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Explaining India's Immigration Policy to Foreigners

Some people dream about living in India for years before they actually look into doing so. For people like this, there’s no time like the present to look at what it would take to move to India. 

Here’s what everyone who is interested in living in India needs to know about getting into the country on a permanent basis. That way, they can decide if they want to pursue immigration to India.

Immigrating to India

An immigrant is a person who lives in a country that is not the one he or she was born in. They can do this for a number of different reasons and in a number of different ways.

The best way to immigrate to India is to get formal permission to do so. There are a variety of ways to do this, which will be discussed below.

Note that immigrating is different from traveling to India as a visitor, even though some visitors stay for a long time. Immigrants plan to relocate their entire lives to a different country. This includes finding long-term housing in their new country, building their social networks there, and even raising their families in their new locale.

Reasons to Immigrate to India

There are many good reasons to immigrate to India. The most popular ones include:

  • Family reasons. People who marry Indian citizens or whose family moves to India might themselves want to move to India. This allows them to be close to family members and to build those relationships.

  • Job reasons. Some people get a job in India and, so, need to move there in order to accept that position. Other companies expand to India and need to bring in workers to set up the business and get it started in India.

  • Persecution reasons. If people are facing persecution in their home country, they may choose to enter India as refugees. They usually come seeking safety and a place to rebuild their lives.

  • Education reasons. India offers a wide variety of educational opportunities that may not be available in some locations. Students who are accepted into long-term educational programs will need to be able to relocate to India to complete them.

  • Cultural reasons. Some people fall in love with Indian culture and simply cannot get enough of it. They may choose to try and live in India because it feels more like home than their own country does.

  • Yoga reasons - People who love yoga may choose to move to India to form a deeper connection with their practice by being physically close to gurus who inspire them. 

How to Immigrate to India

There are a number of short-term visas available, which allow people to travel to India for a short period of time. These can be great for getting to know the country and making sure that it is a place a visitor wants to immigrate to. However, these visa holders cannot work in India.

In order to get a job in India, visitors need to get an Employment Visa, or an E-Visa (not to be confused with the India e-Visa). This requires having a contract with a company in India that will pay the immigrant more than $25,000 USD per year.

It is possible to apply for this visa online, though paperwork must still be submitted at the nearest Indian consulate. Applicants will need an application, proof of their job offer in India, their passport, and any other documentation specifically asked for at the consulate.

See India's visa policy

Note that spouses and dependents of those applying for an Employment Visa will need to apply for a Dependent Visa (type X).

Most of the time, these visas are granted within one week of application, because the Indian government knows that companies want employees to start right away.

They are usually good for one year or for the term of the employment offer in India. If the visa is offered for a year, it can be renewed online from within India as long as the person remains employed there.

Note that foreigners who immigrate to India will need to register with their local police office once they arrive. This nets them a residential permit, which allows them to secure housing in the country.

What Does it Mean to be an Immigrant in India

India claims to be open to immigrants and immigration, but some of those who move there find that they remain the odd person out, even if they have been there for many years. This is due, in part, to cultural differences between India and the western world, as well as to different expectations when it comes to work, family, and leisure in India.

Some of the differences that are hard for immigrants include:

  • Longer work weeks. Indian jobs often require more working hours than Western ones.

  • Fewer women in the workplace. While international business women tend to get respect equal to that of their male counterparts, Indian women have found it hard to break into the workplace and, if they do, to move up once they are there.

  • Renting is different in India. There are some obscure lease practices in India that can make getting a place to live and keeping it difficult and confusing for westerners.

  • Language differences. India is a land of many different languages. This can make it hard for foreigners because learning one new language won’t necessarily gain them the communication skills they are looking for, and learning more than one can be time-consuming and difficult.

  • Infrastructure is still developing. While Indian infrastructure is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was even 10 years ago, it is not yet at the level that many westerners expect. This can make moving to India challenging in unexpected ways.

  • Banking is different. Residents must prove not only who they are, but where they live and that they have a right to be in India. This can make setting up a bank account a longer process than what most foreigners expect.

  • Driving is challenging. Driving in India feels chaotic for many immigrants, because few people obey the rules that are posted and, sometimes, there’s nothing posted at all. Immigrants who fear driving can end up feeling isolated and alone.

While all of these things can prove difficult, many immigrants love life in India. It is, however, necessary to adapt in ways that may be unexpected at the time of arrival.

Long Term Visit Versus Moving Permanently

Only people who are of Indian origin or those born to Indian parents who live overseas can become permanent residents of India. Everyone else must remain in India on an Employment Visa, like the one mentioned above, or apply for citizenship.

People who are born in India or whose parents (or sometimes even grandparents) are Indian citizens can apply for citizenship as long as they are willing to give up their current citizenship.

Foreigners who want to become Indian citizens must have met a couple of requirements. First, they must have lived in India for at least 11 of the last 14 years. They must also have lived continuously in India for the 12 months directly before they apply for citizenship. They can submit an application for this online.

Immigrants who choose not to apply for citizenship can continue living in India as long as their Employment visa remains valid. Some of the laws surrounding the rights of citizens vs. non-citizens are in flux in India right now, and they can be different in different parts of the country.

Thus, it’s important that immigrants know their local laws and the general political climate if they are trying to choose between staying on a visa and becoming a citizen.

Being a Resident in India

Life in India is very similar for residents as it is for citizens. The main differences are that citizens can vote, while residents can’t. In addition, residents must continually renew their Employment Visa for India, while citizens do not need to renew anything.

Laws about owning property are also different for citizens versus residents in India. However, they can vary based on the state one resides in, and the laws are very complex. Residents in India who want to own property are encouraged to seek out the services of a local expert who can help them make sure they are following the law.

Refugees in India

While India does have refugees inside its borders, it does not maintain its own policy or grant refugee visas. People in India who want protection while inside its borders can register with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. However, the protections this agency can offer in India are limited.

India has some history of being ambiguous about refugees vs. illegal immigrants. For instance, many Sri Lankan Tamil refugees have been welcomed and allowed to work in India, while Rohingya people facing persecution in Myanmar face deportation from the country.

Those seeking asylum may want to look for it elsewhere. While the UN will do all it can to offer protection in India, their reach is limited and India may or may not be welcoming.


Anyone who enters the country illegally, or who overstays their visa, is treated as a person who is in India illegally. If caught, they face anything from fines to deportation to between 2 and 8 years in jail under the Citizenship Act, which was amended in 2003. They will also no longer be eligible for citizenship, if they had been wanting to apply.

The truth is that an unknown number of people live undocumented in India. They are more welcome in some parts of the country than others, but their existence there is never secure. India asks that all people who want to live in their country find a legal and valid way to do so.

Immigrate to India Soon

Those who have always wanted to live in India can apply to do so whenever they wish. If they want to find a job in India, they can look online and secure that before they fill out an Employment Visa. Then, they can make their home in the country they’ve always dreamed about inhabiting!


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