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How to Obtain Legal Work Authorization in India: A Guide to India Work Visas

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India is a top destination for global companies expanding to the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region for many reasons. 

The country is home to one of the largest consumer markets in the world, and its talented workforce is a powerhouse in technological innovation. Plus, India’s consistent economic growth has made it the fifth-largest GDP worldwide. 

However, many global businesses expanding into this market face unique challenges when hiring and relocating foreign talent to India.

Read on for a detailed outline of the different India work visas and a set-by-step guide for obtaining work authorization in India.

Plus, find answers to commonly asked questions and learn how a third-party expert can simplify the visa and immigration process for companies expanding to India.

Who is eligible for work authorization in India?

Generally speaking, highly skilled professionals who plan to work as employees for locally-registered Indian companies are eligible for work authorization in the country. 

However, the eligibility criteria for obtaining an Indian work visa also include various other work categories, such as consultants, artists, and investors, making the opportunity to do business in the country a legitimate option for many professionals. 

Below is a noncomprehensive list of work categories that are eligible for an India work visa:

  • Consultants working on a contract basis who receive a fixed payment from a local company
  • Artists under contract who conduct regular performances at hotels, clubs, and other organizations
  • Athletes with a performance contract from a local club
  • Self-employed professionals in engineering, medicine, accounting, law, and other highly skilled fields of work
  • Foreign language teachers and interpreters
  • Specialists working with local NGOs
  • Entrepreneurs establishing a local business
  • Individuals traveling to India for meetings or negotiations

In addition to falling under one of these categories, some applicants must also prove they are a senior executive or a highly skilled professional who will earn more than US$25,000 annually while in the country.

Indian authorities do not issue work visas to foreigners for routine clerical positions or jobs for which qualified Indian nationals are already available. 

Types of India work visas

India offers two types of work visas: the Employment visa and the Business visa. While these visas allow individuals to conduct business-related activities in the country, each one grants its holders a distinctly different set of permissions.

Below, we discuss each India work visa in detail. 

Employment visa

The Employment visa in India is a general work visa available to individuals from various work categories. Indian authorities primarily issue this visa to foreign nationals who will earn at least US$25,000 annually while undertaking employment with a locally-registered company. 

However, candidates from other backgrounds, such as consultants, artists, self-employed professionals, and volunteers working for NGOs, are also eligible for the Employment visa.

This visa is valid for the entire period of the candidate’s work contract (usually one year). While the holder’s spouse and dependants are not included, they are eligible to apply for a separate Entry visa, or ‘X’ visa.

Business visa

India’s Business visa is suited for foreign nationals traveling to the country for business purposes, but not necessarily to work under a local organization. 

Business visa holders can make short trips to India to conduct meetings or negotiations, establish a local business, or make local investments.

The visa is valid for up to five years, depending on the applicant’s requirements. Like the Employment visa, dependents are not included but are eligible to apply for a separate Entry visa.

Candidates applying for a Business visa must demonstrate they have sound financial standing and sufficient expertise in their field. 

How to obtain an India work visa

The application process for obtaining an India work visa consists of three main phases:

  1. Collecting required documents
  2. Completing the online application
  3. Attending a visa appointment at an Indian Consulate  

Below, we outline each step for obtaining an India work visa in detail.


Steps for how to obtain legal work authorization in India

1. Collect the required documents

First, the candidate must collect all of the required documents for the application, including a valid passport, identity photos, and an employment contract from a locally registered company. 

Below is a noncomprehensive list of important documents candidates must prepare for their visa application:

  • A passport that is valid for at least one year with at least three blank pages
  • Two passport-size photos
  • An employment contract in English specifying work conditions and employment duration
  • A copy of the employer’s company registration 
  • A completed visa application form
  • The applicant’s resume or CV in English
  • Education certificates and other supporting documentation, such as letters of recommendation, proving the candidate’s professional competencies 

2. Complete the online application

Once the candidate has collected the required documents, they must complete and submit a visa application via the Government of India’s online portal

At this stage, the online system automatically directs candidates to schedule a physical visa appointment with their local consulate in their country of residence and pay visa fees. 

