Foreign nationals who wish to avail of medical treatment in India should obtain a Medical Visa (“MV”). Such a visa is granted to those seeking medical treatment in reputed or recognized specialized hospitals or treatment centers in India. According to information available on the official website of the government of India, MVs can be granted for different types of treatment including for neurosurgery, ophthalmic disorders, heart-related problems, renal disorders, organ transplantation, congenital disorders, gene-therapy, radio-therapy, plastic surgery or joint replacement surgery. Indian consular posts also consider MV applications for treatments under India’s traditional medical practices like Ayurveda.
Each application for a MV must clearly establish that the applicant has been advised specific medical treatment by a practitioner in his or her country of nationality or residence. It is advisable to add information regarding the potential treatment in India, a description of the credentials of the institute where the medical treatment will be administered along with a letter from this institute describing the treatment. If possible, the applicant should also add a letter from the medical practitioner in India who will administer the medical treatment confirming that the applicant is scheduled for the relevant treatment.
A MV is granted for a period of one year or for the duration of the treatment whichever is less. It is possible to obtain an extension if the treatment takes longer that a year or the anticipated duration. Additional extensions may be granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs in certain circumstances.
Up to two attendants who are close relatives of the patient are allowed to accompany the patient. Each of the accompanying individuals must obtain a separate Medical Attendant visa (“MXV”), which will be issued with the same validity as the MV. Both MV and MXV visas grant multiple entries of up to three visits. The processing times vary at different consular post. However, U..S born American citizens are usually granted a visa within two to three working days.
Registration in India
All foreign nationals on an MV or an MXV need to register with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (“FRRO”) or the Foreigners Registration Office (“FRO”) within 14 days of arrival in India. The office where a foreign national should register depends on the place of residence of the individual. There are seven FRROs in all – one each in Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Amritsar. The relevant FRO is the office of the District Superintendent of Police in the relevant jurisdiction. Pakistan Nationals are required to register within 24 hours and Afghanistan Nationals are required to register within 14 days of their arrival in India (days should be counted from the date of arrival). There is no fee to be paid at the time of registration but if there is a delay in registering a penalty of US$ 30 will be levied.
In addition to the standard documents required for registration, individuals on an MV need to provide as evidence of the proposed treatment, a copy of a medical certificate or prescription issued by a recognized, reputed or specialized hospital in India. Individuals on MXV need to establish their relationship with the patient and also provide evidence of the treatment as set out above.
Conversion of Visas
Foreign nationals on a business visa or an employment visa in India can apply to convert their visas to a MV if they fall ill, are unable to travel and require specialized medical treatment in India. A change of visa may be required if the individual falls out of status, for example if he is on an employment visa and the visa expires. Such individuals will be granted an MV provided they fulfill all the criteria to be eligible for an MV and can provide a medical certificate from a government or government-recognized hospital. In such cases qualifying members of the principle applicant could apply for an MX, which is usually granted to co-terminate with the principle applicant’s MV. The MV and MXV will bear an endorsement stating that employment or business is not permitted.
The Medical Visa is a result of the Government’s recognition of the importance of medical tourism in India. It enables individuals to enter the country to procure medical treatment on valid visas.
Poorvi Chothani is the founder and managing partner of LawQuest, a law firm in Mumbai, India, and a Vice Chair of the India Committee. She is admitted to the New York State Bar and is a registered solicitor in England and Wales. Poorvi has been practicing law in India since 1984 and is admitted to the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa. She can be reached at email@example.com.
By Poorvi Chothani, Esq.