FRRO registration. For those involved in joint ventures, a copy of the approval from the Government of India must be provided to the FRRO. In case of an employment visa involving contracts or agreements, a copy of the approval from RBI will be necessary.
Registration officers will provide the Registration Certificate / Residential Permit
As a foreign national, once you apply for registration the resulting certificate is called the Registration Certificate or Residential Permit. The validity period usually coincides with that of your visa, or 1 year, whichever is shorter. This certificate or permit is your proof of address in India and can be used to open bank accounts, apply for Aadhaar, or PAN (Tax ID), etc.
Seeking exemption from registration
Certain categories may be exempt for registration, such as:
US nationals who are on a 10-year business visa or tourist visa where their continuous stay does not exceed more than 6 months in India;
Foreigner nationals with 5-year tourist visas who are engaged in tourism and who visit India frequently for extended periods of time, and whose visa states that, “continuous stay must not exceed more than 6 months”.
Restrictions in certain circumstances
If coming from a yellow fever country, there may be a requirement to produce a vaccination certificate from a valid medical authority. In such circumstances visits to restricted or prohibited areas are only permitted by obtaining a valid permit as a visa alone may not be adequate to visit these places. For example: Northeast India, military and cantonment areas
Online services are now available
A new online system has been operating successfully since February 2018. The e-FRRO service enables applicants to apply online and access all the services through e-mail or by post without the need for a personal appearance at the FRRO. This is currently only available at the 13 FRROs.
Like most countries, the government rules and regulations may appear to be complex and cumbersome, but with the right guidance they can be easier to navigate. Remember that the respective government departments are the final arbitrators of all the laws and rules, but we hope this information helps you as you engage with those authorities.
Source: Preeti Roongta