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Moving to India

An ancient country rich in culture and diversity, expats moving to India will find a wealth of places to explore if they’re willing to step out of their comfort zone.

Few places compare in scale to the world’s second most populous country and the sheer size and sensory richness can be overwhelming. There is great pride in diversity here, and local culture is strong – manners and customs in India are often very different from Western norms.

Living costs will be low for expats earning in a foreign currency, but record growth for more than two decades hasn’t stopped India from having one of the world’s widest wealth gaps. Extreme wealth and poverty exist side by side in teeming cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru. But despite the size of its bustling urban centres, most locals live in rural areas and expats will find much to see and do in the Indian countryside.

The biggest sector employers in India are textiles and agriculture, but most opportunities for skilled expats come from areas such as IT, financial services, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications. Expats living and working in the country shouldn’t struggle to meet their basic needs. The quality of public services like healthcare varies between regions, but expats who can afford it prefer using the private sector.

The biggest challenge expats are likely to face is finding suitable housing. There is a high demand for good quality accommodation, and getting their employer’s help or at least hiring a reputable property agent will make the process much easier.

Still, one major benefit of moving to the subcontinent is that communicating with locals is generally easy. English is widely spoken and is frequently the language of business in India.

Overall, India provides a welcome mixture of high-quality living, adventure and cultural exploration, making it an expat destination with much to offer.

Essential Info for India

Population: Over 1.3 billion

Capital city: New Delhi

Largest city: Mumbai

Neighbouring countries: India shares borders with Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. Off the coast of India one finds the island nations of Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Geography: India is a large and geographically diverse country. The northern frontiers of India are largely defined by the Himalayan mountain range. In the northeast of the country lies the Thar desert. India's border with Burma is home to some deeply forested mountainous regions. The country is also home to the intricate Ganges-Brahmaputra waterway system which occupies most of the northern, central and eastern areas while the Deccan Plateau occupies the southern part of India. 

Political system: India's political system is a federal parliamentary constitutional republic in which the president is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. 

Major religions: Hinduism (80%), Islam (13%), Christianity (2%), Sikhism (2%), Buddhism and Jainism (less than 2% combined).

Main languages: The official languages of India are Hindi and English. Urdu is spoken by large numbers of people in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and in areas surrounding Kashmir. Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujurati and Marathi are just some of the other languages commonly spoken by various communities in India. 

Money: The Indian Rupee (INR), divided into 100 paise.

Tipping: Standard 10 percent for good service for waiters, porters, guides and drivers.

Time: GMT +5.5

Electricity: 240 volts, 50Hz. Most plugs have two or three round pins, although a variety of power outlets are used.

International dialling code: +91

Emergency contacts: 112

Internet domain: .in

Transport and driving: There are plenty of modes of transport which can be used for getting around India. The standard of public transport in India is very varied, but networks are extensive and most locals use public buses and trains to travel nationally. Expats wanting to travel quickly between Indian cities can take advantage of domestic flights which are competitively priced and plentiful. Taxis in India are also reasonably priced. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Expats with an international driving licence are permitted to drive in India but it can be a somewhat stressful experience for foreign drivers. Driving behaviour amongst local road users is erratic and accidents are common. 

Weather in India

India's vast terrain makes for a variety of climatic conditions, ranging from snowfalls in high mountainous regions to humid and tropical coastal regions. Generally, expats who relocate to India will experience pleasant and warm weather during the months of October to March when it is cool and dry. Depending on the location, however, the weather can be scorchingly hot during the summer months and it’s wise to make sure accommodation has adequate air conditioning and a nearby swimming pool. 

India experiences its monsoon and rainy season from June to September; the rains normally come to the south of India during late May or early June and reach the northern parts of the country about six weeks later. Monsoon rains begin to recede from northern India at the beginning of October. The rain is normally heaviest in the south.

Delhi Climate Chart


Mumbai Climate Chart
 

Embassy Contacts for India


Indian Embassies

  • Indian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 7000

  • Indian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7836 8484

  • Indian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 744 3751

  • Indian High Commission, Canberra, Australia: + 61 2 6273 3999

  • Indian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 5392

  • Indian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 497 0843

  • Indian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 6390


Foreign Embassies in India

  • United States Embassy, New Delhi: +91 11 2419 8000

  • British High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 2419 2100

  • Canadian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 4178 2000

  • Australian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 4139 9900

  • South African High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 2614 9411

  • Irish Embassy, New Delhi: +91 11 4940 3200

  • New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 2688 3170

Public Holidays in India

 

2018

2019

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Republic Day

26 January

26 January

Good Friday

30 March

30 March

May Day

1 May

1 May

Independence Day

15 August

15 August

Id al Fitr (Eid al-Fitr)

15 June

26 June

Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday

2 October

2 October

Dussehra

18 October

8 October

Id al Zuha (Eid al-Adha)

21 August

12 August

Diwali (Hindu Festival of Light)

6 November 

27 October 

Muharram

11 September 

1 September

Birthday of Prophet Mohammad

21 November 

10 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

*If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday. 

*Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon.

Safety in India

Given its immense size and diversity, the general level of safety in India varies. Expats are most likely to come across issues related to petty crime, road safety and sanitation.

There are ongoing issues related to sectarian violence and terrorism, but foreigners are often not directly affected – although there have been occasions when areas known to be frequented by Westerners have been targeted.


Crime in India

Foreigners will rarely be exposed to violent crime in India, but petty crime is rampant. Expats tend to stick out in a crowd and are often easy targets for pickpocketing, overcharging and small scams.

There have also been reports of foreigners being robbed or assaulted while riding in taxis or rickshaws. It’s best to take prepaid taxis and avoid taxis that are already carrying passengers.

Unfortunately, women should be particularly cautious about travelling alone (especially at night) and dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention.

Begging is common on the streets of Indian towns and cities. Expats wanting to make a difference should contribute to a reputable charity. If refusing to help is difficult, food is a better donation than money. But giving to one person can result in being mobbed by others hoping to get something too.


Terrorism in India

The threat of terrorism in India remains a concern, especially in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai – terrorists have especially targeted areas that are popular with foreigners before. Security has, however, been stepped up in major cities, especially at government buildings, hotels, sports venues, transport hubs and places of worship.

The Indian government often issues alert warnings about possible terrorist attacks and increased security around national holidays such as Republic Day and Independence Day is common. Expats should keep up to date with the news, and be cautious around these events, especially in areas that are possible targets.

Certain parts of India are often scarred with sectarian violence that has little to do with foreigners. The northern state of Jammu and Kashmir is the most notable example. The presence of Maoist extremists in some rural parts of central, eastern and southern states has also been an ongoing problem. By following government travel warnings, expats will easily avoid any problems. 


Protests in India

Protests related to political and socio-economic issues are common in India and often affect service delivery and transport, particularly road and rail transport. Violence at such gatherings is not uncommon. Indian security forces are quite used to dealing with these situations and are swift to react – curfews and travel restrictions may be implemented in affected areas. 


Transport safety in India

Road safety is a major concern in India. Reckless taxi and motorcycle drivers account for many accidents, while bus and train accidents are also fairly common. Pickpockets also target passengers on public transport, so expats should keep a close eye on their belongings. 


Food safety in India

Poor hygiene standards and disease are also concerns for expats in India. To avoid digestive issues, be cautious about having food from roadside vendors and tap water, especially in smaller towns and rural areas.

Working in India

Working in India – particularly in Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai – has increasingly become popular as the country has become known as one of the world's leading economies. As the second most populous country in the world, India's market is also one of the largest economies in the world in terms of spending power. 


