A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to India
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- Jonathan Brown
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Relocating to India
At a Glance:
- India is a vast country with a huge diversity of cultures and languages as well as the second largest population worldwide.
- Expats should make sure that they are protected by vaccinations against diseases, like dengue fever, that are relatively common in India.
- There are many types of visa for India and they can all be applied for online, though you will need to visit an Indian embassy, consulate, or mission to hand in paperwork.
Playing an important role in global trade throughout the centuries, India has a long cultural and commercial history. It is therefore no surprise that this country still exudes an air of fascination that tempts many foreigners to relocate to India.
The People and Their Many Languages
With over 1.3 billion people and comprising 17% of the world’s population, India is the second-most populous country in the world, following only China. India is a union consisting of 29 federal states and seven union territories; operating as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government, according to the 1949 Indian Constitution.
India has thousands of languages, including 18 national ones, but Hindi is the only official language. Expats-to-be should not be deterred by their lack of Hindi skills, though: English, the subsidiary official language, is widely spoken, especially among the educated urban population. It is not only used in business, hospitals, etc., but English is widely used in government, higher education, as well as the media, and has 35 million speakers across India.
India’s Unique Mix of Climates
The climate you need to prepare for depends on the part of the country you are planning to live in. While the very north of the country and some mountainous regions in the northeast have a mostly dry alpine climate, people in other northern parts will mostly find themselves in subtropical humid climes.
Expatriates moving to India’s southern half can expect a hot tropical climate, with heavy monsoons from the southwest during June and July. In most of the country, the summer is extremely hot, with heavy rainfall during the southwest monsoon season (June – September) causing heavy flooding. The northeast monsoon is short but intense, and falls around November and December.
Health Risks in India: Are All Your Shots Up To Date?
Expats should consult their embassy in India for health and safety advice when in India. If you are still planning your move, seek advice from the Indian mission in your home country. While most foreigners encounter no major problems, you should plan your move well. Terrorist warnings are issued on a regular basis, and people moving to India should be aware of that risk.
Most governments advise against moving to India’s states bordering on Pakistan, especially Jammu and Kashmir where terrorist attacks are frequent, as well as the northeastern regions, for instance, Manipur. Tourists and expats are also asked to keep security considerations in mind when visiting public events or places which attract large international crowds.
If you require emergency medical assistance when in India, dial 112. Common health risks include: dengue fever, chikungunya (a mosquito-borne tropical fever), malaria, Japanese encephalitis, diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever, rabies, and influenza (mainly during monsoon season), as well as hepatitis type A and B. Good precautions against mosquito bites are highly recommended when you move to India.
Standard vaccinations such as DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus), polio, and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) should be redone before moving to India. You should also get immunizations for influenza, pneumococci, typhoid, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, meningitis, and both types of hepatitis. Although there is no risk of yellow fever in India, the country requires proof of a vaccination if you are arriving within six days of departure from an area with yellow fever transmission risk. If you are unsure which vaccinations or preventative medication you need, please consult your family doctor before your departure.
Taxis: The Preferred Mode of Transportation
India’s transportation networks might be challenging at first, since infrastructure across most of the country is poor. Roads in urban areas are constantly congested, and driving is chaotic at best. Don’t expect regular public transportation or good connections to hospitals or other facilities in smaller towns or rural areas. While all major Indian cities have some form of public transportation — mainly rickshaws and crowded buses — foreigners often prefer taxis as a means of transportation.
However, traveling by taxi requires a certain degree of local know-how as fares are often haggled over rather than charged according to a taxi meter. It is also likely that if you speak in English and with a particularly strong foreign accent, some taxi drivers may try to charge you a higher fare. Newcomers moving to India should therefore get advice on taxi fares before traveling, or calculate a rough taxi fare in advance, for example at Taxi Autofare.
Riding the Indian Railway
The romantic image Indian trains may conjure up among some visitors harks back to India’s colonial past. A number of tour operators cash in on this “nostalgia tourism” by offering luxury train journey packages.
Traveling on a regular Indian train can also be an exciting and pleasant experience. People who attach greater importance to the latter should make sure they plan their journey well and book a seat in the first-class compartment. It is more comfortable and less crowded than other cars.
