SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) ,...Recent Embassy Notices for American Citizens
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December 16, 2010
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: India, the world's largest democracy, has a very diverse population, geography, and climate. India is the world's second most populous country, and the world's seventh largest country in area. Tourist facilities offer varying degrees of comfort, and amenities are widely available in the major population centers and main tourist areas. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on India for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit India, please take the time to tell our Embassy and/or Consulate about your trip. If you sign up, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. We can also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local Embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is located at Shanti Path, Chanakya Puri 110021; telephone 91-11-2419-8000; fax 91-11-2419-8407. (Note that the " " sign indicates your international access code, which in the United States is 011-, but which is 00- in most other countries.)
The U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai (Bombay) is located at Lincoln House, 78 Bhulabhai Desai Road, 400026, telephone 91-22-2363-3611; fax 91-22-2368-5483.
The U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata (Calcutta) is at 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, 700071; telephone 91-33-3984-2400; fax 91-33-2282-2335.
The U.S. Consulate General in Chennai (Madras) is at 220 Anna Salai, Gemini Circle, 600006; telephone 91-44-2857-4000; fax 91-44-2857-4443.
The U.S. Consulate General in Hyderabad is at Paigah Palace, 1-8-323 Chiran Fort Lane, Begumpet, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, 500003; telephone 91-40-4033-8300; fax 91-40-4033-8301.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens need a valid passport and valid Indian visa to enter and exit India for any purpose. Visitors, including those on official U.S. government business, must apply for visas at an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to entering the country, as there are no provisions for visas upon arrival for U.S. citizens. If you don’t have a valid passport and visa you could be immediately deported. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India cannot assist you if you arrive without proper documentation. You should carry photocopies of the bio-data page of your U.S. passport and the pages containing the Indian visa and Indian immigration stamps. These come in handy if you lose your passport or if it is stolen. Having them will also help in obtaining an exit visa from the Indian government. Replacing a lost visa, which is required in order to exit the country, can take three to four business days.
U.S. citizens wishing to visit India are responsible for requesting the correct type of visa from the Indian Embassy or Consulate, as there generally are no provisions for changing your immigration category (e.g., from tourist to work visa) once admitted. Please note that Indian visa regulations have gone through frequent, poorly advertised, and inconsistently enforced changes during the past year. Travelers are urged to check the Indian Government Ministry of Home Affairs website before any travel to India to ensure they have the most current information. If you travel on a tourist visa, you are generally given six months of legal stay upon entering India; the Government of India rarely grants extensions within the country. Indian Embassy and Consulates in the United States outsource their visa application process to Travisa Visa Outsourcing. Diplomatic and Official visa applications, however, are still accepted directly at the Indian Embassy and Consulates. If your primary purpose of travel is to participate in religious activities you should obtain a missionary visa rather than a tourist visa. Indian immigration authorities will deport travelers who enter India with a tourist visa and conduct religious activities. If you are going to be paid for work done while in India, or even if you will be working with a non-governmental organization (NGO) or involved in volunteer activities, you will need an employment category visa. If you come to India regularly on business trips, including attendance at conferences, you should apply for a business category visa. If you intend to stay for an extended period of time with family, you should apply for an entry (X) visa. Conference visas are only for designated Government of India sponsored events; all other conference attendees should get business visas. It is always best to check the Indian government website for the most up-to-date visa information. All U.S. government employees, including military personnel, must obtain country clearance for travel to India.
Travelers to India who work in “designated institutes and technology areas” will be subject to a two-week waiting period in the visa application process and will be required to submit supplemental information with their visa application. Scholars planning to conduct research in India often need research clearances in addition to their visas. Specific information is available at the Indian Embassy and Consulates.
U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin should expect additional delays when applying for Indian visas due to administrative processing.
Foreign citizens who visit India to study, do research, work, or act as missionaries, as well as all travelers planning to stay more than 180 days, are required to register within 14 days of arrival with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) closest to where they will be staying. The FRRO maintains offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai (known as the "Bureau of Immigration"), Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bengaluru,and Amritsar. Apart from the FRROs who look after the immigration/registration functions in these seven cities, District Superintendents of Police function as Foreigners Registration Officers (FROs) in all states in the country. General information regarding Indian visa and immigration rules, including the addresses and telephone numbers for the FRRO offices, can be found at the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs Bureau of Immigration website. If you are traveling to India on a tourist visa you will not be allowed re-entry to India within two months of your departure unless you request specific permission from Indian government officials. For clarification of this issue, exemptions from the rule, as well as other recent immigration directives, carefully review the section titled “Instructions (Foreigners)” on the Indian Bureau of Immigation website and be aware that implementation at ports of entry may be inconsistent.
