Consular Information Sheet - India
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
Consular Information Sheet
Americans planning travel to India should read Intercountry Adoption India, Avian Flu Fact Sheet and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement available on the Department of State web site at http://travel.state.gov
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: India, the world's largest democratic republic, has a very diverse population, geography and climate. India is the second most populous and the seventh largest country in the world in area. Tourist facilities varying in degree 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 passport and 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 visa are subject to immediate deportation. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India are unable to assist when U.S. citizens arrive without visas. 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.
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. 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.
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”), Calcutta, and Amritsar. In smaller cities and towns, the local police headquarters will normally perform this function (referred to as the Foreigner’s Registration Office or FRO). 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 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, Foreigner’s Division, Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Road, New Delhi (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, D.C. 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. A list of selected Indian consulates and embassies can be found at http://passport.nic.in/missions.htm. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on India and other countries.
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction. (Additional information on dual nationality in India appears below under “Special Circumstances.”) Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Some terrorist groups are active in India. In recent years, there have been occasional terrorist bombing incidents in various parts of India. These bomb blasts have occurred in public places as well as on public transportation, such as trains and buses, in markets and in other public areas, resulting in deaths or injuries. There were several significant terrorist incidents in India in the second half of 2005 and the first several months of 2006, the most serious of which occurred in Mumbai, Varanasi and New Delhi. In July 2006, a series of bombs left on crowded commuter trains in Mumbai and nearby suburbs killed over 190 and wounded more than 700. In March 2006, two near simultaneous explosions occurred in Varanasi, one in the main railway station and another in a popular Hindu temple, leaving more than 20 dead and over 100 injured. A similar series of coordinated explosions occurred in New Delhi in October 2005, hitting crowded market areas (including the Paharganj area popular with budget travelers), leaving more than 60 persons dead and more than 180 wounded.
A number of other terrorist incidents causing fewer casualties have recently occurred as well. For example, in August 2006, a grenade attack on an ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple in the northeastern state of Manipur resulted in five deaths and injuries to several others, including two American citizens. Violence has continued unabated in the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir (see Areas of Instability, below). Previously, Kashmiri militants aimed their attacks primarily at Indian police and military installations, but more recently they have been directing violence against civilians with increasing frequency, including several grenade attacks aimed at tourist buses and crowded shopping areas. In one such incident in July 2006, a young American girl was injured. In late November 2006, at least 12 people were killed and 50 injured when two bombs exploded on the Haldibari passenger train in West Bengal. In February 2006, an improvised explosive device exploded at the Ahmedabad railway station in the state of Gujarat. The device was intended to explode on a train traveling from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, but the timer was improperly set. In January 2006, eighteen separate explosions occurred throughout the state of Assam, including the capital Guwahati, targeting public places, power, oil and security-related sites. In December 2005, a gunman opened fire on participants of an international conference on the Indian Institute of Science campus in Bangalore, Karnataka, killing a prominent Indian scientist. In October 2005, a suicide bomber and a security guard were killed during a bomb attack on a police station located in an upscale neighborhood of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.
Other serious terrorist events have happened in the past in areas popular with tourists. For example, in 2003, terrorists set off several bombs in Mumbai (Bombay), including on public transportation, at a public market and at the Gateway of India, a popular tourist destination, leaving over 50 people dead and 160 injured. The motive for these blasts has not been clearly established. U.S. citizens were not specifically targeted or injured in any of these attacks. However, U.S. citizens have been killed and injured during past acts of indiscriminate violence. 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. Therefore, U.S. citizens should exercise particular vigilance when in the vicinity of government installations, visiting tourist sites, or attending public events throughout India. In particular, the disputed region of Kashmir in the state of Jammu & Kashmir has experienced an inordinate number of terrorist incidents, including several bombings in the capital city of Srinagar.
Demonstrations can occur or escalate spontaneously, posing risks to travelers' personal safety and disrupting transportation systems and city services. 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. In addition, religious and inter-caste violence occasionally occurs unpredictably. In early 2002, violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat resulted in at least 950 deaths according to official figures. While such violence rarely targets foreigners, mobs have attacked Indian Christian workers. U.S. citizens should read local newspapers 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.
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 unusually 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.
Social and religious activity has aroused strong reactions in some areas. Most recently, in December 2005, four American citizens working for an organization assisting Indian authorities to rescue bonded laborers were attacked by an angry mob in a village outside Bangalore. In October 2005, a group of Americans distributing religious literature were attacked by an angry mob in a predominately Muslim town in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. In January 2003, Hindu activists attacked a visiting U.S. citizen in Kerala after accusing him of preaching to the local community. A similar incident occurred in June 2005, when residents of a Mumbai suburb attacked three American tourists participating in a Christian prayer meeting. In January 1999, a mob murdered an Australian missionary and his son in Orissa. The principal risk for foreigners is that they could become inadvertent victims.
