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"Those who are wise won't be busy, and those who are too busy can't be wise." -- A quote from The Importance of Living - The Noble Art of Leaving Things Undone, by the great Chinese-American philosopher Lin Yutang.

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TRAVEL TO INDIA
Important Tips and Information

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 have varying degrees of comfort, and amenities are widely available in the major population centers and main tourist areas. Read the Department of State Background Notes on India for additional information.

To visit India, one needs Visa from Consulate of India. They will ask for two recent 2 x 2 passport type photographs, in color, front view and with a plain/light background. To order India Visa photos, click here. The Visa application will need to be sent to Travisa irrespective of which Consulate of India you are dealing with.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS Americans living or traveling in India are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web and to obtain updated information on travel and security in India. Americans without Internet access may register in person with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

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: U.S. citizens require 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 obtain 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. Those arriving without a valid passport and valid visa are subject to immediate deportation. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India are unable to assist when U.S. citizens arrive without proper documentation. Each visitor should carry photocopies of the bio-data page of the traveler's U.S. passport and the page containing the Indian visa in order to facilitate obtaining an exit visa from the Indian government in the event of theft or loss of the passport. Replacing a lost visa, in order to exit the country, takes up to three business days.

Americans 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 one's immigration category (e.g., from tourist to work visa) once admitted. Tourists are generally given 6 months of legal stay upon entering India; the Government of India rarely grants extensions within the country. As of October 1, 2007, the Indian Embassy and Consulates in the U.S. outsourced the visa application process to Travisa Visa Outsourcing. Diplomatic and Official visa applications, however, are still accepted directly at the Indian Embassy and Consulates. Visitors whose primary purpose of travel is to participate in religious activities should obtain a missionary visa rather than a tourist visa. Indian immigration authorities have deported American citizens who entered India with a tourist visa and conducted religious activities. Americans who will be paid for work done while in India need employment category visas; individuals visiting India regularly on business trips including attendance at conferences should apply for a business category visa.  Citizens intending to stay for an extended period of time with family, or with an unpaid NGO or volunteer activity, 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, are required to get country clearance for travel to India.

American 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.

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 "Chennai Immigration Office"), Kolkata and Amritsar. In other cities and small towns, the local police headquarters will normally perform this function. 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 website for its Bureau of Immigration. People traveling to India on a tourist visa will not be allowed reentry to India within two months unless they request specific permission from Indian Government officials in their home country.  Citizens are advised to carefully review the latest regulations, which are included under the section titled "Instructions (Foreigners),"and to be aware that implementation at ports of entry may be inconsistent.

If a foreign citizen (e.g., an American) overstays his or her Indian visa, or otherwise violates Indian visa regulations, the traveler may require a clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to leave the country. Such travelers generally must pay a fine, and in some cases, may be jailed until their 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).

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.

Information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. (Additional information on dual nationality in India appears below under "Special Circumstances.") For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

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 Americans becoming intended or unintended victims of terrorism in India.  There is a continuing threat from terrorism throughout India.  The U.S. Government continues to receive information that terrorist groups may be planning attacks in India.

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.  Some examples of recent terror attacks include the following:

  • February 2010:  An explosive device detonated at a café in Pune, Maharashtra, near an ashram and schools frequented by international travelers killing ten, including two foreign nationals, and injuring 50, some seriously.
  • November 2008: Coordinated terrorist attacks on luxury hotels, Jewish community center, restaurant, train station, hospital and other facilities frequented by foreigners in Mumbai killed over 170, including six Americans;
  • October 2008, December 2008: Multiple bombings in markets and government offices in Guwahati, Assam;
  • September 2008: Five deadly explosions in New Delhi markets
  • July 2008: Thirty bombs detonated in Bangalore, Karnataka and Ahmedabad, Gujarat, as well as multiple un-detonated bombs found in Surat, Gujarat;
  • May 2008: A coordinated series of bombings in market and temple areas of Jaipur, Rajasthan;

Violent incidents related to local insurgencies, including those in which American citizens were injured, also occur in remote parts of India.  In August 2006, two U.S. citizens were seriously injured in a grenade attack on an ISKON temple in Imphal, Manipur.  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.  Specific areas of concern are addressed below under "Areas of Instability."