If you overstay your Indian visa, or otherwise violate Indian visa regulations, you may require a clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to leave the country. Generally you will be fined, and in some cases may be jailed, until deportation can be arranged. Visa violators seeking an exit clearance can visit the following office any weekday from 10 a.m. - 12 noon: Ministry of Home Affairs, Foreigners Division, Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Road, New Delhi 110 011 (tel. 91-11-2338-5748). Processing of an exit visa under these circumstances may take up to 60 days.
For the most current information on entry and exit requirements, please contact the Embassy of India at 2536 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 939-9806 or the Indian Consulates in Chicago, New York, San Francisco,or Houston. Outside the United States, inquiries should be made at the nearest Indian embassy or consulate.
There are no disclosure requirements or restrictions for HIV/AIDS patients who enter India on a tourist visa. Disclosure regarding HIV/AIDS is required of anyone seeking a resident permit in India. Foreign residents found to be suffering from HIV/AIDS will be deported. Please verify this information with the Embassy of India before you travel.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: : Coordinated attacks in Mumbai in late November 2008 targeting areas frequented by Westerners highlighted the risk of U.S. citizens becoming intended or unintended victims of terrorism in India. Anti-Western terrorist groups, some on the U.S. government's list of foreign terrorist organizations, are active in India, including Islamist extremist groups such as Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, and Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami. The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups are planning attacks that could take place in locations throughout India.
Past attacks have targeted public places frequented by Westerners, including luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas. Attacks have taken place during the busy evening hours in markets and other crowded places, but could occur at any time. In December 2010 an explosive device detonated at Shitla Ghat in Varanasi during evening "aarti," or prayers, killing two persons and injuring 30, including several foreigners. In February 2010, an explosive device detonated at a café in Pune, Maharashtra, killing 10 people, including two foreign nationals, and injuring 50. Beginning in May 2008, several coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in major cities throughout India, to include New Delhi, culminating in the November attacks in Mumbai where over 170 people were killed, including six U.S. citizens.
U.S. citizens are urged to always practice good security, which includes maintaining a heightened situational awareness and a low profile. While traveling in India you are advised to monitor local news reports, vary your routes and times in carrying out daily activities, and consider the level of security present when you visit public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, and entertainment and recreation venues.
Beyond the threat from terrorism and insurgencies, demonstrations often cause inconvenience. Large religious ceremonies that attract hundreds of thousands of people can result in dangerous and often life-threatening stampedes. Local demonstrations can begin spontaneously and escalate with little warning, disrupting transportation systems and city services and posing risks to travelers. In response to such events, Indian authorities occasionally impose curfews and/or restrict travel. You are urged to avoid demonstrations and rallies as they have the potential for violence, especially immediately preceding and following elections and religious festivals (particularly when Hindu and Muslim festivals coincide). Tensions between castes and religious groups can also result in disruptions and violence. In some cases, demonstrators specifically block roads near popular tourist sites and disrupt train operations in order to gain the attention of Indian authorities; occasionally vehicles transporting tourists are attacked in these incidents. India generally goes on “High Alert” status prior to major holidays. You should monitor local television and print media and contact the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. Consulate for further information about the current situation in areas where you wish to travel.
Religious violence occasionally occurs in India, especially when tensions between different religious communities are purposefully exacerbated by groups pushing religiously chauvinistic agendas. Violence against Indian Christians in a remote part of Orissa in 2008 resulted in the displacement of thousands of villagers and the deaths of 40 people. There are active "anti-conversion" laws in some Indian states, and acts of conversion sometimes elicit violent reactions from Hindu extremists. Foreigners suspected of proselytizing Hindus have been attacked and killed in conservative, rural areas in India in the past.
Swimming in India: You should exercise caution if you intend to swim in open waters along the Indian coastline, particularly during the monsoon season. Every year, several people in Goa, Mumbai, Puri (Orissa), and other areas drown due to the strong undertow. It is important to heed warnings posted or advised at beaches and to avoid swimming in the ocean during the monsoon season. Trained lifeguards are very rare along beaches.
