The Centre has decided to waive all prior security clearance requirements for foreign faculty recruitment across higher educational institutes in India –– a move aimed at facilitating hiring of foreign academics and ‘internationalising’ the institutions.
All foreign faculty can be directly hired by institutes without having to seek prior clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) which has been mandatory so far. This was decided at a high-level meeting held on November 5 between officials of the MHA, MEA and the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Only foreign faculty from Prior Reference Category countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, foreigners of Pakistani origin, and stateless persons) and those who wish to visit restricted areas in India will continue to need prior approval. The new rulebook, set to be come into effect shortly, will be applicable across all institutes –– public and private –– and will help cut down procedural red tape known to have delayed and held back many a foreign faculty appointment in top Indian institutes.
At the meeting, it was also agreed that NRIs and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) can be appointed as permanent faculty without having to seek prior clearance from MHA and MEA. For all other foreign faculty, long-term Employment Visas are to be issued for five years, with a provision for extension for a further period of five years –– this effectively allows a foreign faculty ten years in the job. MEA clarified that political clearance for such appointments is mandatory, but the process was shortened to about 3-4 days.
The government is also on course to relax visa procedures for participation of foreign faculty at seminars and conferences with a 3-4 day clearance mechanism in place and the e-Conference visa mechanism available to 33 nations. The MEA, however, has clarified that event clearance with regard to theme of the seminar as well as political clearance for participation in the event by foreigners will be mandatory.
Security clearances by MHA will only be mandatory in cases of foreigners coming from Prior Reference Category countries.
Several Indian institutes, particularly IITs, have repeatedly complained that the existing regulatory regime which calls for prior approval from MEA and MHA for every single foreign faculty appointment has led to inordinate delays in clearance of proposals –– with waiting time ranging from 6 to 18 months.
Many foreign academics have even refused to work in Indian institutions on account of this tedious and unpredictable procedure. Indian institutes also slip down global academic rankings on the ‘internationalisation’ and ‘global perception’ parameters on account of poor representation of foreign faculty as well as foreign students.
The government is keenly working on corrective measures to address this concern and the relaxed hiring regime will be a key procedural step in that direction.