The job market in India

Despite the fact that each year Indian universities produce thousands of qualified graduates, this supply cannot keep pace with the growth in certain sectors of the country's economy. A relative lack of experienced locals means that many companies employ foreign managers. Younger professionals have prospects too, but there is a lot of competition for jobs in India, so getting one isn’t a given.

India is home to one of the world's fastest growing IT industries and the country is now one of the major exporters of software services. Engineering is another rapidly growing sector; as Indian companies look to expand globally they look for foreigners who are willing to start their careers in India and help the business grow elsewhere. Other major employers for expats moving to India are the biotechnology, pharmaceuticals research, manufacturing, aeronautics and consumer electronics industries. Expats with skills and experience in marketing and sales will also find great job opportunities as companies look to tap into the potential of the Indian market. 

On the other hand, foreign companies outsource professional jobs to India due to lower labour costs. This has been controversial in some Western countries, but it does mean that numerous international companies have an Indian presence, creating potential opportunities for senior expats.


Work culture in India

Foreigners are generally made to feel welcome in the Indian workplace, but making an effort to adapt to local business culture is important – many companies send their expat employees for cross-cultural training.

Working conditions vary according to the location, the industry and the company. The average work week is 48 hours from Monday to Friday, but expats willing to put in extra hours will earn their colleagues’ respect across the board.

Regardless of the industry they work in, it’s essential that expats have the correct visa for working in India. 


Finding a job in India

By far the easiest way of finding a job in India is through one's current employer or personal contacts. This is why networking is so important when it comes to working in India. The majority of expats working in India relocate through an intra-company transfer.

For those without any connection to India, job opportunities can be explored using online job portals. Online resources provide a good overview of the job market and are usually available in English. Companies may also advertise positions on their own websites so it also worth checking individual company sites as well. 

Recruitment agencies may also be able to assist expats in their search for employment. However, it is important to ensure that the recruitment agency is reputable. There are many recruiters in India that charge huge sums of money without any results. It's best to go with recommendations from colleagues within the industry and avoid making any payments upfront.

Doing Business in India

Traders had been doing business in India long before the East India Company emerged on the subcontinent in the early 1600s. Today, multinationals flock to the country to augment their business processes and IT services, and to search for growth in its burgeoning market.

Growth has slowed in recent years, but businesses continue to invest and the Indian economy's future remains bright. But like any emerging market, doing business in India comes with its share of risks and challenges.

India was ranked at 130 out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2017. It scored particularly well in the areas of protecting minority investors (13th). It also scored fairly well when it comes to getting credit (44th) and getting electricity (26th). However, India fell short in a number of areas, including dealing with construction permits (185th), enforcing contracts (172nd) and paying taxes (172nd). 

Economic liberalisation has opened India to foreign direct investment and many Indian states have established Special Economic Zones, successfully attracting investment across various sectors.


Fast facts

Business hours

The work week is traditionally from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 7pm, but most Indians don't leave the office until their supervisor does. A five-day work week is becoming more common and hours are often adjusted to accommodate international business partners.

Business language

English is the main language of business in India.

Dress

Suits are expected at executive level, smart-casual business dress is appropriate for mid-level managers and employees often dress casually. Indian businessmen generally don't wear short-sleeved shirts in the workplace. Pantsuits or skirts are appropriate for women, provided that they are at least knee-length.

Gifts

Gifts are appropriate but shouldn't be too expensive. Accept gifts with both hands and don't open them in front of the giver. Invitations to a business partner’s home for dinner are common.

Appropriate greetings

Greet business associates by shaking hands. However, never touch someone, pass money or exchange gifts with the left hand – it's considered unclean. Men should wait for female associates to initiate a greeting, as Indian men generally don't shake hands with women out of respect. If a female colleague doesn't initiate a greeting, a nod of the head will suffice. 

Gender equality

Despite having had both a female prime minister and president, women remain underrepresented in the workplace but international businesswomen are generally treated as equals. 


Business culture in India

Indians generally make great efforts to accommodate an expat's cultural preferences – but this isn't to say that foreigners won't need to adapt to succeed in Indian business circles. 

Personal relationships  

In Indian business, trust is more often established through personal relationships than through legal contracts or a company’s reputation. As a result, establishing a strong business relationship without forming a personal one can be difficult. Sharing information about family, speaking about personal hobbies and interests, and spending time outside the office with Indian associates will build the trust needed to sustain the relationship when business negotiations heat up.

Indirect communication style  

The desire to maintain harmony is a hallmark of communication in India. Locals generally prefer to communicate bad news in an indirect manner, especially when communicating with clients and superiors.

Expats unfamiliar with indirect communication often fail to read between the lines which can cause misunderstandings. People in India rarely express a negative response by directly saying "no". Responses like, "yes, but it will be a bit difficult" or "that may be possible – what do you think?" are more common and should be considered the same as a "no".

Asking open-ended questions about the potential problems of a proposal and actively listening for subtle clues can go a long way in avoiding miscommunication.

Hierarchy  

Most Indian businesses maintain a top-down hierarchy and locals are often very good at negotiating power in business relationships. Status is highly valued in Indian society and people in positions of power are often given greater leeway than the average citizen. This is demonstrated in the Hindi language, which has four forms of addressing someone based on their relative status.

Expats are encouraged to partner with the highest possible level of an organisation and to anticipate delays from both internal and external politics. Expats who can be patient in the face of bureaucracy and respect Indian values will discover that almost nothing is impossible in India.

Adapting versus planning  

As happens in many emerging markets, business objectives in India are often accomplished by adaptation and improvisation rather than by implementing carefully constructed plans. While some expats may prefer to develop contingencies for every foreseeable scenario, locals often place greater emphasis on reacting well to emerging circumstances.

Expatriates who localise their products and services as well as their way of doing business are often more successful than those who try to rigidly implement pre-formed plans. Cross-cultural consultants can be very useful in bridging the gap.


Dos and don’ts of business in India

  • Do show respect to authority figures and use appropriate titles (Mr or Miss if unsure) to address Indian counterparts 

  • Do be polite and composed at all times to prove sincere objectives

  • Don't be overly aggressive in business negotiations. While Indians are generally tough negotiators, outward displays of aggressiveness will lose their respect.  

  • Don't refuse food or drink offered during business meetings as this may cause offence. When dining with Indians, it is best to assume that they are vegetarian and that they don't drink or smoke unless they indicate otherwise.

  • Don't be confused by the Indian head shake. It's generally used to indicate that the listener has heard what has been said – if in doubt about a colleague’s opinion, ask open-ended questions.

Visas for India

Getting a visa for India isn’t too difficult, but the process can take some time. Indian visa rules aren’t always clear and concise, so expats who plan on visiting or moving to India must begin by identifying the visa that’s right for their situation. It is best to start the process as far ahead of time as possible.


Tourist visas for India

Indian tourist visas are for travellers wanting to visit friends or sightsee. They are generally granted for six months from the date of issue (not the date of arrival) and applicants may have to provide biometric data like fingerprints when they apply.

Most foreign nationals will apply for their visa at a VFS Application Centre in their home country before they leave. But travellers from a list of 43 countries are eligible for getting a tourist visa on arrival, including Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the USA.


Work visas for India

Expats can either apply for an employment visa or business visa to legally work in India – no separate work permit will be needed.

Employment visas for India

Employment visas are issued to expats wanting to work for an organisation registered in India or to do volunteer work. Expats are eligible for employment visas if they are relocating to India on either an intra-company transfer or with a guaranteed offer of employment. 

To obtain this type of visa expats will not only have to provide proof of a job offer but also proof of the academic/professional qualifications that enable them to do the job. Employment visas for India are usually valid for between two and five years, depending on the applicant’s profession.