If you choose to visit the Andaman Islands you should be aware that there have been 24 reports of salt-water crocodile attacks during the past 25 years in the Islands. There have been four fatalities, including a U.S. citizen tourist in April 2010. You are encouraged to seek advice from local residents about dangerous sea life before swimming and should keep a safe distance from animals at all times.
Wildlife safaris: India offers opportunities for observation of wildlife in its natural habitat and many tour operators and lodges advertise structured, safe excursions into parks and other wildlife viewing areas for close observation of flora and fauna. However, safety standards and training vary, and it is a good idea to ascertain whether operators are trained and licensed. Even animals marketed as “tame” should be respected as wild and extremely dangerous. You should keep a safe distance from animals at all times, remaining in vehicles or other protected enclosures when venturing into game parks.
Trekking in India: You should limit trekking expeditions to routes identified for this purpose by local authorities. You should solicit assistance only from registered trekking agencies, porters, and guides; suspend trekking after dark; camp at designated camping places; and ideally travel in groups of eight to ten people rather than individually or with one or two companions. Altitudes in popular trekking spots can be as high as 25,170 feet (7,672 m); please make sure that you have had a recent medical checkup to assure that you are fit to trek and cycle at these altitudes.
Areas of Instability:
Jammu & Kashmir: The Department of State strongly recommends that you avoid travel to Jammu & Kashmir (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) because of the potential for terrorist incidents as well as violent public unrest. U.S.government employees are prohibited from traveling to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (except for Ladakh) without permission, which is only granted by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in exceptional circumstances. When traveling to Kashmir, U.S. official travelers attempt to lower their profiles, limit their lengths of stay, and exercise extreme caution.
A number of terrorist groups operate in the state, targeting security forces that are present throughout the region, particularly along the Line of Control (LOC) separating Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, and those stationed in the primary tourist destinations in the Kashmir Valley: Srinagar, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam. Since 1989, as many as 60,000 people (terrorists, security forces, and civilians) have been killed in the Kashmir conflict. As a foreigner you will be particularly visible, vulnerable, and definitely at risk. In the past, serious communal violence left the state mostly paralyzed, due to massive strikes and business shut downs, and U.S. citizens have had to be evacuated by local police. The Indian government prohibits foreign tourists from visiting certain areas along the LOC (see the section on Restricted Areas, below).
India-Pakistan Border: The State Department recommends that you avoid travel to areas within ten kilometers of the border between India and Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the border. The only official India-Pakistan border crossing point for persons who are not citizens of India or Pakistan is in the state of Punjab between Atari, India, and Wagah, Pakistan. The border crossing is usually open, but you are advised to confirm the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel. A Pakistani visa is required to enter Pakistan. A U.S. citizen seeking a Pakistani visa while in India must first come to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to sign an affidavit of intent to apply for the Pakistani visa. This is a requirement of the Pakistani government.
Both India and Pakistan claim an area of the Karakoram mountain range that includes the Siachen glacier. If you intend to travel to or climb peaks in the disputed areas you will face significant risks. The disputed area includes the following peaks: Rimo Peak; Apsarasas I, II, and III; Tegam Kangri I, II and III; Suingri Kangri; Ghiant I and II; Indira Col; and Sia Kangri. You can check with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi for information on current conditions. (Please see the section on “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/Embassy Location” above.)
Northeastern states: Incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including bombings of buses, trains, rail lines, and markets occur with a degree of frequency in parts of Assam and Manipur. While U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, it is possible that you could be affected as a bystander. If Assam and Manipur are on your itinerary you are cautioned to avoid trains, crowds, and travel outside major cities at night. Security laws are in force, and the central government has deployed security personnel. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to the states of Assam and Manipur without permission from the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata. When traveling to these areas, U.S. official travelers attempt to lower their profiles, limit their lengths of stay, and exercise extreme caution.
Restricted Area Permits are required for foreigners to visit certain Northeastern states (see the section on Restricted Areas, below.) You may check with the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata for information on current conditions. (Please see the section on Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/Embassy Location, above.)
East Central and Southern India: Maoist extremist groups, or “Naxalites,” are active in East Central and Southern India, primarily in rural areas. The Naxalites have a long history of conflict with state and national authorities, including frequent attacks on local police, paramilitary forces, and government officials, and are responsible for more terrorist attacks in the country than any other organization.Their campaign of violence and intimidation is currently on-going. Naxalites have not specifically targeted U.S. citizens but have attacked symbolic targets that have included Western companies and rail lines. While Naxalite violence does not normally occur in places frequented by foreigners, there is a risk that visitors could become unintended victims of indiscriminate targeting by such violent extremists.
