Ridding India of Firenghis? New Visa Policy Ousts Foreigners Earning Less Than $25k

The Indian government recently began enforcing a mandate that foreign nationals working in the country must earn above $25,000 (a little over Rs. 11 Lakh). The policy is retroactive and has forced those not earning the requisite amount to leave the country.

Implications of this change are wide-ranging, although those affected are mostly found in the non-profit and tourism industries. Some foreigners, having established successful tour guide businesses and lives in the country, are now faced with losing their livelihood.

Critics of the policy include NGOs, which say non-profits lack the funds to employ staff at the stipulated salary level. The policy will deplete their stock of qualified employees and diminish the effectiveness of their service projects in the country, they claim. The head of India's Save the Children branch plans to appeal to the Indian High Court to exempt all NGO workers from the policy.

Currently, the only exemptions include embassy/high commission staff, translators, foreign cuisine cooks, and teachers of languages other than English.

Others, however, believe it is the government's right to regulate foreigners who seek employment in the country. In its exploration of those affected by the change, Open Magazine quoted a senior Indian Minister as saying, "Today, everybody is protectionist ... Which country is not?" He continued: "India is for Indians first. It is not for others. Till now, because of lack of expertise and experience, we were allowing everyone. Now we are formulating operational rules."

Practical rationales for the change have also been raised. Requiring foreign nationals to declare their salaries (and therefore themselves) to the government may serve as a useful security measure. Having access to this population's salaries could also be helpful for taxation purposes, given that foreign nationals working in India number 700,000.

Whether the policy is unfairly protectionist or simply implements standards other nations already have, it is causing significant upheaval for foreigners who have come to regard India as their adopted home.

What are your thoughts on this new policy? Does it unfairly regulate foreigners who plan to seek employment in the country or simply hurt Indian NGOs' access to cheap foreign labor? What long-term ramifications will India face, if any?