Extensions and renewals can be obtained from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs or an expat’s local Foreign Regional Registration Office, but this is generally granted only after foreigners have worked in the country for several years.

Business visas for India

Business visas are available for expat entrepreneurs or investors who want to conduct business in India. Unlike employment visas, business visa applicants usually work on behalf of a foreign company for a limited time and won’t be working for a local employer. It is important to have Indian business contacts who can act as a business partner and provide a letter of invitation. 

Business visas are generally issued with six month's validity or more, and provide for multiple entries. However, business visa holders aren’t allowed to remain in India for longer than six months at a time. A business visa cannot be converted into an employment visa. 


Applying for a visa for India

Expats coming to India for employment should apply for a visa before they arrive. They can get application forms from their local Indian Embassy, or approach a VFS Global private processing agency appointed by the Indian authorities to process visa applications.

Aside from standard documentation like passports and passport photos, the documents expats would need to provide differ depending on various factors, including the type of visa. For example, employment visa applicants will need to provide proof of employment such as a contract with an Indian employer and business visa applications may need to be accompanied by letters from the applicant's employer and the local organisation they’ll be doing business with.


Residential permits for India

Expats who have a visa that’s valid for more than 180 days will need to register with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within two weeks of arriving to receive a residential permit. The FRRO has branches in numerous cities, and where they don’t, expats would need to visit the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the district.

The documents expats will need include application forms, passport copies and passport-size photos, a copy of their visa, a letter of guarantee from an Indian host or sponsor, and proof of residence.

The experience of applying for a residential permit will largely depend on the official handling the registration process. Some officials will ask for every possible document, and expats may want to have multiple copies of all documents on hand. Regardless, expats must ensure all information in their documents is correct and should bring any additional documents they think may be necessary. The process involves a lot of sitting and waiting, so expats will need to be patient.

FRRO offices are usually open from Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 1pm. Applicants should arrive early, otherwise a second trip may be required.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in India

Given its large size, the cost of living in India varies considerably, but many new arrivals are surprised to find that living costs in major cities can be pricey.

The 2016 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Mumbai and New Delhi at 82 and 130 out of the 209 cities studied. The cost of living in Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru is significantly lower as they were ranked at 158, 194 and 180 respectively. 

Expats who negotiate a lucrative relocation package in India can often afford luxuries that they wouldn’t be able to at home like maid services, chauffeurs and having home-cooked lunches delivered to the office.


Cost of housing in India

Accommodation is likely to be an expat's biggest expense in India, with property in New Delhi and Mumbai being particularly expensive. For instance, a four-bedroom house in New Delhi can cost upwards of 200,000 INR per month.

Wherever possible, expats should try to negotiate a housing allowance or complimentary housing into their employment package.


Cost of healthcare in India

Expats moving to India will have access to relatively cheap healthcare services with good standards. They will, however, have to factor in the cost of health insurance if it isn't covered by their employer.


Cost of education in India

It's possible for expat children to attend public schools in India, but their standards aren't in line with what most expat parents would expect.

Instead, expat children usually attend international schools. Securing a place at popular international schools in India is difficult, and calling upon contacts or even paying bribes to secure a place aren't unheard of.

Fees vary between schools but expats can expect to pay upwards of 1.8 million INR a year for senior students, so it's important to try and negotiate a schooling allowance into employment contracts.


Cost of eating out in India

The cost of entertainment and eating out in India will vary according to an expat’s personal preferences. It's possible to eat out inexpensively in India, especially if expats are willing to try local cuisines. 


Cost of groceries in India

Expats who buy local produce will find that everyday groceries are cheap in India. Shopping at vegetable markets allows expats to eat fresh seasonal produce while supporting local vendors. Those who buy imported Western foods will have a considerably higher bill.


Cost of living in India chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for April 2017.

Accommodation (monthly rent from unfurnished to furnished)

Furnished two-bedroom house

INR 92,000

Unfurnished two-bedroom house

INR 85,000

Furnished two-bedroom apartment

INR 88,000

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment

INR 78,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

INR 58

Milk (1 litre)

INR 45

Rice (1kg)

INR 58

Loaf of white bread 

INR 24

Chicken breasts (1kg)

INR 240

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

INR 185

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

INR 200

Coca-Cola (330ml)

INR 30

Cappuccino

INR 95

Bottle of local beer

INR 100

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

INR 1,000

Utilities

Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

INR 1

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

INR 1,500

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

INR 4,200

Transportation

City centre bus/train fare

INR 20

Taxi (rate per km)

INR 15

Petrol/gasoline per litre

INR 67

Culture Shock in India

With its unmatched diversity and a contrasting character that can both be enthralling and mystifying, expats may encounter some culture shock in India. Its hot and humid climate, muddled traffic blocks and hodgepodge of overexcited hawkers and guides are a lot to handle initially.  

That said, if expats can be patient and give themselves some time to adapt, it’s likely they’ll look at the country in an entirely different light as time passes.

India presents immense opportunities to open up socially. Hospitality is encouraged from an early age and expats are often surprised to see the extent to which Indians are helpful and always ready to mingle.

In a nutshell, the country welcomes all with warmth. It just takes some effort and understanding to become comfortable with the attitude and approach of the locals. After all, its differences are one of India’s most attractive qualities.


Bureaucracy in India

Getting things done in India takes a lot longer than it would in the West. Processes often seem inefficient and time consuming. Expats may find they receive conflicting information depending on who they talk to. It is best to exercise patience and persistence because getting angry won't solve the problem.

Networking and building relationships with locals can help because in most cases having contacts within the right institutions can expedite processes. 


Work culture in India

India has successfully created an atmosphere for the coexistence of traditionalism and modernism by accepting many Western ways of living and working.

The corporate culture is similar to the West in its work processes and creativity. Office attire varies, though most workplaces expect formal or semi-formal dress, while certain organisations allow casualwear on occasion. 

To help expats settle into living in India, many companies provide new arrivals with cross-cultural training to help them understand the nuances of local culture and get to grips with the language barrier.


Women in India

Women are treated equally in the office, although instances of the ‘glass ceiling’ are still present, as is the case all over the world.

Women should consider their destination and the occasion when deciding what to wear. On one hand, people living in cosmopolitan cities like Delhi or Mumbai are more open to Western-style dress. But expat women visiting crowded places, local markets or smaller towns may want to dress more conservatively to avoid offending anyone or attracting any unwanted attention. Furthermore, instances of 'eve-teasing' occur more frequently when (especially foreign) women are found alone late at night. Travelling in groups after dark, particularly in unknown places, is advisable.


Language barrier in India

English is widely spoken in large cities and the workplace, so overcoming a language barrier shouldn't be a major challenge.

That said, expats should plan their routes before they go anywhere, as local vendors might not be able to effectively help with directions. Additionally, it's always best to choose one's day-to-day vendors carefully, and provide them with precise instructions in an expressive fashion.


Food and drink in India

Numerous eateries offer a range of cuisine from continental to oriental. Expats should carefully pick where they dine and drink, since hygiene can be an issue at local restaurants. In most cities, however, plenty of hotels, restaurants, discos, pubs and bars cater to the expectations of a global clientele.

Expats should certainly try Indian delicacies during their stay. Each region claims superiority in the epicurean collage of Indian food and offers its own exotic tastes.The north offers the spicy cuisines of Punjab and Rajasthan, while milder, more complex flavours can be found in the dosas, uttapams and iIdlis typical in the south. The middle of the country provides innumerable opportunities to sample different tastes.

