Moving to India: A guide for expats

TransferWise content team
27.09.17
4 minute read

As its industry and economy become stronger, India is becoming an increasingly popular destination for expats. The diversity of the country and population is dizzying, and it offers a drastically different way of life from that in the western countries. If that sounds appealing, then join the increasing numbers of American citizens who are making their way to this fascinating and ever-changing sub-continent.

Quick Facts About India

  • Population: 1.252 billion
  • Most popular city for expats: Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai
  • Currency: Indian Rupee
  • Official language: 24 official languages: Hindi is the the most prominently spoken, while English is the primary language for government, business and education
  • Main industries: Enormously varied, with engineering, steel, textiles, tourism, pharmaceuticals and software being some of the biggest

What Visas and Paperwork Do You Need?

Most westerners are required to get an e-TV (tourist visa) to enter India. To work there, an employment visa is required. To apply for one, you need to have confirmed employment with an Indian company, or be intending to do voluntary work. If you are staying in India for more than 180 days you will need to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within 14 days of arriving in the country. For more information on this and other visa requirements, contact the High Commission of India in London.

The Cost of Living

Although much cheaper than America, the cost of living in some of the most popular destinations for expats can be surprisingly high. Accommodation in cities like New Delhi and Mumbai can be quite astonishing for arrivals who are expecting to live like royalty on a small amount of money.

If you are able, try and negotiate a housing allowance with your salary - this is likely to be your biggest expense. India is an enormous country of course, and prices vary hugely depending on location. For detailed information, take a look at the city you are interested in on the figure-crunching website Numbeo.

Setting Up Your Finances

Most Indian banks offer a “non-resident” account for expats who work in India. Many international banks also have a presence in India, including HSBC, Citibank and Royal Bank of Scotland, so it is worth enquiring with your U.S. bank about their international banking options.

Once you have a financial presence in India, register with TransferWise in order to transfer money between your U.S. and Indian accounts. You can send money securely between countries and save on what your bank will charge.

Finding And Getting Work

With a sixth of the world’s population, one of the world’s largest economies, and an increasingly educated population, competition for decent employment in India is fierce. Indian companies are keen to employ and retain foreign employees however. English is the business lingua franca, which - along with the historic relationship between India and the UK - gives English speakers some advantage.

India’s huge economic growth in the last decade means there are opportunities in pretty much every sector and industry, but engineering, science, mining and technology are particular growth areas. Finance, media, telecommunications are also growing fast. Personal networks are important, and a lot of vacancies are filled through referral and word of mouth. Relationship building in your particular area should be a matter of priority on arrival - find out how to access your professional networks and relevant expat forums and get involved.

Finding Somewhere To Live

Good quality accommodation at a reasonable price is at a premium in the more popular areas, so be prepared to face competition when looking to rent. A better option is to try and negotiate your contract so that your employer helps with accommodation. If this isn’t an option, then engage the services of a bilingual (English/Hindi) rental agent. Make sure you insist on all the paperwork being fully above board - you will need it for administrative purposes, and many landlords prefer a more “informal” arrangement.

Education And Schools

Expat children normally attend one of India’s many international schools, but competition for places at the most popular ones can be stiff. Fees can be up to £17,000 in A-Level years - but this is very much the top end of the scale. A list of some of the most highly-rated ones can be found here.

Healthcare

Indian medical staff are generally well-trained and speak English - however those within the public healthcare system are often working with old equipment in understaffed and overcrowded hospitals. Most expats prefer to take out comprehensive private health insurance, giving them access to hospitals that are more on a par with those in Europe.

Other Useful Resources For Expats In India

Before moving abroad, take a look at our handy time-sensitive checklist to remind yourself of everything you need to do to get organised.

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