Longer extensions must be approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The process of applying for one can give you a bit of a grace period while they consider it. It’s important to note that if you stay in the country illegally beyond the period of your visa, you may face fines, deportation and/or up to five years in prison.
Visa conversions and extensions are handled by the MHA only between 10 A.M. and noon, Monday to Friday. The address for the main office is Foreigners’ Division, MHA, Lok Nayak Bhawan, Khan Market, New Delhi. If you want to change your visa status from one category to another, you should go in person to the office. In case of serious illness, you can send a representative. If you aren’t in Delhi, go to the nearest Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO), which will forward your case to the MHA for approval. Applications for extensions or conversions should be made a few months before your current visa expires, if possible.
In general, you can’t change the category of your visa while you are in India; e.g., if you are in India on a Tourist Visa, you can’t just decide to take up a job. In such a case, you have to go back to your own country to apply for a new visa. The MHA does have the authority to give you a different visa if there are extraordinary circumstances, but they rarely do it.
PIO Cards and OCI Status- If your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents were Indian nationals, or if you are the spouse of an Indian citizen or PIO, or if you once held an India passport, you can get a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) Card that is valid for 15 years. This card allows visa-free entry to PIOs living abroad, but you do have to register if you stay more than 180 days.
There is also a status called Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) that is available to PIOs or others who either are or were eligible for Indian citizenship at a certain time. This is not dual citizenship. Rather, it’s essentially a permanent visa that allows you to come and go as you wish and to stay as long as you like without registering. It gives you most of the privileges enjoyed by Indian citizens, except that you can’t vote, buy agricultural land, or hold certain public offices.
Exit Visa- If your passport is lost or stolen; you have gone to the FRRO so you can get your visa transferred to the new passport. Or you can get an Exit Visa, which will allow you a certain number of days in which to leave the country legally. Without one or the other, you won’t be able to leave India. To get an Exit Visa, you need to present your new passport, a letter from your embassy giving details of the lost or stolen passport, and the original police report, as well as proof of date of entry into India (i.e., your boarding pass, a letter from the airline on which you arrived verifying date and place for your arrival in India, or a photocopy of your visa and entry stamp).
Special Permits- In order to visit certain restricted or protected areas, including the Andaman Islands, Lakshadweep, parts of Ladakh, and some of the Northeastern States, you will need a special permit. Some permits (excluding Inner Line permits for border areas of Ladakh, which take only a day) may take a week or two to get, so you should apply well in advance. You can get permits come Sikkim from embassies and consulates abroad before you come, or the Foreigners’ Registration Offices in India, and in Darjeeling and Siliguri, as well as at certain major airports.