martes, marzo 25, 2008
Hablemos acerca de la INDIA
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.
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. 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. As of October 1, 2007, the Indian Embassy and Consulates in the U.S. outsourced the visa application process to Travisa Visa Outsourcing: http://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com. Diplomatic and Official visa applications, however, are still accepted directly at the Indian Embassy and Consulates. Foreign citizens 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. 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, generally 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 smaller cities and 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 web site for its Bureau of Immigration at http://www.immigrationindia.nic.in.
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 am - 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 (http://www.indianembassy.org) or the Indian Consulates in Chicago (http://chicago.indianconsulate.com), New York (http://www.indiacgny.org), San Francisco (http://www.cgisf.org) or Houston (http://www.cgihouston.org). Outside the United States, inquiries should be made at the nearest Indian embassy or consulate. Information about dual nationality or 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.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: A number of anti-Western terrorist groups (some of which are on the U.S. government's list of foreign terrorist organizations) are believed to be active in India including, but not limited to, Islamic extremist groups such as Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, and Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami. While historically the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been a focal point of terrorist activity, bomb blasts resulting in deaths and injuries have occurred in public places such as markets, as well as on public transportation such as trains and buses throughout India. Examples of major attacks in recent years include an attack on a government paramilitary facility in Uttar Pradesh (December 2007), coordinated bomb blasts at court facilities in three cities in Uttar Pradesh (November 2007), an explosives blast in a cinema hall in Punjab (November 2007), two explosions at a popular park and restaurant in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh (August 2007), an explosion at the main mosque in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh (May 2007), the detonation of explosive devices on a train northwest of Delhi (February 2007), simultaneous attacks on Mumbai commuter trains (July 2006), simultaneous attacks on a train station and places of worship in Varanasi (March 2006), and simultaneous attacks on several markets in New Delhi (October 2005). Terrorist incidents causing fewer casualties occur on a frequent basis, including a few in which American citizens were injured. The motive for many of these attacks has not been clearly established, although it is believed that U.S. citizens and foreigners in general were not specifically targeted in these attacks. Specific areas of concern are addressed below under "Areas of Instability."
Beyond the threat from terrorism, demonstrations often cause disruption. Local demonstrations can begin spontaneously and escalate with little warning, disrupting transportation systems and city services and posing risks to travelers' personal safety. 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). In addition, religious and inter-caste violence is unpredictable and occurs occasionally. In some cases, demonstrators specifically block roads near popular tourist sites in order to gain the attention of Indian authorities; occasionally vehicles transporting tourists are attacked in these incidents. Mobs have, however, attacked Indian and American missionaries and social workers as such activity provokes strong reactions in some areas. Anti-Christian violence has seen a slight increase in recent years in certain areas of India, such as in Gujarat. 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. Finally, 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.
AREAS OF INSTABILITY:Jammu & Kashmir: The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh. 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. 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 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 five to 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 the bombing of buses and trains, occur with a degree of frequency in parts of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. While U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, they may be affected as bystanders. Visitors to India's Northeast states are cautioned not to travel outside major cities at night. Security laws are in force, and the central government has deployed security personnel. Certain Northeastern states can be visited by foreigners only with a permit (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.) U.S. Government employees are prohibited from traveling to the state of Manipur and to portions of the Karbi Anglong districts and Tinsukia in Assam without permission from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and 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. East Central and Southern India: A disparate number of Maoist extremist groups called "Naxalites" are active in the region, primarily in rural areas. The Naxalites have a long history of conflict with state and national authorities, including frequent attacks on police, paramilitary forces, and government officials. The Naxalites have not specifically targeted U.S. citizens, but have attacked symbolic targets that have included Western companies. The primary Naxalite group is represented by the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The party's regional affiliates are active in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkand, and West Bengal. There was significant Naxalite activity in these states in 2007. In addition, the State of Orissa has seen violence against foreigners accused of proselytizing.
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 web sites of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi as well as the Consulates General in Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras) and Kolkata (Calcutta) (see contact information below). For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, 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 U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00a.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 pamphlet A Safe Trip 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. 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 physical harassment by groups of men. Known 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. 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 rather than hailing them on the street. If women encounter threatening situations, they can call 100 for police assistance.
SCAMS: Major airports, train stations 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 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 rugs 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. The items are always fake, and if they were real, the traveler could be subject to arrest.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: 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. 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, including loss or theft of a passport, 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. It 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. Local authorities generally are unable to take any meaningful action without the filing of a police report.
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 at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. These web sites 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 at http://www.who.int/ith/en/. In January and February 2008, there were outbreaks of Avian Influenza, H5N1 virus, in poultry in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal including some of the districts surrounding the city of Kolkata. The outbreak affected poultry but there were no reported human cases. There were also Avian Influenza outbreaks in poultry in July 2007 in Manipur and in the spring of 2006, in rural areas of the states of Maharasthra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. American citizens traveling in India should take all necessary precautions. Updates on the avian influenza situation in India are published on the Embassy's web site at http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/acsinfluenza.html. Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in India. For further information, please consult the CDC’s Travel Notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbookCh4-TB.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://who.int/ith/en. 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 found at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh2-HealthCareAbroad.aspx. 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 “Registration/Embassy and Consulate Location” section below.
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. - Many insurers rarely make payment directly to overseas healthcare providers. For healthcare 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.
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 wisely 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 poorly maintained and congested. Even main roads often 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, 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 web site at
Civil aircraft have been detained a number of times for deviating from approved flight plans. U.S. citizens piloting civil aircraft in India must file any changes to previous flight plans with the appropriate Indian authorities and may not over-fly restricted airspace.
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). For more information on the OCI program, please see www.mha.nic.in/oci/oci-main.htm.
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, and Madhya Pradesh have active legislation regulating conversion from one religious faith to another. Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh currently have inactive laws restricting conversion and are awaiting accompanying regulations needed for enforcement. The state legislatures of Rajasthan have passed a similar act, but it was twice refused by the Governor and forwarded to the President for legal review and guidance on its constitutional merit. 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. Foreigners suspected of or actually proselytizing Hindus have been attacked in conservative, rural areas in India, including Orissa.
Customs Restrictions: Indian customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from India of items such as firearms, 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 at http://www.cbec.gov.in. Another useful site is http://www.igiacustoms.gov.in. 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, and can be viewed at http://www.ustr.gov/Document_Library/Reports_Publications/Section_Index.html.
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, e-mail email@example.com, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.
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 3.5, ranking India in 72nd place of the world’s 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 India is a crime, and is prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: India is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction (although the Government of India has expressed its intention to sign the convention at some point in the future), nor is international child abduction considered to be a crime under Indian law. For information see our Office of Children's Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
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 site 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. The Embassy's Internet home page address is http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov. (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 Internet home page address is http://mumbai.usconsulate.gov.
• 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 Internet home page address is http://kolkata.usconsulate.gov.
• 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 Internet home page address is http://chennai.usconsulate.gov.