Drinking and smoking shouldn't be done in public places, such as parks and in the streets, and is considered an offence. In Gujarat, for example, liquor is only available at licensed hotels and has to be consumed inside hotel rooms.


Poverty in India

The wealth gap in India is massive – millionaires and slum-dwellers live alongside each other in most Indian cities. Poverty is a reality in India and expats will be confronted with it almost anywhere they go. 

Expats will get used to being targetted by beggars. The best option is always to ignore them. If one feels compelled to give something, food is always a better option than money. Wherever possible it is better to give to a reputable charity than individuals on the street.

Accommodation in India

Expats can add finding accommodation in India to the already extensive list of adventures they're going to have when they move.

Housing options vary greatly between areas, but expats moving to cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru can expect a smaller selection and more competition than in other locations. Overall, there are a few general points to bear in mind while doing pre-trip research about housing in India.


Types of property in India

Those relocating to India will find that the types of property available to them will depend very much on the location. Most expats will find themselves in one of India's bustling cities where they'll have a choice of accommodation options.

More and more properties are being built in Indian cities to accommodate the every-growing population. From modern apartment complexes and quaint bungalows to large villas suitable for families, there is usually a home to suit every demographic.

Rental prices in India are on the rise but most expats will find that these are still reasonable compared to those in other destinations.


Finding property in India

The demand for good quality, reasonably priced accommodation outweighs the supply, so renting property in India can be challenging. The good news is that employers often help their expat employees find a place to stay, sometimes lining up a few options for them to choose between.

But many new arrivals aren't so lucky, and if they don't speak Hindi, they'll probably have to hire a local estate agent. Expats in this position will need to be explicit about their specifications and what their price range is, otherwise they risk wasting their time viewing unsuitable properties. Remember that potential tenants don't need to pay to view properties with their estate agent, no matter what they might say.


Renting property in India

Unless expats plan on relocating to India for the long-term, most people opt to rent property rather than buying their home.

Lease agreements in India can be tricky. To side-step tax, landlords often prefer to rent to people informally, with no official lease in place. Expats should never accept such an agreement, as they'd have no proof of residence, which is needed for various administrative processes.

Expats will either be offered a lease agreement of at least 12 months that is covered by rent control laws, or a lease and license agreement of up to 11 months. Lease and license agreements aren't covered by rent control laws, so landlords tend to prefer them. Security deposits in India are generally two or three months' rent, and estate agent commission fees are usually about half a month's rent.

Healthcare in India

The quality of healthcare in India varies. Expats shouldn't struggle to find well-qualified English-speaking medical practitioners at private hospitals in cities like DelhiMumbai and Bengaluru, but facilities in rural areas are limited.

Most people use private healthcare in India, even though many of them can't afford it. Costs escalate quickly, so expats will need to invest in health insurance.


Public healthcare in India

Public hospitals in India often employ well-trained English-speaking doctors. But a lack of equipment, funding and staff cause serious problems in the government sector.

Despite the fact that a large section of India’s population can't afford Western medicine and relies on traditional remedies, India’s public hospitals remain overcrowded. Waiting lists for treatment are long and conditions aren't always hygienic. Public healthcare facilities in rural areas are even more limited.

As a result, locals and expats opt for private care whenever possible.


Private healthcare in India

Private hospitals in India are generally more in line with standards Western expats are used to. While there are many private facilities in cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai, expats should research to find out which of their local healthcare providers best suits their needs.

Private hospitals can often be used in non-emergencies for most medical needs, including regular check-ups and consultations. 


Health insurance in India

All expats moving to India should ensure that they have adequate health insurance coverage. Working expats might have insurance provided by their employer, but it's important to keep in mind that some policies will only cover treatment at certain hospitals.

Expats should also consider paying extra for a more comprehensive policy, especially if they plan on travelling around the country. Some international insurance providers aren't recognised by Indian hospitals, and in these cases expats will have to pay cash out of pocket. If this does happen, keeping all the necessary paperwork is essential if they want to be reimbursed by their insurer.


Pharmacies in India

Pharmacies are easy enough to find in major Indian cities. They're attached to most private medical facillities or in major shopping precincts. Most types of medication will be readily available and the costs are generally low. 

However, those travelling to more rural areas should ensure that they have a supply of any necessary medication because pharmacies may not be as well stocked in such places. 


Health hazards in India

New arrivals in India need to be especially careful when it comes to water and food hygiene – having an upset stomach is a common complaint of newcomers.

It's best to use boiled or bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth, and to avoid ice cubes. It's also a good idea to be careful of eating meat at street vendors and restaurants. At the very least, expats should make sure that their meal is hot and properly cooked.

Malaria is present throughout much of the country, so expats should take precautions against mosquito bites by using a DEET-based repellent and covering up at dusk. Seeking medical advice about prophylaxis before moving to India is advisable.

Temperatures in India can reach up to 130°F (55°C) just before monsoon season, so it's important to drink lots of water to avoid heat stroke and dehydration. It's also advisable to stay out of the sun, especially around midday, and to wear sunscreen.


Emergency services in India

While most private hospitals in India provide ambulance services at an additional fee, calling an ambulance is not always the best way to get to the hospital. Traffic congestion is a major problem in Indian cities and motorists often ignore an ambulance's siren. Private transport is often the fastest way to get to the hospital.

To call an ambulance in the event of an emergency dial 102.

Education and Schools in India

It comes as no surprise that a strong emphasis on education in India is one of the driving forces behind its emerging economy. Indian schools constantly challenge their students to do better – but expats will find that this doesn't necessarily apply to the suffering public school system.

Most people who can afford it send their children to private or international schools, but choosing a school that's right for their children is another decision altogether. The curricula, learning environments and teaching philosophies at these institutions vary widely, and expat parents will need to select a school that aligns with their budget and expectations.

That said, it's best to secure a place as early as possible, and expats moving for business should try and get help from their employer. The admissions process is extremely competitive and waiting lists at popular schools can be extremely long. 


Public schools in India

Public schools in India won't meet most expats' standards. Class sizes exceed international norms; facilities may be mediocre at best; and administrative and budgetary issues are far too common.

Some public schools in India teach in English but many don't, which creates a language barrier that expat children struggle to overcome.


Private schools in India

Indian private schools have a good reputation but the emphasis on results and rote learning can be challenging for expat students.

Students are incredibly competitive and are pushed to perform by their families, and society in general. Children start taking exams as early as pre-school and the stringent series of tests doesn't let up until graduation.

International students are often unaccustomed to this pressure and, as a result, many feel frustrated and insecure. That said, many students rise to the occasion and benefit greatly from learning in a multicultural environment. It is also a great option for expats who plan on remaining in India in the long-term and who want their children to have a more integrated experience with the opportunity to mix with local children while receiving a high standard of education. 


International schools in India

International schools are ideal for expats who want their children to continue with their home-country curriculum. They also maintain their home country's primary teaching language and tend to employ familiar methods of instruction.

American and British international schools are well-represented across India and a number of schools representing other countries have opened in larger cities.

Expats should note, however, that international schools are among the most expensive. So if hired to work in India on a lucrative employment package expats should ensure that a sizeable allowance is included to accommodate for school fees. 

Transport and Driving in India

Getting around in India can be an adventure and a challenge. In such a vast country, finding the best ways to travel will play an important role in letting expats make the most of their time.

From modern metro systems in Delhi and Kolkata to old-fashioned rickshaws, transport in India is extremely varied, and the selection can be overwhelming.

Expats who want to interact with the locals will enjoy using public transport, while those who want to get somewhere fast can take advantage of affordable domestic flights.