Expats wishing to travel India by train should be prepared for frequent and severe delays — according to Indian Railways, a delay of up to 15 minutes is to be considered on time. As well as poor infrastructure, this is partly due to the sheer amount of traffic on the railways: 30 million people use Indian Railways each day, more than the entire population of Sri Lanka.
Indian Railways is a government-run enterprise responsible for the complete rail network in the whole country. Information regarding timetables, routes, tickets and reservations can be obtained on the Indian Railways website or at individual stations.
Popular Destinations and Visas for India
Hotspots for Expats in India
Many of India’s metropolises are among the most populous and fastest-growing cities in the world.
New Delhi, the national capital, is an exception among Indian cities. Unlike many others, it is a relatively new, planned city, which was built intentionally to serve as a capital for the former British Indian Empire. Its foundations were laid in 1911 in an area which had been the site of several ancient Indian cities.
Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka and the third most populous city in India, is a fast-growing metropolis in the southwest of India. It is sometimes referred to as the “Silicon Valley of India”, due to its leading role in the IT sector. Bangalore is also home to many renowned research institutions and aerospace companies.
Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, served as the national capital until New Delhi took over. It is still considered the cultural capital of India. After a period of economic stagnation in the wake of India’s independence, Kolkata once again enjoys an economically vibrant climate.
Last but not least, you have Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, the capital of Maharashtra and the richest and most populous city in India. Its deep natural harbor holds India’s most important maritime trading post and contributes to making Mumbai the commercial capital of India.
As the home of the Bollywood film industry, Mumbai is India’s undisputed entertainment capital. It is perceived as a city of opportunities, attracting numerous Indian migrants from other parts of the country. Foreign businesses, companies, and investors also flock to Mumbai.
How to Get a Visa for India
In any case, the Indian Government provides a comprehensive online portal where you can apply for a visa, regardless of which country you are in, and make an appointment for an interview and to hand in your documents at the closest Indian Embassy, Consulate, or Mission near you.
In addition to the more specific requirements outlined below, you must bring a passport valid for a minimum of 180 days, two recent passport-size photographs, and a completed application form, which can be downloaded from every Indian embassy’s website or the Indian Government’s Online Visa Application Portal.
There are a number of visa categories for India. In addition to tourist, student, entry, transit, and medical visas (the latter aimed at medical tourists), there are several types of visas meeting expats’ different profiles. The Consular, Passport and Visa Division of the Government of India provides a list of the many visa types and their requirements.
Depending on your visa type and the length of your stay, you may also have to register locally, usually within 14 days of arrival. Your specific visa will dictate whether, and in what time period, you need to visit the Foreigners Regional Registration Office when you arrive in India. We cover registration with the local authorities in our separate guides to Bangalore, Chennai, New Delhi, and Mumbai.
Visa Categories: For Business or for Pleasure?
- A business visa is aimed at industrial or business entrepreneurs who are involved in commercial activities or would like to explore or set up a new venture. The visa application must be supported by proof of the applicant’s financial standing and business expertise, as well as a letter from the applicant’s company. This should state the specific intention and duration of the visit. Full-time employment may not be undertaken on a business visa.
- Foreigners wishing to take up employment in India should apply for an employment visa. This visa also applies to those planning to do volunteer work for an Indian NGO. It is granted for an initial period of one year, but can be renewed at your respective FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office). Be sure to include proof of employment as well as professional and academic qualifications.
- A project visa is limited to foreigners working on projects in the power and steel industry.
- Diplomatic/Official visas should be acquired by those assigned to their country’s Indian mission or by diplomatic/official/UN passport holders working in the UN or other international organizations in India.
- Professional journalists and photographers may apply for a journalist visa for up to six months. Before taking up an assignment, they must register with the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India. Journalists traveling to India for private reasons must also file an application for a journalist visa, accompanied by a statement confirming the non-media related purpose of their visit, such as travel writing or photography.
- A conference visa is granted to attendees of official conferences, seminars, or workshops organized either by a government or public agency, or by a recognized educational institution upon production of their invitation. Keep in mind that for most conferences, approval of the relevant government authority is required.
- An application for a research visa must be accompanied by a research proposal, proof of financial resources, and a letter of admission from a recognized university. This visa is valid for a maximum period of three years or the established research period.
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