Govt mulls new visa norms for project workers


The southern Man
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Jul 15, 2009
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Govt mulls new visa norms for project workers

NEW DELHI: The home ministry has proposed a new visa regime -- to be called Project Visa (P Visa) -- for foreign nationals coming to India for execution of specific projects. If accepted, the proposal -- which is being examined by a committee of secretaries (CoS) -- will pave the way for hiring foreign nationals for various projects, mainly infrastructure and those of strategic importance, without getting into the nitty-gritty of two existing work-related visa regimes -- business visa (B Visa) and employment visa (E Visa). In absence of separate visa regime for people coming to India for execution of projects, thousands of foreigners had come to India on `B' visa instead of coming on `E' visa for working on those projects in the past two-three years. The home ministry in June found that more than half of them, mainly Chinese, were either unskilled or semi-skilled workers who used the `B' visa route to come here instead of coming on `E' visa which is meant for only skilled and highly qualified professionals.

Though the government subsequently asked all such `B' visa holders to return and come only after converting their visas (from B to E), the decision sent alarm bells ringing across private industries as well as government agencies, mainly defence ministry and department of atomic energy (DAE), as they feared substantial delay in ongoing projects.

Considering the implication of the decision on certain projects, the deadline for conversion was extended twice till November 30. However, concerns remain as a number of projects are still not finished. Amid such practical difficulties faced by industries, the home ministry has pushed its `P' visa proposal as officials believe that the new visa regime, if approved, will be linked to specific projects. Once government allows such projects, the visa to foreigners will be issued on the basis of contract specifications.

A senior official said, "Although government has taken measures -- like allowing in-situ conversion of visa of foreign nationals who are engaged in defence ministry and DAE's projects -- so that the decision doesn't impact projects of strategic importance, the final solution lies in the proposed `P' visa regime."
The defence ministry has sent applications of 1,396 foreign nationals for in-situ visa conversion while DAE has pushed 159 such applications. In a few exceptional cases, the home ministry has even extended the conversion deadline upto December 31.

However, this concession was not meant for private infrastructure projects where thousands of foreigners were engaged in executing various projects including power and steel. As a result, they had to leave India by November 30 leaving the projects unfinished. Most of them have already applied for E visa but the process will take time. Since the E visa will not be issued to unskilled or semi-skilled workers, companies having such employees -- mainly Chinese -- have, of late, given various representations before the government.

An official said, "Industries have cited language as a reason for hiring Chinese unskilled or semi-skilled workers if the projects were to be executed by companies having senior staff/experts from China. Secondly, they found it easier to complete the projects early if the entire workforce was from the same country (China)."

Govt mulls new visa norms for project workers - India - The Times of India

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