Public transport in India

Using public transport in India is often challenging at first. It can be crowded, uncomfortable and somewhat dangerous at times. But patient expats will see that using buses and trains in India is cost-effective, lets them see more of the country and gives them insight into local everyday life.

Buses

Buses in India are often the cheapest way to get around. While most people prefer trains for long-distance journeys, colourfully decorated buses offer quite a saving and are sometimes the only way to reach some of the country's more isolated areas.

Expats are advised to travel on the state bus company. Private buses tend to be cheaper but more uncomfortable, with drivers often exceeding the speed limit and filling the vehicle beyond its maximum capacity. 

Those who do decide to travel by bus should be aware that the roads are dangerous and accidents are always a risk. Furthermore, luggage is usually stored on the roof of long-distance buses, so expats should make sure their bags are locked and secured. To minimise the effect of bumps and potholes, it's best to get a seat in the middle of the bus.

Trains

One of the best ways to see the country is travelling by train. The train network in India is extensive, prices are reasonable and they're a more comfortable choice for travelling long distances.

There are many different options. It's possible to hire a private sleeper compartment on some services and, where available, travelling in an air-conditioned compartment is worth the extra expense.

Train travel can become difficult during major festival periods, so it's a good idea to book tickets in advance. Tickets can either be booked at ticketing agents or bought at stations. Most stations have English-speaking officials. 

Metro

Modern, underground train networks can be found in Delhi and Kolkata. Travelling by metro is a fast and efficient way to travel around these cities and allows commuters to avoid traffic congestion.


Rickshaws in India

Auto rickshaws are three-wheeled vehicles that can be found in most Indian towns and cities. They are generally cheaper than taxis, but while most of them have meters, drivers rarely use them. Passengers should agree on a fare before they start their journey.

Cycle rickshaws are three-wheeled bicycles with a support bench for passengers at the back and a canopy for shelter. They're more common in smaller towns than cities and aren't the most efficient mode of transport, but they certainly provide a novel way to get around. Again, it's best to agree on the fare at the start of a journey.


Taxis in India

Taxis are easy to find in cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai. Most of them are either Hindustan Ambassador or Premier Padmini cars and can be hailed from the roadside, found at taxi stands or called in advance.

Taxis in India are required to have a meter and expats should make sure it's working at the start of their journey. There are often additional charges for luggage, toll fees and travelling at night.  

Shared taxis are similar to normal taxis but carry several passengers who are travelling in the same direction. Fares are charged according to the number of passengers and the distance they're travelling. Aside from being cheap, they're a good option during city rush hours because they limit waiting time.


Driving in India

Expats who have an international driving licence are legally allowed to drive in India, but it isn't for the faint-hearted. Unless they're used to navigating chaotic streets with erratic drivers, foreigners should think twice before getting behind the steering wheel.

Road standards in India vary. National highways are well maintained in certain areas, but city roads are usually narrow, potholed and poorly signposted. The Indian government has taken steps to improve road standards but the biggest challenge for expats will be dealing with local drivers who don't pay much attention to road rules.

Expats who want to use a car in India should consider hiring a local driver, which removes the stress of dealing with the chaos of Indian streets and will give them some local knowledge about their new surroundings.


Domestic flights in India

Expats who need to get between major destinations quickly will find that flying is the fastest option. Numerous domestic airlines operate in India and flight prices are competitive.

One thing to note is that new airlines are known to pop up from time to time offering great deals, but end up shutting down quite quickly – getting a refund can be a major hassle. It may be best to use established airlines like Air India, Go Air, IndiGo Airlines, Jet Airways or SpiceJet.

To get the best prices on domestic flights in India, expats should book as far in advance as possible. It's also worth noting that tickets to small cities generally cost more as there are usually fewer flights to these destinations.

Expats flying in India should be aware that checking in at Indian airports can be a slow process. Passengers should try to arrive at least two hours before departure, even for domestic flights.

Keeping in Touch in India

Expats shouldn't have much trouble keeping in touch with family and friends while they're in India, especially if they live in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Internet, telephone, mobile phone, and postal service are available and service standards are generally good.

Foreigners can keep abreast of local and international news online and through English-language Indian newspapers. 


Internet in India

Internet speeds in India generally lag behind other large economies. The average broadband download speed is around 2.5 Mbps and wireless connections are more common than fixed lines. Most people access the Internet through their mobile phones or USB dongles and only around a tenth use 3G. 

Still, broadband usage is steadily growing and even though a small percentage of users have access to high speeds and fixed lines, this still translates to millions of people – so expats shouldn't have too much of a problem finding something that suits them. 

Some of the most popular Internet service providers in India include ACT Fibernet, Airtel, BSNL, Hayai Broadband, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Vodafone and You Broadband. 

Costs vary between companies and depend on the package, but they generally increase with download speeds and the amount of data being used.

Internet cafés abound – even in smaller towns – but free WiFi hotspots aren't as widespread as expats might be used to, even though there are various initiatives to make it more accessible in major cities. 


Landline telephones in India

There are multiple fixed-line providers in India, including the state-run BSNL and MTNL as well as various private companies.

To get a line installed, expats will need to fill out an application at one of their chosen service provider's outlets, although forms can usually also be downloaded online and completed in advance. Applicants will need to give proof of identification and residence, and pay a refundable deposit. Once that's done, the line will be activated in a few days.

The international dialling code for India is +91 and each city has its own additional dialling code: Bangalore - 80; Chennai - 44; Hyderabad - 40; Kolkata - 33; Mumbai - 22; New Delhi - 11.

Phone booths in India

Expats can dial local, international and mobile phones at manned phone booths on most major streets across the country. Phones are either coin-operated or users will have to pay the person at the booth when they're done calling. A meter attached to the phone shows how much the call costs in real time. 


Mobile phones in India

Mobile telephones are the most common form of communication in India, offering affordable packages and coverage in remote areas of the country.

Owing to its size, India is divided into various cellular zones that are often called 'circles'. These usually correspond with the different states, but not always. Each circle has its own dialling code and inter-circle calls might carry extra charges.

Expats shouldn't have connectivity problems for the most part, except in areas like Kashmir and parts of northeast India which have major security issues.

Service providers

The largest operators in India include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, BSNL, TATA DoCoMo and Aircel.

Payment plans can either be pre-paid or post-paid, but navigating the different available packages can be challenging. 

Expats should at least look for a provider with good service in their area, but since calls within the same network are often discounted, it may be worth finding out which provider their colleagues belong to. 

SMS (text messaging) comes with basic plans, but customers may need to pay extra for MMS (multimedia messaging), international roaming and Internet access.

Mobile phones are highly regulated by the government and expats will need some paperwork before they can get their SIM card, including proof of identity and address, photographs and a copy of their visa. 

Companies often take sim cards in their own name as COCP (Company Owned, Company Paid) connections and provide them to their employees. 


Postal service in India

India Post is the national postal service and the world's largest. Post boxes are located on most major roads and mail is picked up daily in most cases.

Regular post usually takes two to three days between major cities or neighbouring states, and up to six days to the rest of the country. That said, delays are fairly common from October to January.

At higher prices, expats can send registered post and speed post at their local post office. Private courier companies also offer competitive rates, with same-day delivery in metros and next-day delivery to most towns. 


Media and news in India

Indian newspapers are printed in all of its major languages, including English. The Times of India is published nationally. The Hindu is popular down south and The Hindustan Times has large readership in the north. Other popular titles include The Economic Times, DNA, Mid-Day, Indian Express, New Indian Express, Deccan Herald and the Deccan Chronicle. Some of these are only printed in certain locations, but their content can be viewed online.