U.S. citizens are urged to always practice good security, which includes maintaining a heightened situational awareness and a low profile.  Americans are advised to monitor local news reports, vary their routes and times in carrying out daily activities, and consider the level of security present when visiting public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, 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. U.S. citizens 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.  U.S. citizens 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 they 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: Visitors should exercise caution when swimming 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 for visitors to heed warnings posted or advised at beaches and avoid swimming in the ocean during the monsoon season. Trained lifeguards are very rare along beaches.

Trekking in India: Tourists should limit trekking expeditions to routes identified for this purpose by local authorities.  They 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.

AREAS OF INSTABILITY: Jammu & Kashmir: The Department of State strongly recommends that U.S. citizens 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. 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. Many terrorist incidents take place in the state's summer capital of Srinagar, but the majority of attacks occur in rural areas. Foreigners are particularly visible, vulnerable, and definitely at risk. In the summer of 2008, serious communal violence left the state mostly paralyzed, due to massive strikes and business shut downs; several American citizens had to be evacuated. In addition, there have been attacks specifically targeted at civilians. For example: in October 2007 five soldiers and two civilians were killed in an IED blast carried out by militants in the Baramulla district of Kashmir; in August 2007 terrorists lobbed a grenade at the venue of an Independence Day function in the Bandipora district; in July 2007 a blast on an out-of-state tourist bus killed six and injured 20 civilians in the capital, Srinagar. The Indian government prohibits foreign tourists from visiting certain areas along the LOC (see the section on Restricted Areas, below). U.S. Government employees are prohibited from traveling to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (except for Ladakh) without permission, which is only granted in exceptional circumstances, from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. When traveling to Kashmir, U.S. official travelers attempt to lower their profiles, limit their lengths of stay, and exercise extreme caution.

India-Pakistan Border: The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens 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 travelers are advised to confirm the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel. A Pakistani visa is required to enter Pakistan. An American 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. U.S. citizens traveling to or climbing peaks in the disputed areas 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.  Travelers may check with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi for information on current conditions. (Please see the section on "Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations" below.)

Northeast 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, they may be affected as bystanders. Visitors to Assam and Manipur 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.) Travelers may check with the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata for information on current conditions. (Please see the section on Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations, below

East, Central and Southern India: Maoist extremist groups, or "Naxalites," are active in East Central and Southern India, primarily in rural areas.   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 organizations. 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.  While Naxalite violence does not normally occur in places frequented by foreigners, there is a risk that visitors could become unintended victims due to the random nature of the indiscriminate targeting by such violent extremists.

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 only traveling 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. American citizens 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 reminded to monitor the situation via media sources, including TV and 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,
  • The Andaman & Nicobar Islands,
  • The Union Territory of the Laccadives Islands (Lakshadweep), and
  • The Tibetan colony in Mundgod, Karnataka.

"Restricted Area Permits" can be obtained outside of 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. Tourists also 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, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor travel information included on the websites of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi as well as the Consulates General in Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras), Hyderabad and Kolkata (Calcutta) (see contact information below). Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's information on 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. Train travelers are urged to lock their sleeping compartments and take valuables with them when leaving their berths. Air travelers are advised to carefully watch their bags in the arrival and departure areas outside of airports. Violent crime, especially directed against foreigners, has traditionally been uncommon, although in recent years there has been a modest increase. As U.S. citizens' purchasing power is comparatively large, travelers also should exercise modesty and caution in their financial dealings in India 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 businessmen and their family members for kidnapping.

