[Reader-list] Fw: Visas for research in India

Yousuf ysaeed7 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 8 01:24:32 IST 2010

The following discussion from another e-list may interest some of you - something that has been troubling a lot of foreign scholars wanting to visit India for a long duration.


From:   mascasa at umd.edu
Subject: Re: Visas for research in India
Date: 8 March 2010 12:25:23 AM GMT+05:30

For anyone planning to stay over six months, a research visa may really be the best way to go, I think.  I went on a tourist visa because I was not going to be affiliated with a school since my research was multi-sited and I was working largely with musicians outside of "officialdom" (that's also an issue for future research, though a few schools in my area [Kerala] are happy to write letters of affiliation for researchers).  

Though my visa was approved for a year, I was supposed to get it renewed after six months, but I didn't know about this and when it came time for me to go home, they wouldn't let me leave the country.  This happened to a few other students while I was there, but I thought I had a year!  This caused all kinds of problems for my husband and me because the airline did not want to reschedule us (I thought I would have to find in India for a year just to raise the money for another ticket or commit a small crime so they would kick us out!), but eventually we got home after about three days of haunting the local police station trying to get all of the right stamps of approval.  To add to my distress, I was also pregnant and sick at the time.  All this to say, I'm not sure if the renewal is necessary for the research visa, but I sure learned my lesson about staying informed about proper procedures. Ah...the joys of fieldwork.  Strangely, despite the problems at
 the end, I still can't wait to go back!

Katherine Morehouse Ph.D. Cand. 
University of Maryland
Liberty University, Instructor
Lynchburg, VA.

---- Original message ----
Date: Sun, 7 Mar 2010 14:41:07 +0000
From: Katherine Brown <katherine.r.brown at kcl.ac.uk>  
Subject: Re: Visas for research in India  
To: Gordon Thompson <gthompso at skidmore.edu>
Cc: Richard Kent Wolf <rwolf at fas.harvard.edu>, Richard Widdess <rw4 at soas.ac.uk>, samwale-list <samwale-list at skidmore.edu>

Dear all,

I don't think there is, in fact, any change to any other visa category than the tourist visa, a change that has only caught out some of our UK research students because they have gone in on tourist visas. The situation does need to be clarified as to whether or not UK citizens have, in fact, long been supposed to apply for research visas to do research in India, even though it has been established practice for years for ethnomusicologists not to do so. All Cambridge PhD students I know in history and anthropology have gone in on research visas, and they were very surprised that ethnomusicologists did not apparently need to do this.

More concerningly, there does not appear to be a minimum limit on the length of trip for which you must apply for a research visa, which might catch us all out. If you have a look at the website for the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, you will see that it appears that US citizens even need research visas and letters of invitations to attend academic conferences in India.

The requirements for UK citizens do seem at best a bit blurry though, because I did in fact apply for a research visa for my PhD work in India, but when it didn't come through in time, the cultural attache at the Indian High Commission told me to go on a tourist visa anyway while waiting for the research visa to come through -- he even gave me letters to take to the British Council for him because they would arrive faster than the diplomatic bag! I had no problems getting into libraries and archives on a tourist visa, doing the same kind of work as my historian colleagues.

It might be useful, however, to get some official guidance re. under what circumstances we, in our different jurisdictions, are supposed to get research visas for India.


On 7 Mar 2010, at 13:56, Gordon Thompson wrote:


Some of the differences you describe can be connected to your nationalities.  When I traveled on a Canadian passport, I had no immigration problems.  Indeed, I became an official resident of India with little difficulty.  On an American passport, I needed to follow the process described by Professor Wolf.

It is interesting to know that the government is changing that relationship with the Commonwealth (again).


Gordon R. Thompson, Professor, Department of Music
Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York 12866

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Kent Wolf [mailto:rwolf at fas.harvard.edu]
Sent: Sun 07-Mar-10 8:08 AM
To: Richard Widdess
Cc: samwale-list
Subject: Re: Visas for research in India

Dear Richard and fellow samwale,

Scholars from the US doing research in India using any of the major
sources of funding (AIIS, Fulbright) have always been required to get
research visas.  It involves getting affiliated with an approved
institution in India--usually a university; paying an affiliation fee,
getting an official letter, and sending all that off to the Indian govt.
for approval.  The process can take a year or more and in my experience
has required having someone on the ground in India to help push things
forward.  It is a pain, but absolutely necessary if one is to stay a
year or two at a time.  One then must register with the police in India
and do some other paperwork.  Obviously one can't do this for a visit of
a few weeks.  What was the precise information you received?


Richard Wolf

On 3/7/10 7:13 AM, Richard Widdess wrote:
Dear SAMwale

The Indian government is trying to clamp down on students and scholars
using tourist visas to do research in India. That is all very well but
what's the alternative? Has anyone experience of getting research
visas, for themselves or students, and if so how is it done? What are
other disciplines doing about this? Is there a concerted approach?


Richard K Wolf
Professor of Music
Department of Music
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138

ph: (+1) 617-495-2791
fax: (+1) 617-496-8081


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