As an Expat in India

I actually don’t like the term “expat” — for me it brings up pictures of people staying in an overpaid enclave far removed from the country they are living in. But of course this is mainly a stereotype. And in the end I am currently an expat myself, living in India as a foreigner, a German national. (Although I do stay right in the middle of the neighborhood my NGO is working in). And I assume I am not the only one struggling with some of the administrative burdens here in India, so I want to share my experiences:

Visa

The necessary visa depends heavily on your exact engagement in India. Most likely it will be an Employment Visa (even if you are not paid in India) or a Business Visa.

While I was able to apply for a 2 year visa duration from Germany (paying higher fees for it), I nevertheless ended up receiving only a 6-months visa. It seems advisable to only apply for a 1 year visa and then — if necessary — apply for an extension from within India, which is possible.

FRRO Registration

Make sure to go for registration with the local FRRO well before the end of the 2 week limit, there may be delays or additional documents needed. If the registration is done late, you have to pay a significant fine.

Before personally showing up at the office, you’ll have to fill the online form:
https://indianfrro.gov.in/frro/

And if you don’t have a rental contract in your name, your landlord will have to register and print a “Form C” for you as “residence proof”:
https://indianfrro.gov.in/frro/FormC

SIM Card

It’s possible to get a SIM card in your name at the local outlets of the mobile phone networks (and rates are really cheap). However, the number is linked with your visa and will be deactivated after the visa expires.

Depending on how strict the store is, you may need a local reference — an Indian who is coming with you to the store and provides his address as additional reference for the SIM registration. I got away with just showing my copy of the FRRO Registration however.

Bank Account

Many apps and online shops do not accept international credit cards and at least to pay taxes in India you will need a local Indian bank account. Unfortunately, due to tight government regulations it can get rather difficult to open one as a foreigner.

HDFC after months of trials and requests was unable to provide an account to me as a foreigner. In the end I had a rather good experience with Axis Bank, where I was finally able to open a “Priority Foreign National” account, which comes under the NRI section as far as I understand.

Before opening an account you’ll have to apply for a PAN card (see “Taxes” below).

Taxes

Living in India for more than 180 days/year you have to pay taxes on the income earned in the country, i.e. your salary. Other income earned in your home country (e.g. interest on financial investments) has to be taxed there only. Note that the Indian financial year is from 1st April until 31st March.

First of all, you have to apply for a PAN card (PAN = Permanent Account Number), the unique identification with the Indian tax authorities. It might be worth using the services of an expert to get this done for you.

Regarding actual tax payments I will add more information here once I have my own experiences.

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