The Naxalites are active in a large swath of India from eastern Maharashtra and northern Andhra Pradhesh through western West Bengal. They are particularly active in rural parts of the Indian states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and in border regions of the adjacent states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Orissa. Due to the fluid nature of the threat, the U.S. Mission requires all U.S. government travelers to states with Naxalite activity to receive prior authorization from the Regional Security Officer responsible for the area to be visited. U.S. officials traveling only to the capital cities in these states do not need prior authorization from the Regional Security Officer.
In December 2009 and January 2010, sporadic civil unrest erupted in the south-central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh over the contentious issue of creating a separate state called Telangana within Andhra Pradesh. Until the issue is resolved definitively, there may continue to be tension, especially in the Telangana Region of Andhra Pradesh, which includes the districts of Rangareddi, Warangal, Medak, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Adilabad, Khammam, Nalgonda, and Mahbubnagar. You should avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and large crowds of any kind. The campus of Osmania University in Hyderabad has been the site of recurring civil disturbances regarding the Telangana statehood issue. U.S. citizens resident or traveling in Andhra Pradesh are remindedto monitor the situation via media sources, including TV, radio and via the internet.
Restricted areas:Certain parts of India are designated as "restricted areas" by the Indian government and require special advance permission to visit. These areas include:
- The state of Mizoram
- The state of Manipur
- The state of Arunachal Pradesh
- The state of Nagaland
- The state of Sikkim
- Portions of the state of Himachal Pradesh near the Chinese border
- Portions of the state of Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal) near the Chinese border
- Portions of the state of Rajasthan near the Pakistani border
- Portions of the state of Jammu & Kashmir near the Line of Control with Pakistan and certain portions of Ladakh
- The Andaman & Nicobar Islands
- The Union Territory of the Laccadives Islands (Lakshadweep)
- The Tibetan colony in Mundgod, Karnataka
More information on travel to/in restricted areas can be found at India’s Bureau of Immigration.You can obtain “Restricted Area Permits" outside India at Indian embassies and consulates abroad, or within India, from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) at Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Road, New Delhi. The states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim all maintain official guesthouses in New Delhi, each of which also can issue Restricted Area Permits for their respective states for certain travelers. You should exercise caution while visiting Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) in Tamil Nadu as the Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Center, Kalpakkam, is located just south of the site and is not clearly marked as a restricted and dangerous area.
For the latest security information, you should regularly monitor travel information available from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi as well as the U.S. Consulates General in Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras), Hyderabad, and Kolkata (Calcutta).
You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
There is nobody better at protecting you than yourself. Take some time before travel to improve your personal security—things are not the same everywhere as they are in the United States. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common, particularly on trains or buses. Pickpockets can be very adept, and women have reported having their bags snatched, purse-straps cut ,or the bottom of their purses slit without their knowledge. Theft of U.S. passports is quite common, particularly in major tourist areas, on overnight trains, and at airports and train stations. If you are traveling by train you are urged to lock your sleeping compartments and take your valuables with you when leaving your berth. If you travel by air, you need to be particularly careful with your bags in the arrival and departure areas outside airports. Violent crime, especially directed against foreigners, has traditionally been uncommon, although in recent years there has been a modest increase. As a U.S. citizen’s purchasing power is comparatively large in India, you should exercise modesty and caution in your financial dealings to reduce the chance of being a target for robbery or other crime. Gangs and criminal elements operate in major cities and have sometimes targeted unsuspecting business travelers and their family members for kidnapping.
U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. Western women, especially those of African descent, continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men. Known locally as “Eve-teasing,” these incidents can be quite frightening. While India is generally safe for foreign visitors, according to the latest figures by Indian authorities, rape is the fastest growing crime in India. Among large cities, Delhi experienced the highest number of crimes against women. Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas underline the fact that foreign women are also at risk and should exercise vigilance.
Women should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding using public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions; restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues; and avoiding walking in isolated areas alone at any time of day. If you are a woman traveling in India, you are advised to respect local dress and customs. Ensure that your hotel room number remains confidential and insist the doors of your hotel room has chains, deadlocks, and spy-holes. In addition, only hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in hired taxis, especially during the hours of darkness. It is preferable to obtain taxis from hotels and pre-paid taxis at airports rather than hailing them on the street. If you encounter threatening situations, you should call “100” for police assistance.
