If you get the chance to travel to India on business, you’ll probably be keen to seize the opportunity with both hands. India is an amazing place to visit, even if you’ll mainly be there for work.
UK citizens, however - like other foreign nationals - do need to get a visa first, so that they have permission to stay in the country. This article will explain how it works for business travel.
In this post you'll find more information about:
- The different types of business visas that India has
- What the requirements are and which documents you'll need to provide
- How to apply for a visa, how long the process can take and what it will cost
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Like most countries, India offers a variety of different visa types, depending on the purpose of your visit: there are tourist visas, employment visas, student visas, and so on. If you’re travelling for business, you actually have two options¹:
- Business visa
- E-business visa
The e-business visa is a subcategory of the Indian e-visa. As you can guess from the name, it can be done entirely online². The other option involves an interview¹. Rather than going to the official embassy in London or a consulate, you’ll need to be interviewed by VFS Global, a company that provides consular services³.
There are a couple of other differences between the two visa types as well. In general the e-visa is more restrictive: for instance, you can only enter the country at specifically permitted air- or seaports on an e-visa⁴. The visa type also affects how long you can stay in India, as you’ll see below.
Some third parties advise against an e-visa because of potential technical problems⁵. They also caution against unofficial websites that will handle the service for you at an inflated price. The official Indian visa site also warns to steer clear of imitators².
On a business visa, you can stay continuously for up to 180 days, and for UK citizens the visa can be valid for 10 years. It grants you multiple entry - you can come and go as often as you like⁴.
On the other hand, an e-business visa lets you stay for up to 60 days, and you only get double entry, so that you can only leave and return once⁴.
An e-visa is strictly for a maximum of 60 days, and you can’t extend it. You can also only have a maximum of 2 per year⁴.
Extensions to a standard business visa might prove complex too, although it could be possible in some cases - you should speak to an official about the specifics of your situation⁴.
You should be eligible if you meet the following requirements⁴:
- You’re coming to India for a valid business reason, such as establishing some international business, buying or selling commercial products, having business meetings, recruiting people for your business, participating in a trade fair, or other similar activities.
- You should be of “assured financial standing” - i.e. you should have enough money (you should also be able to provide proof of this in order to be granted a visa).
- You’re not going there to lend money, or to run a petty business.
- You comply with any tax liabilities you might face.
- You’re not going to be employed in India - for that, you’d need an employment visa instead.
Those regulations apply to both the business visa and the e-business visa: “business” is defined the same way for both.
The e-business visa additionally stipulates that you should have your return ticket booked².
Here’s an overview of the key documents you’ll need to provide. They’re the documents you need to submit when applying online, and also the documents you need to take to your interview, if you’re applying for a business visa rather than an e-business visa.
|E-business visa²|| |
|Business visa⁶|| |
Applying for a business visa may be different if you don’t hold a UK passport; if you’re originally from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or China; or if you used to be an Indian citizen. There might also be extra documentation required for certain professions⁷.
If you’re applying for an urgent business visa - an option if you’re in a real hurry - you’ll need a few extra documents including proof that you’ve lived in the UK for 2 years⁶.
For an e-visa, the process is like so²:
- Apply online. Use the official website, indiavisaonline.gov.in.
- Fill out the forms and submit your documents. For an e-visa, you can simply upload your documents in the relevant places online.
- Pay the fee. You might have to pay with a card - Mastercard or Visa should be fine.
- Receive your documents. E-visas should be sent to your email address - make sure it arrives.
- Print it out. Don’t forget to print out a physical copy and take it with you when you travel, or you’re back to square 1.
For a regular business visa you’ll need to set aside more time, and schedule in a visit.
- Begin the process online. From indianvisaonline.gov.in, you'll be able to fill in and submit an application form. Doing so, you’ll also be able to schedule an interview to attend¹.
- Attend your interview. Don’t forget to print off the application and assemble your supporting documents first - you need to take them all along with you. You should be able to book an appointment at one of a number of visa application centres around the country: there are 3 locations in London and others in Bristol, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester, Liverpool, Bradford, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow⁸.
- Wait for your documents to be returned. Your passport and, with luck, your visa will be returned to you by post or courier. There may be a wait as your application is processed.
VFS Global, the company that handles business visa applications, advises that “processing times vary from application to application”. So it’s worth applying well in advance of when you need to travel: they even recommend only confirming travel plans after you’ve got your visa⁶.
Regular cases, VFS says, are likely to take 3 to 5 working days to process. So you should begin the application process substantially before then⁶. As mentioned above, there’s an urgent business visa option as well if you need to expedite things.
E-visas should be faster, but it’s still worth applying comfortably in advance. The very latest you can apply is 4 days before your date of arrival, although leaving it that late doesn’t sound like a fantastic idea².
For an e-business visa, the application fee is currently $100 for UK citizens. Yes, US dollars. There’s also a bank charge of 2.5% that will be charged additionally where applicable⁹. The available payment options allow Visa and Mastercard payments².
A business visa is more expensive for UK citizens. If you want it for up to 1 year, it’ll cost £168 plus a £7.44 service charge. For up to 5 years, the fee goes up to £498 plus the same service charge. You can pay online or by debit card, postal order or bank draft⁶.
It’s useful that you can pay for your business visa in pounds, but that dollar payment is an annoying aspect of the e-business visa system. It’ll help if you have a US dollar account you can use, of course - which can be arranged surprisingly easily.
With a TransferWise borderless account, you can hold money in a variety of foreign currencies including US dollars, and when you convert money between currencies you always get the real mid-market exchange rate. It’s a convenient way to deal with international payments. And as UK customers can now get a debit Mastercard to go with their borderless account, they’ll be able to make that visa payment without having to pay your bank for a foreign currency transaction.
The borderless account can hold Indian rupees, too - so it’ll also come in handy once your visa application is over and you’re safely arrived in India for your business trip. Happy travelling!
Sources used for this article:
*All sources checked April 10, 2019
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