U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India.  Western women continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men.  Known in India 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. Female travelers are advised to respect local dress and customs.  Women should also ensure their hotel room numbers remain confidential and insist the doors of their hotel rooms have chains, deadlocks, and spy-holes. In addition, it is advisable for women to 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

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. Taxi drivers and others, including train porters, may 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 to the traveler 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 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. Individual 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, it is best 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. Travelers should deal only with reputable businesses and should not hand over credit cards or money unless they are certain that goods being shipped to them are the goods they 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 travelers' complaints.

Travelers 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. 

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INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is 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. Victims of a crime in India should obtain a copy of the police report (called an "FIR" or "First Information Report") 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 loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  An FIR 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 generally takes two to three business days.

The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in India is "100." An additional emergency number, "112," can be accessed from mobile phones.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

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CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Indian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. For example, certain comments or gestures towards women, Indian national symbols, or religion that are legal in the United States may be considered a criminal violation in India, subjecting the accused to possible fines or imprisonment. Furthermore, since the police may arrest anyone who is accused of committing a crime (even if the allegation is frivolous in nature), the Indian criminal justice system is often used to escalate personal disagreements into criminal charges. This practice has been increasingly exploited by dissatisfied business partners, contractors, estranged spouses, or other persons with whom the U.S. citizen has a disagreement, occasionally resulting in the jailing of U.S. citizens pending resolution of their disputes. At the very least, such circumstances can delay the U.S. citizen's timely departure from India, and may result in an unintended long-term stay in the country. Corruption in India, especially at local levels, is a concern, as evidenced by Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index of 2008, ranking India in 85th place among the world's 180 countries. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in India are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

American citizens arrested in India have a right to notify, or have officials notify, the nearest Embassy or Consulate upon arrest.  Though the Embassy and Consulates may not intervene in legal matters they can provide information on lawyers, the local justice system, can visit the incarcerated person on a regular basis, and can serve as a liaison with parties approved by the incarcerated individual.

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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, as it does not grant Indian citizenship. Thus, an American who obtains an OCI card is not a citizen of India and remains a citizen of the United States. An OCI card in reality 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. American 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, American citizens can apply at the nearest FRRO office (please see "Entry/Exit Requirements" section above for more information on the FRRO).

Religious Activities: Foreign visitors planning to engage in religious proselytizing 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. U.S. citizens intending to engage in missionary activity may wish to seek legal advice to determine whether the activities they 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. Those not complying risk arrest and/or fine and confiscation of these items. If charged with any alleged legal violations by Indian law enforcement, it is recommended that an attorney review any document prior to signing. 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.

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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 emai 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.

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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.

Indian health regulations require all travelers arriving from Sub-Saharan Africa or other yellow-fever areas to have evidence of vaccination against yellow fever. Travelers who do not have such proof are subject to immediate deportation or a six-day detention in the yellow-fever quarantine center. U.S. citizens, who transit through any part of sub-Saharan Africa, even for one day, are advised to carry proof of yellow fever immunization.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect-bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site. 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, so travelers should check the 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 web site. 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 U.S. 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 is not available in India; seasonal influenza vaccine is available.  H1N1 influenza is currently found and has spread locally throughout 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.

The Supreme Court recently sanctioned commercial surrogacy in India and is currently debating an Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill that will 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 should contact the Embassy or one of the Consulates for updated U.S. 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 "Embassy and Consulate Locations" section below.

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MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Insurers rarely make payment directly to overseas healthcare providers. For heath care received in India, you will most likely need to pay up front and be reimbursed later for expenses you incur during treatment. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

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TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning India is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Travel by road in India is dangerous. A number of U.S. citizens have suffered fatal traffic accidents in recent years. 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 developed countries.

In order to drive in India, one must have either a valid Indian driver's license or a valid international driver's license. Because of difficult road and traffic conditions, many Americans who visit India choose to hire 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. Frequent use of one's horn or flashing of headlights to announce one's presence 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 (i.e., from the left). 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

For updated information, please visit travel.state.gov website

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