During the Dussehra (Durga Puja) and Diwali (Kali Puja) festivals, U.S.-citizen travelers to Calcutta and Eastern India should exercise additional caution. Large and sometimes unruly crowds gather on these holidays, especially in the evening hours in the immediate vicinity of the Pandals (elaborately decorated temporary structures). Such concentrations heighten the risk of petty theft, accidental injury, groping and crowd disturbances. Although Calcutta police have improved crowd control in recent years, transportation (even for emergency purposes) is more difficult during the holiday season, and travelers may become disoriented amidst large, flowing crowds. The United States Consulate General in Calcutta is available to assist U.S. citizens in emergencies, should they arise. In 2007, Dussehra (Durga Puja) will be celebrated in Eastern India on October 18 - 21, and Diwali (Kali Puja) will be celebrated on November 8 - 9.
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 Ladakh region and its capital, Leh. A number of terrorist groups operate in the state, targeting security forces who are present throughout the region, particularly along the Line of Control (LOC) separating Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, and 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, including more than 500 civilians in 2005 alone. Many terrorist incidents take place in the state’s summer capital of Srinagar, but the majority occurs in rural areas. Foreigners are particularly visible, vulnerable, and definitely at risk. Attacks have been aimed at civilians with increasing frequency.
Occasionally, even the Ladakh region of the state has been affected by terrorist violence, but incidents there are rare. The last such case was in 2000, when terrorists in Ladakh's Zanskar region killed a German tourist. The Indian government prohibits foreign tourists from visiting the Kargil area of Ladakh along the LOC. U.S. Government employees are prohibited from traveling to the state of Jammu & Kashmir without permission from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
In 1999, the terrorist organization Harakat-ul Mujahideen issued a ban on U.S. citizens, including tourists, visiting Kashmir, but has not followed up on this threat. In 1995, the terrorist organization Al Faran kidnapped six Western tourists, including two U.S. citizens, who were trekking in Kashmir valley. One of the hostages was brutally murdered, another escaped, and the other four -- including one U.S. citizen -- have never been found. Srinagar has also been the site of a great deal of violence, including car bombings, market bombings, hand-grenade attacks that miss their targets and kill or injure innocent bystanders, and deaths resulting from improvised (remote-controlled) explosive devices (IEDs). In the early to mid-1990s, several tourists, including at least one U.S. citizen, were fatally shot or wounded in Srinagar, and a young American girl was injured in a grenade attack in 2006. The 2002 state elections were marred by multiple terrorist attacks that killed some 800 people, a large percentage of whom were innocent civilians. Some terrorist violence also marred the national parliamentary polls in April/May 2004. Terrorists focused in spring and summer of 2006 on buses carrying tourists and pilgrims, killing dozens in several grenade attacks in areas throughout the Kashmir Valley.
India-Pakistan Border: The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel to areas within approximately five to ten kilometers of the border between India and Pakistan in the states of Gujarat, Punjab (other than the Atari/Wagah border crossing near Amritsar), Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir. A ceasefire along the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir began on November 26, 2003 and continues to hold, and a dialogue between the two countries aimed at easing tensions continues. Both India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the LOC. 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. A Pakistani visa is required to enter Pakistan. The border crossing is currently open. However, travelers are advised to confirm the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel.
Both India and Pakistan claim an area of the Karakoram mountain range that includes the Siachen glacier. The ceasefire in Kashmir that took effect in November 2003 has also been in effect on the 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: Sporadic incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including the bombing of buses and trains, have been reported in parts of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya. While U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, they may be affected as bystanders, as occurred in a grenade attack on a temple in Imphal, Manipur in 2006 in which two Americans were injured. 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 to several Northeast states. Travelers may check with the U.S. Consulate in Calcutta for information on current conditions. (Please see the section on Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations below.)
East Central and Southern India: Left-wing Maoist extremist groups called "Naxalites" are active in the region and U.S. citizens should exercise appropriate caution. The Naxalites have a long history of conflict with state and national authorities, including attacks on police and government officials. The Naxalites have not specifically targeted U.S. citizens, but have attacked symbolic targets that have included American companies. Groups claiming to be Naxalites have blackmailed American organizations, and a small bomb exploded at an American corporation's production site may have been part of an extortion plot. Two Naxalite groups, the Maoist Communist Center of India (MCCI), and the People’s War Group (PWG) merged in 2004 to create the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Both were added to the list of “Other Terrorist Organizations” in the U.S. State Department Publication, “Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003.” CPI (Maoist) regional affiliates are active in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkand and West Bengal. Most recently, there has been significant Naxalite activity in the southern part of the state of Chhattisgarh.