Scams: Major airports, train stations, popular restaurants, and tourist sites are often used by scam artists looking to prey on visitors, often by creating a distraction. Beware of taxi drivers and others, including train porters, who solicit travelers with "come-on" offers of cheap transportation and/or hotels. Travelers accepting such offers have frequently found themselves the victims of scams, including offers to assist with "necessary" transfers to the domestic airport, disproportionately expensive hotel rooms, unwanted "tours," unwelcome "purchases," and even threats when the tourists try to decline to pay. There have been several disturbing reports of tourists being lured to and then held hostage on houseboats in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, and forced to pay thousands of dollars in the face of threats of violence against the traveler and his/her family members.
Travelers accepting such offers have frequently found themselves the victims of scams, including offers to assist with "necessary" transfers to the domestic airport, disproportionately expensive hotel rooms, unwanted "tours," unwelcome "purchases," and even threats when the tourists try to decline to pay. There have been several disturbing reports of tourists being lured to and then held hostage on houseboats in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, and forced to pay thousands of dollars in the face of threats of violence against the traveler and his/her family members.
You should exercise care when hiring transportation and/or guides and use only well-known travel agents to book trips. Some scam artists have lured travelers by displaying their name on a sign when they leave the airport. Another popular scam is to drop money or to squirt something on the clothing of an unsuspecting traveler and during the distraction to rob them of their valuables. Tourists have also been given drugged drinks or tainted food to make them more vulnerable to theft, particularly at train stations. Even food or drink purchased in front of the traveler from a canteen or vendor could be tainted. To protect against robbery of personal belongings, do not to accept food or drink from strangers.
Some vendors sell carpets, jewelry, gemstones, or other expensive items that may not be of the quality promised. Deal only with reputable businesses and do not hand over your credit cards or money unless you are certain that goods being shipped are the goods you purchased. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is best avoided. Most Indian states have official tourism bureaus set up to handle complaints.
A growing number of foreigners have fallen prey to property scams, usually being convinced to invest in property along with an Indian partner. Rarely do the partnerships survive. The trend has the Indian partner eventually using a pretext to make a claim on the entire property, generally after construction or restoration is complete, or to offer the foreign partner an inadequate sum to buy out their share. Lacking knowledge of the Indian legal system in order to fight for what is rightfully theirs, the foreign partner often loses considerable sums of money.
You should be aware of a number of other scams that have been perpetrated against foreign travelers, particularly in Goa, Jaipur, and Agra. The scams generally target younger travelers and involve suggestions that money can be made by privately transporting gems or gold (both of which can result in arrest) or by taking delivery abroad of expensive carpets, supposedly while avoiding customs duties. The scam artists describe profits that can be made upon delivery of the goods, and require the traveler to pay a "deposit" as part of the transaction.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates ). If your passport is stolen we can help you replace it. You should immediately report the theft or loss to the police in the location where your passport was stolen. A police report, called an FIR (First Information Report) is required by the Indian government in order to obtain an exit visa to leave India in the event of a lost or stolen passport. Although the Embassy or Consulate is able to replace a stolen or lost passport, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) are responsible for approving an exit visa. This process can take three to four working days.
For violent crimes such as assault and rape, we can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and help them send you money if you need it. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. If you are a victim of crime in India, you need to obtain a copy of the police report (FIR) from local police at the time of reporting the incident. A copy of this report is helpful for insurance purposes in replacing lost valuables. Local authorities generally are unable to take any meaningful action without the filing of a police report.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in India is “100.” An additional emergency number, “112,” can be accessed from mobile phones.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. While you are physically overseas, U.S. laws don’t apply. If you do something illegal in your host country, your U.S. passport won’t help. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going. It is also important to note that there are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted in the United States if you buy pirated goods, engage in sexual conduct with children, or use or disseminate child pornography in a foreign country even if those activities do not happen to be illegal in that country.
