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Settlement, Residence and Citizenship for Expats in India

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: September 2013

For the uninitiated, India can be overwhelming: the staring, the begging, the chaos, the noise and the sheer number of people. Once you are no longer overawed by such things and have learnt how to fend off the touts and maybe speak a little of the local language, you will hopefully start to see some of the many positive things that India offers.

At this point you may want to settle in India for some time. If you do, you are one of a growing number of expats who are seeking to make India their home. In addition to the economic growth and opportunity, many people are drawn by the country’s cultural richness and diversity, not to mention the hospitality of its hosts. For other people, meanwhile, moving to India is a sort of homecoming. Some people with Indian roots who may not have lived in India are leaving their homes and re-migrating to the mother country.


If you entered India on an Employment, Student or Research visa, or if you have any long-term visa and plan to stay in India for more than 182 days (i.e. half a year), you are required to register with the authorities within 14 days of your arrival. To do this, you need to report to the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office if there is one in your city. Otherwise, you need to report to the local police station. Registration involves taking your passport, visa and several other official documents and signing a Registration Report. Once you have completed registration, you will be given a Registration Certificate.

When registering for a long-term stay, you will also be issued with a Work and Residence Permit. You must apply to renew this permit at least two months before its expiry date. Note that under-16s are exempt from registration. Also note that Pakistani citizens are required to register within 24 hours of arriving in India.

One reason why India is attractive to expats is that roughly a tenth of Indian people are competent in English, with many more people knowing a little. Though you should be able to get by in many situations, knowledge of English will only get you so far. If you are serious about living in India, it is only polite to learn one of the local languages. There are more than 800 languages in India, so there are plenty to choose from! Across the northern and central parts, Hindi serves as a lingua franca (along with Urdu that is, as they are essentially the same language.) However, Hindi and Urdu are not widely spoken in the South and are generally not well received. Instead it is better to learn the local state language.

India’s cost of living is one of the lowest in the world. Indeed, it is even lower than usual at the moment due to the weakness of the Indian rupee. As an expat, you are pretty much certain to be financially comfortable. In fact, you may be able to indulge yourself in luxuries you would not be able to afford at home.

Acquiring Indian citizenship takes longer than in other countries. If you are a person of Indian origin, you need to have been living in India for a total of seven years before you can apply for citizenship. You do so by using Indian Citizenship (IC) Form I. Meanwhile, to acquire citizenship by naturalisation (using form XI), you will need to have had India as your main residence for 12 years. In both these cases, you also need to have been continually residing in India for the last 12 months. For more details, see this Ministry of Home Affairs webpage:


A quicker way of gaining a kind of dual Indian citizenship is by becoming an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). To be eligible for an OCI card, you must be a national of a country which allows dual citizenship (unlike India, oddly enough.) You must also have been, or have been eligible to be, a citizen of India at some time after 26 January 1950. Overseas citizenship of India gives you rights and privileges such as multiple entry into the country and not needing to register, but is not the same as full Indian citizenship. For more details on OCI, see this website:




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