April 02, 2013

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has announced that as part of its on-going implementation of its Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT), beginning July 1, 2013, it will begin phasing out the requirements for foreign nationals to complete disembarkation cards when arriving in India and embarkation cards for Indian nationals departing India.

IVFRT Expands to Integrate Immigration Databases

Indian immigration authorities utilize several different databases and tracking for all foreign nationals applying for any Indian immigration benefit (e.g., the Centralized Foreigners’ Registration Office (cFRO) and the Online Foreigner’s Registration System), for Indian nationals (e.g., the Indian Citizenship Program) and Indian Permanent Residence programs (e.g., Overseas Citizen of India or “OCI”).

India also has a Prior Reference Category (PRC) list for nationals of certain countries that are issued a visa only after receiving a required pre-clearance from the MHA. Currently, PRC is required for nationals of the following countries: Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and all foreign nationals of Pakistani origin.

Primarily, the IVFRT is being used for enhanced comprehensive border control and enforcement, from tracking details of visas issued at Indian consular posts, to entry/exit of foreign nationals to FRO/FRRO registration of residence permits.

As this is a multi-year implementation through September 2014, the overall aim is to consolidate and integrate as many immigration, nationality and border enforcement programs under one system. It is also hoped that as consolidation of information continues, this will streamline issuance of entry to PRC nationals, such as Bangladeshi nationals.

Consolidating Disembarkation/Embarkation Card (“D/E Card”) Information

The MHA is working with international air carriers to have their flight manifests communicated via the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) to the IVFRT to transfer each passenger’s data to have available to border officers for analysis to the flight’s arrival in India. Upon arrival, Immigration Check Point (ICP) officers will scan each passenger’s passport to confirm the flight manifest details and to verify biometrics.

Currently, ICP’s are responsible for scanning D/E Card information to complete non-populated fields regarding a passenger’s entry or departure from India (e.g., the actual port of entry or departure, a traveler’s address or hotel of stay in India) and entering the traveler’s signature on the card into the IFVRT.

By July 1, 2013, it is anticipated that IVFRT will only require the initial D/E cards from foreign nationals who will be applying for Residence Permits with the FRRO’s.

Under the new IVFRT, Employment (“E”) and Co-Terminus (“X”) visas for assignees and accompanying dependents will be required to state their address and to confirm their signature upon initial entry to India. Once entered into the system, this information will be transmitted to the host city FRO/FRRO to facilitate the assignee’s and family member’s registration for residence permits.

Once the residence permits are issued, subsequent departures and re-entries to India will be recorded at ICP’s via the IVFRT portal. By reducing the amount of cards to be scanned, this will markedly reduce processing times at ICP’s and allow the MHA to effectively monitor an assignee’s travel history in India.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

Presently, the ability to electronically monitor all D/E has not yet been consolidated into the IVFRT system. Until further notice, the system of completing embarkation cards for foreign nationals arriving in India and disembarkation cards for Indian nationals departing India remains in place.

By later this year, it is anticipated that consolidating the D/E Card system into one platform will facilitate swiping traveler’s passports and having a complete departure and entry record immediately available to ICP officers.

For repeat business travelers, this will mean they are cognizant of an entry officer having better to question successive entry to India or extended stay in India.

For assignees and family members, the phasing out of having to complete D/E cards for every re-entry and departure will reduce paperwork and ICP wait times to clear immigration.

Please also note that comprehensive integration of India’s immigration databases also means better ability for agencies to monitor assignee’s movements and patterns of stay.

For instance, as FRO/FRRO’s will also have access to entry/departure information, assignees declaring residence in one city but consistently working long-term in other locations of India should be prepared for questioning when renewing their Residence Permits as to their actual, continued place of residence in India.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Glenn Faulk, Senior Manager, Knowledge Management. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in India to provide you this update.

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Glenn Faulk, Senior Manager, Knowledge Management. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in India to provide you this update.