Fees typically range from US$114 to US$998, depending on the visa you apply for and your country of residence.

The system also generates a unique personal ID number that applicants must keep on hand for all future correspondence with the consulate.

When finished, the candidate must print out a copy of the completed visa application to include with their required documents at their physical visa appointment.

3. Attend the visa appointment

The applicant then visits the appropriate Indian consulate on the scheduled date to submit their application with the required documents to a consular officer.

4. Collect the visa

Upon receiving a decision, the candidate may return to the embassy to collect their passport with the visa stamped inside.

While the consulate requires three days to process a work visa application, applicants should be prepared for possible delays. 

5. Register with a Foreign Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) upon arrival

If an individual’s visa is valid for more than 180 days, they must register with the Foreign Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) within 14 days of arrival in the country. 

Visa holders can complete this registration online through the e-FRRO website.

Considerations before obtaining an India work visa

It’s important to remember that obtaining a work permit in India for foreign nationals requires an employment contract from a locally-incorporated entity. This is a major obstacle for global companies looking to hire foreign talent in the country

However, by partnering with an employer of record (EOR) in India, you can quickly and compliantly hire talent in India without undergoing entity establishment. 

An EOR is a third-party organization that facilitates global mobility for international entities. By serving as the legal employer of your global workforce, an EOR allows you to quickly hire and relocate top talent worldwide without limitations. 

An EOR also handles everything from hiring and onboarding to global payroll, benefits administration, and ongoing HR support as you enter new markets, so you can expand globally and reach new customers without the added burden.

Learn more: What Is an Employer of Record (EOR)?

India work visa FAQs

Below you can find answers to commonly asked questions about obtaining work authorization in India. 

Can a U.S. citizen work in India?

Yes. However, U.S. citizens who want to work in India must first obtain a work visa. The exact India work visa you must apply for depends on the nature of your intended activities in the country. 

For example, if you want to work as an employee for a locally-registered Indian company or provide consultancy services to local entities, you must apply for an Employment visa. 

However, if you plan on making short-term business trips to the country to conduct meetings and negotiations, establish a local business, or make local investments, you must apply for a Business visa. 

What is the cost of obtaining work authorization in India?

The total cost for obtaining work authorization in India ranges from US$114 to US$998, depending on the visa you apply for, its duration, and your country of residence.

For example, U.S. citizens applying for a five-year Employment visa in India must pay a US$320 consular fee. However, the same visa with one-year validity costs US$220.

To obtain an up-to-date visa fee schedule, candidates should contact the Indian consulate in their country of residence.

How long does a work visa in India last?

Most India work visas are valid for one year. However, validity periods range from six months to five years, depending on the visa and the applicant’s field of work. 

For example, most individuals on an Employment visa in India hold a one-year visa. However, workers in the IT sector are eligible for a three-year visa.

Individuals may extend their India work visa on a year-by-year basis for up to five years from the date of issue. To do so, the holder must lodge an application at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in their state of residence in India.

Easily hire or relocate talent in India with Velocity Global

Despite the benefits of doing business in India, global companies without a local entity face major obstacles when hiring and relocating foreign talent to the country. Eliminate the roadblocks by partnering with Velocity Global.

Velocity Global’s integrated Global Immigration solution streamlines visa acquisition for international companies and their distributed teams. Our expert team consults with you on your exact mobility needs, obtains all of the necessary authorizations, and ensures ongoing compliance so you can quickly hire and relocate foreign talent worldwide without the added burden.

Read this global immigration success story where we helped ConsenSys, a global blockchain technology company, transfer a valuable employee from the U.K. to Switzerland in under three weeks by expediting the entire immigration process.

Or contact us today to learn how to streamline your global hiring efforts and hire top talent in India with ease.

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