If you are arrested in India you have a right to notify, or have officials notify, the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate upon your arrest. Insist on this as a right since it is often overlooked. Though the Embassy and Consulates may not intervene in legal matters they can provide information on lawyers, the local justice system, can visit you on a regular basis if you are incarcerated, and can serve as a liaison with parties approved by you, the incarcerated individual.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Dual nationality: In 2006, India launched the "Overseas Citizens of India" (OCI) program, which has often been mischaracterized as a dual nationality program. It does not grant Indian citizenship. If you are a U.S. citizen and obtain an OCI card you will not become a citizen of India; you will remain a citizen of the United States. An OCI card is similar to a U.S. "green card" in that a holder can travel to and from India indefinitely, work in India, study in India, and own property in India (except for certain agricultural and plantation properties). An OCI holder, however, does not receive an Indian passport, cannot vote in Indian elections, and is not eligible for Indian government employment. The OCI program is similar to the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card introduced by the Indian government several years ago, except that PIO holders must still register with Indian immigration authorities, and PIO cards are not issued for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens of Indian descent can apply for PIO or OCI cards at the Indian Embassy in Washington, or at the Indian Consulates in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Houston. Inside India, U.S. citizens can apply at the nearest FRRO office (please see “Entry/Exit Requirements” section above for more information on the FRRO).
Religious activities: If you plan to engage in religious proselytizing, you are required by Indian law to have a "missionary" visa. Immigration authorities have determined that certain activities, including speaking at religious meetings to which the general public is invited, may violate immigration law if the traveler does not hold a missionary visa. Foreigners with tourist visas who engage in missionary activity are subject to deportation and possible criminal prosecution. The states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh have active “anticonversion” legislation regulating conversion from one religious faith to another. Arunachal Pradesh currently has an inactive “anticonversion” law awaiting accompanying regulations needed for enforcement. If you intend to engage in missionary activity, you may wish to seek legal advice to determine whether the activities you intend to pursue are permitted under Indian law.
Customs restrictions:Indian customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from India of items such as firearms, ammunition, antiquities, electronic equipment, currency, ivory, gold objects, and other prohibited materials. Even transit passengers require permission from the Government of India to bring in such items. If you do not comply with these regulations you risk arrest or fine or both and confiscation of these items. If charged with any alleged legal violations by Indian law enforcement, have an attorney review any document before you sign it. The Government of India requires the registration of antique items with the local police along with a photograph of the item. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of India in Washington or one of India's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. More information is available from the Indian Central Board of Excise and Customs. Another useful site is the Indira Gandhi International Airport Office of the Joint Commissioner of Customs.In many countries around the world, including India, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under Indian law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available in a report prepared by the Office of the United States Trade Representative called the Special 301 Report. This report is updated each year.
Indian customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, or email USCIB for details. Please see our Customs Information.
Natural disaster threats: Parts of northern India are highly susceptible to earthquakes. Regions of highest risk, ranked 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, include areas around Srinagar, Himachal Pradesh, Rishikesh and Dehra Dun, the northern parts of Punjab, northwest Gujarat, northern Bihar, and the entire northeast. Ranked 4 (high damage risk) is an area that sweeps along the north through Jammu and Kashmir, Eastern Punjab, Haryana, Northern Uttar Pradesh, central Bihar and the northern parts of West Bengal. New Delhi is located in zone 4. Severe flooding is common in Bihar, Assam, and Orissa.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The quality of medical care in India varies considerably. Medical care is available in the major population centers that approaches and occasionally meets Western standards, but adequate medical care is usually very limited or unavailable in rural areas.
If you are arriving in India from Sub-Saharan Africa or other yellow-fever areas, Indian health regulations require that you present evidence of vaccination against yellow fever. If you do not have such proof, you could be subjected to immediate deportation or a six-day detention in the yellow-fever quarantine center. If you transit through any part of sub-Saharan Africa, even for one day, you are advised to carry proof of yellow fever immunization.
Good information on vaccinations and other health precautions is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or by calling the hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747). For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information. These websites provide useful information, such as suggested vaccinations for visitors to India, safe food and water precautions, appropriate measures to avoid contraction of mosquito-borne diseases (such as malaria and Japanese B encephalitis), suggestions to avoid altitude sickness, etc. Further, these sites provide information on disease outbreaks that may arise from time to time - outbreaks of mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya occur in various parts of India each year. You should check these sites shortly before traveling to India. Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (H5N1 virus) occur intermittently in eastern India, including West Bengal, Manipur, Sikkim, and Assam. There have been no reported cases of Avian Influenza infections in human beings. Updates on the avian influenza situation in India are published on the Embassy's website. For further information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.
