It seems that the passage to India for accompanying spouses may be less than smooth when it comes to gaining suitable employment. At present, foreign nationals who go to India for an employment opportunity are awarded with an E, or employment, type visa. Their spouses and dependents, however, are only permitted an “X visa” which does not allow them to legally work in India. Whilst it is possible for such visa holders to seek out work, and potentially sponsorship, in their own right, a full employment visa can only be awarded from the individual’s port of origin. The application procedures are lengthily and bureaucratic and act as a strong deterrent for companies who may otherwise consider recruiting and sponsoring an individual. At present there are large numbers of expat couples in India who have found that the trailing spouse, or the dependent visa holder, is unable to commence work in the country, even when they have secured suitable employment.
One organization, the Hague-based Permits Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that lobbies governments all over the world for open work visas for expat spouses, is now taking action to attempt to resolve this situation. The foundation has recently commenced a petition to make it more straightforward for expat spouses and dependents to work in India. They have begun lobbying the Indian government with the express aim of persuading them to loosen the rules and regulations impacting the rights of dependents to gain employment in their own right.
There is a strong argument in favor of such measures. At present, India can strongly benefit from the skills, knowledge and expertise of foreign workers. However, the current visa rules and regulations are acting as a strong deterrent for potential expats and many of them are turning down an opportunity to emigrate to India because their partners will be unable to gain suitable employment. Archana Bhaskar, a head of HR for Shell in India commented on this in an article that appeared in the Economic Times last week stating, "Invariably, the question from these potential expat hires is whether their spouse can work in India, and often they don’t accept India postings because this is not easy".
It appears, however, that the efforts of groups such as the Permits Foundation may be in vain, at least in the short term. It is believed that this particular visa issue is just one amongst many that the Indian government currently have on the table and that the likelihood that changes in employment visas will take place in the near future are very slim.
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