Some foreign newspapers are available in Indian cities, but they may arrive a day or two later than the date they're released in their home countries.

CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg and BBC are broadcast in India, while NDTV and CNN IBN are good local English news channels.

There are also numerous weekly and fortnightly magazines that are great options to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the news and financial markets.

Shipping and Removals in India

Expats interested in shipping household goods to India will find an abundance of service providers offering both piecemeal delivery and complete relocation packages from anywhere in the world.

Shipping via sea, air and by land is possible for domestic moves, and the volume, distance and method of delivery of the goods will affect the cost of shipping. 

Sea freight will, in most cases, prove to be more cost effective, especially if moving a large volume of goods. Delivery tends to take anywhere from 5 to12 weeks. Air freight is delivered much quicker, on average within 1 to 2 weeks; however, costs are also higher. 

As a general rule, it’s best to divide shipments; send the essentials ahead of time via air freight, and the goods that are not immediate necessities via sea freight.

That said, expats should consider that inexpensive furniture options abound in India, and many accommodation options come either fully or partially furnished. As a result, it may not even be necessary to ship furniture at all.

Those moving from abroad should note that the customs process in India is incredibly tedious, and lags behind that of many countries. Furthermore, ports in India typically run in excess of capacity for handling goods, which causes congestion and leads to delays in delivery of the goods to a destination.

In turn, expats should choose a shipping company that offers door-to-door service, which should include customs clearance. 


Shipping duty-free to India

Expats planning on becoming formal residents of India can import their used personal and household goods duty-free. There are some exceptions to this rule, like certain appliances or electronic equipment, and it’s best expats consult the Indian government’s baggage rules before finalising their shipment. 

Most expat relocation packages offer an allowance for air and sea freight, it's best to take full advantage of your air freight allowance for essentials needed right away. 


Hiring an international removal company

Hassle free cross-continental movement is best handled by international removal companies familiar with Indian transport and customs rules. These companies come to will survey everything that needs to be shipped and make a quote based on the size of the shipment.

Those expat assignees lucky enough to have secured a shipping allowance through their work contract are usually bound to request at least three quotes before choosing a provider, and even those who aren’t bound should solicit a number of quotes in the name of price comparison.

On the day of the move, the company will pack everything, take inventory, do basic disassembling of furniture, and deal with all customs formalities. Expect quotes to include delivery and unpacking services, as well as removal of debris, and basic reassembling of furniture at the destination point.

Extra charges will usually apply for the following: insurance, wooden crates, handling of heavy items, storage of goods and customs duties. Expats should take out shipping insurance with a company not involved in the removal, as to ensure adequate protection and coverage of their goods. 


Shipping a car to India

Foreigners are allowed import of one vehicle. The car must have been in the owner's possession for over a year. Other rules:

  • Shipment may be done within six months of arrival

  • Only right-hand drive cars are allowed

  • An original purchase invoice is required

  • Duty (Do note that there are no fixed rates as the process is seen case-by-case) it is best to check with the shipping agent for the latest update


Shipping pets to India

The rules for shipping pets to India vary according to each expat (and animals) country of origin, but all pet owners must obtain a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the Quarantine Officer at the Animal Quarantine Station PRIOR to arrival.

To apply for this document, expats will need to submit the following:

  • All vaccination records of the pet.

  • Government-issued veterinary certificate from the exporting country (USDA document including microchip implantation record, rabies certificate, vet health certificate)

  • Flight details/confirmation of the passenger's travel into India/Copy of the airway bill

  • Veterinary Certificate

Once the certificate has been obtained, make sure to have the following documentation in order to safely and efficiently ship pets to India:

  • A duplicate copy of the NOC has to be fixed on the crate of the pet during the air travel.

  • Original copy of the NOC has to be produced in India to get the pet released from the customs at the Airport in India.

  • On arrival in India, an appointment to be fixed with the Quarantine Officer for issue of a temporary Health Certificate on examination of the pet.

  • Thirty days thereafter a certificate of health to be obtained from a local veterinarian to be produced at the Animal Quarantine Station. Then, the pet will be issued a permanent certificate of health for his/her stay in India.

Expat blogs in India

Few resources can build a better picture of life in India than the expat blogs maintained by already established foreigners. Whether these writers are recounting great challenges, relaying roll-on-the-floor funny encounters, delivering crucial advice and important tips or reaching out to those around them, their insight affords others a unique and personal glimpse into their new community.


Best expat blogs in India

Madam, let me tell you one thing

An ongoing discussion on the joys of Indian English and the gentle confusion that can cause to the speakers of Standard English. Posts on travels through Indian English and India from Bangalore.

Nationality: Irish

Expat Blog in India - Madam, Let Me Tell You One Thing

BombayJules

Julia is a British expat living in Mumbai who enjoys sharing her experiences of coping with the drastic change in culture, food and weather in her colourful blog. She shares some great insights about what to eat, where to shop, and her opinions about life in India.

Nationality: British

BombayJules - An expat blog in India

Maximumcitymadam

This insightful blog by Lindsey, a British expat in India, follows her life as a trailing spouse and mother in the bustling city of Mumbai. Certainly an entertaining read!

Nationality: British

Maximumcitymadam - An expat blog in India

Aussie Girl in India

Rakhee, an Australian of Indian origin, shares her stories and experiences of making a new life for herself in Mumbai in this insightful and informative blog.

Nationality: Australian

Aussie girl in India - An expat blog in India

Sipping Chai in Chennai

An interesting and informative blog about an American woman's odyssey of working in high tech India.

Nationality: American

Sipping Chai in Chennai - An American expat's blog in India

Relocation Companies in India

Relocation businesses offer companies and individuals a full suite of services including pre-departure orientation, neighbourhood orientation, home-finding services, lease negotiation and utilities hook-ups, as well as school selection, visits and registration assistance. Removals companies, on the other hand, offer a more limited range of services that tend to focus on the transportation of goods.

Writer Relocations 

A global leader in relocation, Writer are committed to providing customised services and impeccable care to ensure that each step of the relocation process goes smoothly. The company has a history of helping over 25,000 clients move to India and beyond. Writer strives to meet the dynamic needs of the global community of expats.

Website: www.writercorporation.com

Santa_Fe_Relocation.jpg

Santa Fe Relocation

Santa Fe Relocation offers a full spectrum of relocation services for both corporate relocations and personal move customers. They are a global firm that can manage your move to India. Their services include home search, school search, moving services and pet relocation. 

Website: www.santaferelo.com

 

Team Relocations

Team Relocations offers fully integrated global relocation and international shipping services on a global, national and regional basis. Team counts many of the world’s leading corporations and government agencies as clients as well as assisting smaller companies with all they require during their employee relocation process.

Website: www.teamrelocations.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

► See more worldwide relocation companies.

Articles about India

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for settling into expat life in a new country, but here are a few helpful articles and personal stories that may help make living in India a little easier.


What to expect when moving to Delhi 

So, what do you want out of your Delhi stay? Perhaps you are coming reluctantly and just want to survive. Or perhaps you are adventurous. Read this advice on moving to Delhi from an expat and cross-cultural expert.


Starting a business in India

According to the International Monetary Fund, India is set to become the third largest economy in the world by 2030. But why is it such a major attraction for expat entrepreneurs to start a business


Choosing an international school in India

In an exclusive interview with Expat Arrivals, Harjyot shares some of her insights about the schooling system in India and offers advice to expat parents planning a move to India with children.


Having a baby in India

There is something unknown and uncharted about having a child, and giving birth as an expat in a foreign country could be a bit more daunting. One of the biggest challenges for new foreign arrivals in India would be to understand the options available to them in terms of having a baby.

