Obtaining Crew Visas and Temporary Landing Permits for India – Process Has Been Streamlined
Previous difficulties and delays in obtaining crew visas and Temporary Landing Permits (TLPs) for India have been resolved as of September 4, 2013. With issuance of new directives from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, policy changes should be implemented very quickly. This is good news for all flight crews who fly to India on either a regular or one-time basis.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Previous crew visa issues have been resolved
Back in April of this year, a more strict enforcement of the crew visa process was put into effect, which caused some significant issues with obtaining a crew visa. We applaud the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Home Affairs for their support and diligence in addressing the issues and implementing solutions very quickly. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a circular to all embassies and consulates. The language of this circular shows that Indian authorities have taken careful consideration in addressing the matter. While these changes may take a little time to find their way into smooth implementation, we expect that previous crew visa issues have now been resolved.
2. There is a joint effort between industry and government
Bringing attention to previous crew visa issues and interfacing with Indian authorities was an effective process involving joint efforts of an industry working group. The working group included the Business Aviation Operators Association India (BAOA), General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA), G3 Visas, International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), US-India Business Council (USIBC), and Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
3. There are new crew visa rules for general aviation operations
Instructions were issued on September 4 authorizing Indian missions/posts abroad to grant business visas for appropriate duration to crew of private non-revenue and charter (non-scheduled commercial) flights subject to usual checks. Indian missions/posts have been authorized to grant these visas – preferably within three days of submission of visa application. However, part of the process still being ironed out is the minimum holding altitude (MHA) requirement that the DGCA must provide details of the aircraft landing clearances to the Bureau of Immigration and Director General of Police well ahead of the arrival of the flight.
When you apply for a visa, the consulate may ask for a copy of the aircraft landing clearance in order to issue the visa. That can be difficult, considering that visas are normally obtained well ahead of the operation of a flight. DGCA is aware of that difficulty and is working on establishing a more effective process. One option is to have your 3rd-party provider submit the request for your landing clearance to DGCA. You can then take a copy of the DGCA stamped landing application – along with a letter from your handling representative in India – confirming they have applied for landing clearance on your behalf, and include these with your visa application.
4. Visas will be endorsed on crew passports
In all cases, visas will be endorsed on crew member passports only and will not be endorsed on crew member certificates.
5. There are certain nationality exceptions
In the case of nationals of Afghanistan, China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and nationals of Pakistani origin the approval process differs, and visa processing will take longer. For these Prior Reference Category (PRC) countries, crew visa applications will be uploaded by Indian missions/posts via the Online Visa Processing System for clearance by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Comments/clearance of the Ministry of Home Affairs will be uploaded within 30 days from initial uploading of the visa application.
6. There are TLP changes
The circular re-instates the TLP, which is authorization for Indian immigration to allow entrance into the country without a visa for crew members of non-scheduled airlines and charted flights, as well as for private non-revenue flights. The charge for the TLP is US$40. However, nationals of PRC countries are excluded from the TLP.
The following are excerpts of the circular issued:
Crew members of scheduled/unscheduled flights operated by scheduled operators as approved by the Ministry of Civil Aviation from time to time may not be charged a fee for the grant of landing permits up to a period of 7 (seven) days. In case the stay exceeds the permitted period of 7 days, usual fee of US $40 (or equivalent amount in Indian rupees) shall be charged.
In the case of crew of non-scheduled airlines and chartered flights operated by such airlines, revised instructions have been issued on 4 September as follows:
- In respect of the following categories of crew of non-scheduled airlines and chartered flights operated by such airlines, the immigration authorities may grant Temporary Landing Permits (TLPs) subject to usual checks:
- Medical emergency
- Technical problems in the aircraft and technical landing for refueling / for crew rest
- Diversion of the aircraft to an Indian airport due to bad weather conditions in the nearby foreign airport
- Relief flights including flights operated under UN Mission.
- In respect of the following categories, TLP may be granted by the immigration authorities for the crew of non-PRC countries, subject to usual checks and DGCA intimating flight clearance:-
- VIP flights
- Cargo flights
- Private aircrafts of leading businessmen coming for business purpose.
- In respect of crew of non-PRC countries of tourist charter flights, TLP may be granted subject to usual checks and further subject to the following conditions:
- The tourist or travel agency sponsoring the tourists shall mandatorily fill in the visa applications for the crew members of the charter flights online.
- A complete list of crew members along with printed visa applications and their itinerary should be submitted by the tourist or travel agency to the FRRO/ FRO concerned, 72 hours in advance.
- The Indian TLP should not be confused with the Indian landing permit requirement for the aircraft. The TLP refers only to immigration’s authority to allow entrance into India by crew members of non-scheduled flights, as outlined in their September 5 circular.
- An additional requirement of the TLP process is that the organization sponsoring the passengers or tourists must complete the online visa applications for the crew.
7. See these links for further information
The full circular issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs is available here for more information.
Additionally, please note that this joint effort is working on initiating the utilization of the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) for business aviation in India, which is not currently in use. If it is accepted and implemented, we expect that this will support the overall visa processing effort, as well as improve the international arrival and departure process.
Visas for pilots and crew members traveling to India are now easier and quicker to obtain, thanks to recent regulatory changes. Three-day visa processing times for non-PRC country crews represent a significant operator benefit. Meanwhile, more user-friendly options – and lower costs – are now available in terms of TLPs for non-scheduled operations to India. These positive changes will take some time to take effect, so be patient and persistent.
If you have any questions about this article or need assistance in planning your next trip to India, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.