Non-Citizen and Refugee Papers and Permits

The Government of India grants a stay permit for Tibetans to live in India. The permit is stamped on a booklet or a paper called the Registration Certificate (RC) and renewed every year/five years. An Identity Certificate (Yellow Book), exit visa, and return visa are needed for traveling outside of India.

Registration Certificate (RC)

The Registration Certificate (RC) is a booklet or a paper issued by the Government of India which is the stay permit for Tibetans to be allowed to live in India. At 16 years of age a Tibetan must register and obtain an RC. It is renewed every year or five years.

Identity Certificate (IC, or Yellow Book)

The Identity Certificate (popularly known as the Yellow Book because of the colour of the cover) is issued by the government of India to Tibetans as a travel document, in lieu of a passport.

It is issued following a lengthy procedure taking at least one year. When travelling abroad, an exit permit to leave India, and then a return visa to re-enter are needed. There are no clear rules about these permits and the responsible authorities in various states all follow their own procedures.

Apply for IC online at

Travelling on the IC

It is harder to get a visa for another country on the Yellow Book, as the embassies have paranoia about a refugee not returning to India.

There are hassles when travelling with the Yellow Book, as many officials are not at all familiar with it. The worst encounter for carrying the Yellow Book is when passing through immigration. The officials see an “Identity Certificate” instead of a passport, so you are taken aside while all the other travellers look on with curiosity, a sense of intimidation is created for no reason, and the questioning and waiting can take hours. At times, even the Indian immigration officials are perplexed to see the Yellow Book.

The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) handles all the services related to foreigners living in India. Many of their forms (Exit Permit, Return Visa) are available online at

Travelling on IC: Exit Permit

While travelling on the Yellow Book (IC), Tibetans need a permit to leave India, called an Exit Permit.

The exit permit rules are obscure. Immigration officials at Indian airports seem to have no idea at all about it, or have their own version of the rules for it. The rules say an exit permit is not needed if leaving India for less than 15 days. However there are reports of various officials ignoring this and requiring an exit permit in these cases.

Travelling on IC: Return visa

To come back in to India, since the Tibetan refugee is not a citizen, India requires a return visa, to be obtained at the Indian embassy in the other country. The return visa has no fee, but many times the officials working in the Indian embassies have no understanding of the rules, and either Tibetans end up paying for the visa, or the procedure to get it becomes very lengthy.

This page was posted on 2 July 2019; last updated 23 April 2020.

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