HRD ministry to seek visa relief for foreign students

HRD ministry to seek visa relief for foreign students

Foreign students will soon be able to work while pursuing higher education in India if the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has its way.

The ministry has prepared a proposal for granting “limited work permit” to foreign students “in selected areas/segments” to increase their enrollment in higher education institutions in India.

The ministry, which wants easing of other visa rules for foreign students, will soon approach the Union Home Ministry with its proposals.

At present, the Indian visa regime does not allow any work permit for international students.

“This issue will be relooked to allow limited work permit in selected areas/segments where there is an imbalance in demand and supply and shortage of trained or highly skilled human resources in India,” a ministry official said.

With the Modi government's increased focus on implementation of Study in India programme launched a couple of years ago to attract foreign students, the HRD ministry also wants change in the visa regime to allow paid internship for foreign students— this is currently not allowed.

“This has been one of the disincentives for international students,” the official said.

Besides, the ministry in its proposals would also seek easing of students visa norms to bring in place “an enabling framework” for internationalisation of higher education institutions in the country.

The ministry wants the students' visa to remain valid for the “entire study period”.

It also wants a system in place for facilitation of the FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) registration either on the higher education campuses or online “at least for institutions participating in the Study in India program.”

“An appropriate mechanism needs to be put in place to address genuine concerns and difficulties faced by international students with regard to visa, registration, an extension of stay, tax rules and regulations,” a ministry official said.

The ministry is considering a proposal to relax the ceiling of 15% supernumerary seats per higher education institution for admission of foreign students.

“Some institutions have sought permission to raise this limit to enroll more international students. The upper cap of 15% supernumerary seats is proposed be done away with for the top-ranked institutions and raised to 30%, particularly for those participating in 'Study in India' programme,” the ministry official said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting Union Budget for 2019-20 in Parliament last week, proposed to further strengthen the 'Study in India' programme, underlining that India has "the potential" to become a hub of higher education.