Banking, Money and Taxes in India

Banks in India have somewhat of a reputation for cumbersome bureaucracy. But most of them provide convenient services once expats get through the red tape.

Paying taxes can also be challenging but is much easier with the help of a local specialist.  


Money in India

The official currency in India is the Rupee, abbreviated as INR or Rs, and it's controlled by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise, but paise coins are hardly in circulation anymore. So, while items can cost 50 paise in theory, the amount paid is always one rupee – expats shouldn't be alarmed when they don't get change.

In fact, getting change is often difficult, so keeping a stock of smaller denominations is wise. 

  • Notes: 5 INR, 10 INR, 20 INR, 50 INR, 100 INR, 500 INR and 1,000 INR

  • Coins: 1 INR, 2 INR, 5 INR and 10 INR

Another thing expats will have to get used to is the Indian numbering system, where 100,000 is called one lakh and 100 lakhs is one crore or ten million. 

Globally, commas are put after every three digits when dealing with large numbers. In India, a comma is placed after every two digits past the 100,000 mark (1,00,000). This can be confusing, especially when dealing with financial statements.


Banking in India

The Indian banking sector is robust and offers numerous services in public, private and international banks. ATMs and bank branches are easily accessible in major cities and towns, credit cards are widely accepted and most banks offer Internet banking services. But it's still advisable to carry cash when travelling away from cities.

Most ATMs also have deposit facilities for cash and cheques, and allow customers to make utility bill payments. 

Opening a bank account

Most banks offer a non-resident (NRO) savings or current account for expats who earn an income in India. Features vary between banks but account holders will at least be provided with debit or credit cards and cheque books as well as Internet and phone banking.

Most NRO accounts will require expats to maintain an average quarterly balance. While the amount may differ depending on the bank, failure to maintain the balance will result in a penalty fee.

To open a bank account, expats will generally need to provide proof of identity, proof of address and copies of their passport and visa. So, to open an account, they'll first need to secure accommodation and complete their FRRO registration.

Many expats have their company open an account for them, which is often with an international bank. 

Exchanging money

Major currencies are easy to change throughout India. Exchange rates at private bureaux de change are often better than banks, while locals frequently exchange currency at private money changers. These are widespread, usually open for longer hours than banks, and often double as Internet cafés, jewellers and travel agents.

Wherever expats exchange their money, they should check that the notes they receive aren't damaged in any way – getting a soiled or torn note accepted can be difficult.


Taxes in India

Expats who live in India for 182 days or more in a year are considered to be tax residents and will have to pay tax on their local income to the Ministry of Finance's Income Tax Department.

Personal income tax in India is progressive up to 30 percent with an additional Education Cess (an additional tax liability) of three percent.

The Indian tax year in India lasts from 1 April to 31 March. All individual taxpayers have to file an individual tax return and are assessed separately. Some companies file their employees' returns for them, but expats can also do this online. Given that tax in India is relatively complicated, expats who aren't especially tax-savvy may want to enlist the help of an accountant.

Taxes in India

Paying taxes in India can be a complicated matter, and it's recommended expats consult a tax specialist to facilitate the matter.

Am I a taxpayer in India?

Each taxpayer, whether expat or local, is allocated a unique identifying number called a Permanent Account Number (PAN).

All taxpayers, including non-residents, must apply for PAN if their taxable income exceeds the maximum amount not chargeable to tax, or any person carrying on a business or profession whose total sales, turnover, gross receipts exceed or are likely to exceed Rs. 500,000 in any previous year.

Every person who is required to deduct tax at source must apply for a tax deduction at source number (TAN), and quote this number on all certificates issued for tax deducted and remitted to the government and also on all returns relating to withholding tax.

India’s tax calculations follow the financial year from April to March. For example, the income earned for any period which falls between 1st April 2012 and 31st March 2013 (called  the “Previous Year”) will be taxable in the next financial year (called “Assessment Year”) i.e. 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014.

The tax returns have to be filed by either 31 July or 30 September of the assessment year, depending on the requirement of the tax audit for the individual.  


Tax Residence Categories

Expats will fall into one of three tax residence categories in India. These categories are the primary criterion used to determine what income a person must pay tax on - their worldwide income or the income accruing and arising in India.

  • Resident and Ordinarily Resident (ROR)

  • Resident but Not Ordinarily Resident (RNOR)

  • Non Resident (NR)

Rule 1

An Individual is a Resident in India in any financial year if he/she:

  1. Is in India in that year for a period of 182 days or more, or  

  2. Within four years preceding that year has been in India for 365 days or more and is in India for a period of 60 days or more.

If an individual's stay does not satisfy the resident requirements they are considered an NR. Alternatively, if an individual’s status as a resident in India is confirmed by the above rule, they must be categorised as a ROR or RNOR. To determine their status the following rule must be applied

Rule 2

An Individual who is a Resident is a RNOR in India if he/she

  1. Has been a NR in India for nine out of ten years preceding that year, or

  2. Has been outside of India for 729 days or less during the seven previous years preceding that year.  

Foreign executives working in India on a continuing basis would be RNOR for the first two years of their employment, but from the third year they will become ROR and will be taxed in India on their worldwide income.

The administration usually verifies passports to determine the number of days an individual has been present in India.


Taxability of Tax Residents vs. Non Tax Residents

Once one has figured out which category of tax residence they satisfy, they can determine which portion of income will be taxed.

  • An ROR (Determined as per Rule 1 & 2) is subject to tax on their worldwide income (including capital gains).

  • A NRs (determined as per Rule 1) are subject to tax on Income received in India or accruing or arising (including deemed to be received or accruing or arising) in India.

  • An RNOR (determined as per rule 1 & 2) are subject to the same tax treatment as NRs, except that income accruing or arising outside India is also chargeable if it is derived from a business controlled in India or a Profession set up in India.

Residents (ROR) are subject to tax on their worldwide income, including capital gains. Income from abroad is taxable in India on gross basis and credit is provided for the taxes paid abroad; however, such credit cannot exceed the tax payable in India on such income.

Non residents (NR) are liable to tax in India on their Indian source income and income received or deemed to be received in India or deemed to be accruing or arising in India. Foreign source income of non residents is exempt from Indian income tax, subject to certain deeming provisions.

Individuals who are residents, but not ordinarily residents (RNOR), are subject to the same treatment as non residents, except that income accruing or arising outside India is also chargeable to tax in India if it is derived from business controlled in India or a profession set up in India.


What if, as an expat in India, I am a resident in two countries?

India has double taxation agreements, which override the Indian law, with virtually all its major trading partners. Meaning, expats are not liable to pay taxes in both countries of residence. Consult a tax specialist to determine if ones home country and India have such an agreement in place, and to determine in which country one should file taxes.


Can I use tax planning to accelerate or defer residence?

Expats can use careful tax planning to avoid becoming a tax resident in India, and can thus avoid paying taxes on a worldwide income.

Expatriates seeking to accelerate or defer tax residence in India should consider all the rules related to the residential status mentioned above. Pay special attention to the ROR criteria, noting the number of days for which it is necessary an individual remains in India to satisfy this status.

For example, splitting the time spent in India for a lengthy assignment between two financial years can help an individual avoid tax residence status.


Taxable categories in India

The following categories of income are taxable in India

  1. Salaries

  2. Income from House Property

  3. Profits and Gains from business or profession

  4. Capital Gains, and

  5. Income from other sources


Tax rates in India

The tax rates in India for the financial year 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015 assessment year is as follows:

  • Up to INR 200,000 = NIL

  • INR 200,000 –  INR 500,000 = 10 percent

  • INR 500,001 – INR 1000,000 = 20 percent

  • INR 1,000,000 and  above = 30 percent

Non-resident women and senior citizens are subject to the same tax rates.