Restricted Areas: Advance permission is required from the Indian Government (from Indian diplomatic missions abroad, or for U.S. citizens currently in India, from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in New Delhi) to visit the states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Indian Government permission is also required for certain other parts of India as well, including parts of the Kullu and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh, areas of Jammu & Kashmir near the Line of Control with Pakistan, some areas of Uttaranchal near the Chinese border, the area west of National Highway No. 15 running from Ganganagar to Sanchar in Rajasthan, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Union Territory of the Laccadives Islands (Lakshadweep). In addition, U.S. citizens who visit the Tibetan Colony in Mundgod, Karnataka, must obtain a permit from MHA before visiting. U.S. citizens may contact the MHA at: +91-11-2338-5748 or +91-11-2338-1374 (begin by dialing 011 if calling from the United States), or visit the MHA Foreigner’s Division office at Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Road, New Delhi. In some cases, permits for the first five states listed above may also be obtained from Mizoram House, Manipur House, Nagaland House, Arunachal Pradesh House and Sikkim House, respectively, all of which are located in New Delhi. Tourists 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 the Department’s Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, 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., or for callers outside the U.S. 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 pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common, particularly on trains or buses throughout the country. 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 and on overnight trains. Train travelers are urged to lock their sleeping compartments and take valuables with them when leaving their berths. Violent crime, especially directed against foreigners, has traditionally been at relatively low levels, although in recent years there has been an apparent increase in violent attacks directed against foreign tourists, including robbery, murder, and sexual assault. These attacks have mainly been directed at women traveling alone, but men have also been victimized. U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. So-called “Eve Teasing” or verbal and sometimes physical harassment of Indian women is not unusual. Because U.S. citizens' purchasing power is comparatively large relative to that of the general population, travelers also should always exercise modesty and caution in their financial dealings in India to reduce the chance of being a target for robbery or other serious crime. Gangs and criminal elements operate in major cities and have sometimes targeted unsuspecting businessmen for ransom. Visitors are cautioned to be aware of their environment and belongings, especially when taking night trains or buses.
Major airports, train stations and tourist sites are often used by touts (confidence men) and 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 often 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), forced to pay thousands of dollars in the face of threats of violence against the traveler and his/her family members. Visitors to Mumbai should be extremely vigilant when traveling along the roads leading from the domestic and international airports. Locals and foreigners alike, including American citizens, have reported being robbed while traveling along these roads. In most cases, the victim took a taxi whose driver was complicit in the robbery. In other cases, men traveling on motorcycles stopped the traveler’s vehicle or taxi while en route from the airport, demanding money and/or the traveler’s luggage before driving off.
There are several ways a traveler arriving at a major airport in India can avoid these incidents:
- While it may be common in other countries, travelers in India should never board a taxi holding existing passengers, nor should the traveler allow the taxi driver to pick up additional passengers while en route. If a taxi driver tells you that the other passenger is a personal friend or family member, exit the taxi and seek another taxi before departing the airport grounds.
- Many hotels offer free and secure transportation to/from the airport. Take advantage of this service when possible.
- If traveling for business, ask your company to arrange a private car to transport you between the airport and your hotel.
- If you must travel to/from the airport by taxi, arrange a fixed-price taxi with one of the taxi services with offices inside the airport terminal. Travelers are encouraged to ask for the taxi’s registration number and compare it with the number of the actual vehicle being used. The murder and robbery of an Australian woman traveling alone in a pre-paid taxi contracted at the New Delhi airport in early 2004 demonstrates the need to exercise caution and to be sure that such taxis are properly licensed.
Travelers should also 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. The Internet addresses for these offices are available at http://www.tourismofindia.com/foot/links.htm.
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. Most schemes require that the traveler first put up a "deposit" to either show "sincerity" or as a "down payment" or as the "wholesale cost." In other cases, the scam artists stage phone calls to the traveler from persons posing as “customs agents,” claiming that the package has been intercepted and that the traveler must pay an exorbitant customs fee in order to avoid arrest. All travelers are strongly cautioned that the schemes invariably result in the traveler being fleeced. The "gems" or "gold" are always fake, and if they were real, the traveler could be subject to arrest. Such schemes often pull the unsuspecting traveler in over the course of several days and begin with a new "friend" who offers to show the traveler the sights so that the "friend can practice his English." Offers of cheap lodgings and meals also can place the traveler in the physical custody of the scam artist and can leave the traveler at the mercy of threats or even physical coercion.