H1N1, also known as the swine flu, has been reported in India in travelers coming from or transiting through the United States, and has spread locally throughout India. Individuals traveling with flu like symptoms should strongly consider delaying their travel until their symptoms have resolved for the protection of other passengers and the risk of being quarantined in a communicable public hospital on arrival in India. H1N1 vaccine and seasonal influenza vaccine are available in India.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in India. For further information, please consult the CDC’s Travel Notice on TB.
Medical tourism is a rapidly growing industry. Companies offering vacation packages bundled with medical consultations and financing options provide direct-to-consumer advertising over the internet. Such medical packages often claim to provide high quality care, but the quality of health care in India is highly variable. People seeking health care in India should understand that medical systems operate differently from those in the United States and are not subject to the same rules and regulations. Anyone interested in traveling for medical purposes should consult with their local physician before traveling and refer to the information from CDC.
Rh-negative blood may be difficult to obtain as it is not common in Asia.
Monkey bites have occurred and can transmit rabies and herpes B among other diseases to human victims. Avoid feeding monkeys. If bitten, you should immediately soak and scrub the bite for at least 15 minutes and seek urgent medical attention.
The Supreme Court recently sanctioned commercial surrogacy in India and the government is currently debating an Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) bill that would establish national guidelines for institutions and clients. India is also formulating a policy to investigate all foreign surrogacy cases at the time of departure, a process that could last up to one month after the birth of the child.
Anyone considering traveling to India for ART procedures is strongly urged to contact the Embassy or one of the Consulates for updated U.S. and Indian government requirements.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India maintain lists of local doctors and hospitals, all of which are published on their respective websites under "U.S. Citizen Services." Please see “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/Embassy Location” above.
- Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
- Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation?
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: Travel by road in India is dangerous. India leads the world in traffic-related deaths: 118,000 fatalities in 2008.A number of U.S. citizens have suffered fatal traffic accidents in recent years. You should exercise extreme caution when crossing streets even in marked pedestrian areas and try to use only cars that have seatbelts. Seat belts are not common in taxis. Helmets should always be worn on motorcycles and bicycles.
Travel at night is particularly hazardous. Buses, patronized by hundreds of millions of Indians, are convenient in that they serve almost every city of any size. However, they are usually driven fast, recklessly, and without consideration for the rules of the road. Accidents are quite common. Trains are safer than buses, but train accidents still occur more frequently than in other countries.
In order to drive in India, you must have either a valid Indian driver’s license or a valid international driver’s license. Because of difficult road and traffic conditions, you may wish to consider hiring a local driver.
On Indian roads, the safest driving policy is to always assume that other drivers will not respond to a traffic situation in the same way you would in the United States. On Indian roads, might makes right, and buses and trucks epitomize this fact. For instance, buses and trucks often run red lights and merge directly into traffic at yield points and traffic circles. Cars, auto-rickshaws, bicycles, and pedestrians behave only slightly more cautiously. Use your horn or flash your headlights frequently to announce your presence. It is both customary and wise.
Outside major cities, main roads and other roads are often poorly maintained and congested. Even main roads frequently have only two lanes, with poor visibility and inadequate warning markers. On the few divided highways one can expect to meet local transportation traveling in the wrong direction, often without lights. Heavy traffic is the norm and includes (but is not limited to) overloaded trucks and buses, scooters, pedestrians, bullock and camel carts, horse or elephant riders en route to weddings, bicycles, and free-roaming livestock. Traffic in India moves on the left. It is important to be alert while crossing streets and intersections, especially after dark as traffic is coming in the "wrong" direction. Travelers should remember to use seatbelts in both rear and front seats where available, and to ask their drivers to maintain a safe speed.
If a driver hits a pedestrian or a cow, the vehicle and its occupants are at risk of being attacked by passersby. Such attacks pose significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle's occupants or at least of incineration of the vehicle. It can thus be unsafe to remain at the scene of an accident of this nature, and drivers may instead wish to seek out the nearest police station.
Protestors often use road blockage as a means of publicizing their grievances, causing severe inconvenience to travelers. Visitors should monitor local news reports for any reports of road disturbances.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Emergency Numbers: The following emergency numbers work in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata:
- Police 100
- Fire Brigade 101
- Ambulance 102
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of India's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of India's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's website.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for India dated February 17, 2010, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.