Income from Capital gains

Residents are subject to capital gains tax subject to specific rules applicable. These rules determine the rate of taxation and whether such income is to be taxed or not. Capital gains tax applies to all capital assets which have been defined as per Section 2(14) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. It must be noted that from Assessment year 2008-09 jewellery, archaeological collections, drawing, paintings, sculptures or any work of art became taxable under this catergory.

The capital gains are segregated into short term and long term capital gains. Generally gains are considered as long term only if the asset is held for more than 36 months with the exception in case of shares or listed securities or units of UTI/Mutual fund etc., where an asset becomes long term if it is held for more than 12 months.

The long term capital gains are chargeable at 20 percent rate of tax on the gains and in certain specified cases the rate is 10 percent. The gains are calculated by deducting the indexed cost of acquisition (only in long term) from the sales consideration. In the case of short term gains, the same are calculated at the normal rates of 30+ percent  surcharge and education cess.

Long term capital gains arising on transfer of global depository receipts (which were issues in accordance with the notified Employee Stock option scheme, and purchased in foreign currency by a resident employee of an Indian company) are subject to tax of 10 percent. Benefits of indexation and calculating long term capital gains in foreign currency and then reconverting them into Indian currency are not available.

Non Residents

Non Residents are subject to capital gains tax in India only in respect of capital gains accruing or arising or received in India (including capital gains deemed to be accruing, arising or received in India). 

In case of shares or debentures of an Indian company acquired in foreign currency by non residents, the cost of acquisition, expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively in connection with the transfer and full value of consideration are converted back into foreign currency and gains are calculated and taxed at a rate of 20 percent. Long term capital gains arising from sale of shares and securities through a recognised stock exchange are exempt from tax.

The benefit of cost indexation is not available to non resident Indians who claim special tax rate of 10 percent and to other non residents where capital gains on the transfer of shares in, and debentures of, Indian companies are determined in foreign currency.

Expat Experiences in India

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in India and would like to share your story.


Gabriel is an Australian expat living in New Delhi. He moved to India in 2007 and took a brave step and set up his own business. Learn more about how Gabriel is making the most of his life in the country by embracing the local culture by reading his interview about his expat experience in India.

Deborah is a British expat living in Bangalore, India with her husband and young daughter. She relocated to India as a 'trailing spouse' when her husband landed a new job in Bangalore. In her interview with Expat Arrivals she provides some fantastic insights into culture shock and life as an expat in Bangalore. Check out her interview about expat life in India

Adria Bannock is a British expat living in Chennai, India. She is a photographer who loves the liveliness and chaos that Chennai has to offer. To find out more about Adria's experiences as a trailing spouse in Chennai check out her interview with Expat Arrivals about life in India.

Lisa Marks is an American expat living in India. Lisa is no stranger to expat life, having previously had homes in the UK and Thailand. To find out more about Lisa's experiences of being a trailing spouse read her interview with Expat Arrivals about her time in India.

BombayJules is a British expat living in India. She moved to Mumbai with her husband when he was transferred there for work. She has made the most of her time in Mumbai as a “trailing spouse” (a term she is not too fond of) by volunteering, writing for an expat magazine, travelling, and experiencing all that India has to offer. Read more about her expat life in India.

Bombay Jules - an expat living in India

Doris Delassard is a French expat who has been living in Delhi for the past nine years, and thinks India is a wonderful place to be. She works as a relocation specialist and is a partner in MD Relocation and Consultancy. Read more about her expat life in Delhi.

Doris pf MD Relocation - A French expat in India

Mathilde Souffront is a French expat living in Mumbai. She first came to India as a manager of a French boutique hotel and is now a relocation specialist and partner in MD Relocation and Consultancy. Read more about her expat life in Mumbai.

Mathilde of MD Relocation - A French expat in India

Rakhee is an Australian expat of Indian origin. She moved to India for a life change, and after nine months backpacking around the country, decided to settle in Mumbai. She enjoys the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai, which brings a new adventure every day. Read about her expat experience in India.

Rakhee - An Australian expat living in India

Linsey Gordon is a British expat who moved to India as the "trailing spouse" when her husband got a job in Mumbai. Three years later, despite the cultural adjustments, life has been an adventure and she does not regret the move. Read about her expat experience in Mumbai.

Gordon family in India

Pruma is an Indian national who has lived in the States for many years and recently decided to return to India. Now living between Hyderabad and Bangalore with her husband and young son, she shares some of her of expat experiences of repatriating to India after being away for so long. 

Pruma - An Indian national returning to India

Theo Scheffler is a 35-year-old born in Cape Town, South Africa, now living in Hyderabad, India. He is currently the Chief Actuary at Shriram Life Insurance. Theo has been married for more than 12 years and has a 9-month-old daughter. Read in detail about his expat experiences in India.

Piet Viljoen is a 52 year-young Mining Engineer who manages projects for Joy Mining Machinery (India). He ended up in India in October 2008 and loves the difference he makes there. "In South Africa I was too old and too white, here I am honoured because I am so experienced." Read about his take on expat life in India.


Ellen Weeren moved from Northern Virginia to Delhi, India a year ago and has since made Delhi her home, along with her husband and 3 children. They reside on her husband's employment visa which was arranged by his company. Read about her expat life in Delhi here.

Lloyd Lauland moved from Houston, Texas to New Delhi, India almost 2 years ago with his wife and 16 year old son after being awarded a company promotion. In his opinion the inconveniences of living in a 3rd world country are outweighed by the city's "rich history, wonderful people and high quality of life". Learn more about his expat experience in New Delhi, India.

Despite Jennifer Kumar’s cross-cultural expertise, she’s still finding life as an American living in India challenging, and in some cases, quite unforgiving. In her interview with ExpatArrivals.com, she provides a telling window into expat life in Kochi (state of Kerala).

JenniferK - an American expat living in India

Kathi is from the USA but has been living in Ahmedabad, India for the last 3 years. She and her husband relocated to India and started their own business. Her Expat Arrivals interview about her experience in India gives a good idea of what to expect.

Naomi Hattaway lives in Delhi, India and actively blogs about her experiences there. She has found the transition to life in India to be a challenging but hugely rewarding experience. Read about her unique perspective on expat life in Delhi.

Annie Andrews is an Environmental Scientist who left a life lived 20 years in Darwin, Australia for a cricket inspired relocation to Pune, India. Her husband is a state cricket coach, her boys are enjoying the country's competition, and she finds herself an unlikely "cricket widow", which leaves plenty of time for expat activities like volunteering and travelling. Read her insights to expat life in India here.

Katia Novet is a writer and translator from France and Haiti, now living in Hyderabad, India. She has written the well-received children's book Amadi's Snowman, "the story of a Nigerian boy, a book, and the opening of worlds." Read all about Katia's take on expat life in India and particularly the local educational system.

Marina Marangos is a Greek Cypriot by origin, born and raised on the island. Her professional background is law but she enjoys writing and travelling even more. Luck or circumstance have taken her to London, Kenya, Liverpool, Geneva and now to New Delhi in India which will be her new home for the next few years. Read about Marina's expat experience of expat experience life in India here.

Alex de Goederen has turned a love affair with India's exoticism and rich opportunity into a career by moving to Delhi and opening a real estate consultancy with a partner. He now acts as a guide to expats moving to Delhi and bewildered by the lack of any correlation between price, quality and area. Read more in his interview about his expat experience in India.