While violent crime involving U.S. citizens is relatively rare in India, some years ago two U.S. citizens were murdered in the Haridwar/Rishikesh region of the state of Uttaranchal. In addition, an American citizen was found murdered in 2003 on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai highway. Crime and violence have also increased in the popular hiking and rafting destination of Kullu/Manali, where the number of foreign backpackers and tourists has been growing and where drugs are readily available, but can occur in any part of India. Foreigners are the targets of criminal activities primarily because of the disproportionately large sums of money they are thought to carry.
U.S. citizens should be aware that there have been unconfirmed reports of inappropriate sexual behavior by a prominent local religious leader at an ashram (religious retreat) located in Andhra Pradesh. Most of the reports indicate that the subjects of these approaches have been young male devotees, including a number of U.S. citizens.
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, and 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.
See our information on Victims of Crime
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Adequate to excellent medical care is available in the major population centers, but 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 internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. These websites provide useful information, such as suggested vaccinations for visitors to India, safe food and water precautions, appropriate precautions to avoid contraction of mosquito-borne diseases (such as malaria), suggestions for mountain trekkers 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 arriving in India. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en/.
In the Spring of 2006, there were outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in rural areas of the states of Maharasthra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. All of the outbreaks were contained. There were no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans, however, and there have been no new reported outbreaks in wild or domesticated birds since that time. Updates on the avian influenza situation in India are published on the Embassy’s website at http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/acsinfluenza.html.
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, 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. 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 official rules of the road. Accidents are quite common. Trains are somewhat 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 drivers’ license or a valid international drivers’ 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 assume that other drivers will not respond to a traffic situation in the same way you would in the United States. 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. Indian drivers tend to look only ahead and often consider themselves responsible only for traffic in front of them, not behind or to the side. Frequent use of one's horn or flashing of headlights to announce one’s presence is both customary and wise. It is usually preferable to have a licensed experienced driver who has a "feel" for road and driving conditions.
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, 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.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of India’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.tourismofindia.com.
Emergency Numbers: The following emergency numbers work in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta:
Fire Brigade 101
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 (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of India’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
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.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In 2006, India launched the “Overseas Citizens of India” (OCI) program, which has often been mischaracterized as a dual nationality program, although 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 Above for more information on the FRRO). For more information on the OCI program, please see www.mha.nic.in/oci/oci-main.htm.
A number of U.S.-citizen men who have come to India to marry Indian nationals have been arrested and charged with crimes related to dowry extraction. Many of the charges stem from the U.S. citizen's inability to provide an immigrant visa for his prospective spouse to travel immediately to the United States. The courts sometimes order the U.S. citizen to pay large sums of money to his spouse in exchange for the dismissal of charges. The courts normally confiscate the American’s passport, and he must remain in India until the case has been settled. There are also cases of U.S.-citizen women of Indian descent whose families force them against their will into marriages to Indian nationals.
Foreign visitors planning to engage in religious proselytizing are required by the 1956 Foreigners Act to have a "missionary" visa. A 1995 Central Government order defines "inappropriate" religious activity to include speaking at religious meetings to which the general public is invited. Foreigners with tourist visas who engage in missionary activity are subject to deportation and possible criminal prosecution. The states of Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh have additional legislation regulating conversion from one religious faith to another. U.S. citizens intending to engage in missionary activity may wish to seek legal advice regarding this legislation.
Businesspersons who are considering investing in India should carefully consider the risks of conducting business in an overseas environment prior to entering into any contractual relationships. While Indo-U.S. trade is at an all-time high, India is still working to modernize its legal system to cope with the evolving, high-tech business environment. Under Indian law, the police may arrest anyone who is accused of committing a crime, even if the allegation appears frivolous in nature. This practice has been increasingly exploited by dissatisfied business partners or contractors and used to escalate civil or personal disagreements into criminal charges, 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.
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, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.
Please see our Customs Information.
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. For example, certain comments or gestures towards women or about religion that are legal in the United States may be considered a criminal violation in India, subjecting the accused to possible fines or imprisonment. 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. 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.
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 Child Abduction, nor is international child abduction considered to be a crime under Indian law. For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION: 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 website and to obtain updated information on travel and 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 +91-22-2363-0350. The Internet home page address is http://mumbai.usconsulate.gov.
The U.S. Consulate General in Calcutta (now often called Kolkata) 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://calcutta.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.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet for India dated April 12, 2006, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Areas of Instability, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Medical Insurance, Special Circumstances and Criminal Penalties.