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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Mumbai

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Relocating to Mumbai

At a Glance:

  • Mumbai is one of the most modern cities in India, as well as one of the safest.
  • If you’re moving to Mumbai to work, you’ll probably need a business or employment visa to get into the country.
  • Once you move to Mumbai, head to the FRRO to get registered as living in the city.

Moving to Mumbai, you might be about to embark on one of the biggest adventures of your life. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is widely regarded as India’s second capital, which is not surprising considering it is both India’s financial capital and most populous city, home to around 22 million people. Every year, it attracts thousands of migrants from other regions of India and foreign employees from abroad.

Due to India’s rise as a massive global power, Mumbai is popular among expats and businesses. The Indian economic market is interesting, diverse, and ready for new challenges. Lots of multinational companies are attracted to the potential in Mumbai.

Mumbai: Seven Islands Becoming One

When you depart for Mumbai, you can look forward to living in a vibrant and multicultural city. If you have never been to India before, moving to Mumbai might present less of a challenge compared to moving to other Indian cities. Expats can expect one of the highest living standards in India as well as a cosmopolitan atmosphere and a large international community.

The capital of the Maharashtra state lies on India’s west coast. Originally, the place was a combination of seven individual islands. The ultimate goal of merging the seven islands was achieved in around 1840. After this point, the local economy began to experience constant growth. About a decade later, the arrival of the passenger railway not only increased the city’s economic potential, but also brought in never-ending streams of people moving to Mumbai from other parts of the country.

Today, most people move to Mumbai for economic reasons. Despite the initial culture shock that most foreign residents experience, language is the one thing expats moving to Mumbai need not worry about. Among the many languages spoken on the streets, e.g. Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati, English is one of the most common. Within international companies, business networks, higher education, and in medical capacities, English is widely used.

The tropical climate, on the other hand, is often seen as one of the negative aspects of life in Mumbai due to its infamous distinctly wet and dry seasons. Temperatures rarely drop below 20°C and often exceed 30°C. During the Monsoon season from June to September, expatriates moving to Mumbai should be prepared for heavy rainfall, humidity, and potential disruptions to transportation.

Relatively Safe but Expats Are on Constant Alert

Mumbai is considered a comparatively safe place to live in India. During the past two decades, however, it has increasingly become the scene of religious tensions and a target of terrorist attacks. For example, the horrible 2008 attacks left over 170 people dead and 300 victims wounded. In 2011, three coordinated explosions killed another 26 victims and injured 130 others.

While there are no official warnings, foreigners in Mumbai are generally made aware of this potential threat by the Foreign Office of their respective home countries. Expats are advised to stay alert when visiting public places that attract large numbers of people, such as markets, festivals, and sports events, or venues which are frequented by foreigners, such as hotels or embassies.

Please keep in touch with your general consulate in Mumbai for up-to-date safety advice.

Vaccinations: The List Is Endless

As in most tropical climates, common health risks for Mumbai residents include vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, and chikungunya (another tropical fever). Precautions against mosquito bites should always be taken, for example, wearing a strong repellent. Expats planning to stay in Mumbai for an extended period of time might want to consider taking anti-malarial drugs as a precautionary measure.

Additional immunizations for hepatitis (type A and B), typhoid fever, meningitis, pneumococci, and rabies are also recommended. You should refresh all standard vaccinations, such as tetanus, polio, diphtheria, MMR, pertussis, and influenza, too. The existing risk of cholera infections and diarrhea can be avoided by being careful what you eat; stick to fresh rather than frozen food and avoid dairy as much as possible.

Though there is no risk of yellow fever in India, people entering the country from an area with a risk of yellow fever transmission require a vaccination certificate. India has also been identified as having a risk of Zika virus transmission, so pregnant women should seek advice before moving.

Expats planning to move to Mumbai should visit a doctor around six weeks before leaving their home country to ensure they have all the necessary vaccinations. Always take out an insurance policy with an international health insurance provider before moving to Mumbai. Private health insurance is definitely the most secure option for expats moving to India.

Mumbai Expat Info: Visas and Registration

Applying for Visas — Come Prepared

Expats moving to Mumbai to take up employment should experience few difficulties getting a visa, as skilled immigration is generally encouraged by the Indian government. Please consult your local Indian Embassy or Consulate for detailed information on visa categories and the application process.

The following visa categories might be relevant for expats. The application forms can be requested from an Indian diplomatic mission or filled in via the Indian visa online portal. Bring the completed form to your appointment at the embassy or consulate along with your passport, two passport-sized photographs, and supporting documentation.

Which Documents Go with Which Visa Type?

  • A business visa is aimed at foreign entrepreneurs wishing to set up a business or an industrial venture. The application must be supported by a letter from your company explaining the nature of the business and the intention and duration of your stay, together with a signed letter of invitation from an Indian company. Crucially, you may not undertake full-time employment while in Mumbai on a business visa.
  • An employment visa is initially granted for one year, but expats can apply for an extension at their local FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office). This visa is for highly skilled expats sent to India on an assignment or with a job offer from an Indian company, with an annual salary of at least 25,000 USD. Proof of employment is required in the form of a signed work contract, as well as proof of academic and/or professional qualifications. An employment visa can also be granted to foreigners wishing to take up volunteer work with a registered NGO for an initial period of one year.
  • Journalists and professional photographers must always apply for a journalist visa, which is valid for up to three months. If you come to carry out journalistic work, you need a letter from your employer with details of the assignment. You must register with the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India and obtain a PIB card before taking up any media-related work. Journalists on private travel must sign a statement to that effect.
  • If you have an invitation to an official conference, seminar, or workshop, please apply for a conference visa. NGO-sponsored conferences need special approval from the ministry in question.
  • Only workers in the power and steel industries fall into the eligibility category of a project visa.
  • Research professors, scientists, and scholars can obtain a research visa upon submission of a research proposal, a letter of admission from a university, and proof of sufficient funds. The visa is valid for a period of three years or the length indicated in the research proposal, whichever is earlier.
  • Family members of a foreigner employed in India can apply for an entry visa. The documents required in support of the application vary according to the purpose of the visit. If you are the spouse of an expat sent to Mumbai, you need to attach your marriage certificate, birth certificate in the case of children, as well as a copy of your spouse’s employment contract and employment visa.

Getting Registered in Mumbai

As a rule of thumb, all foreigners who intend to stay in India for more than 180 days must register at their nearest Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within 14 days of arrival. The FRRO in Mumbai is located on the third floor of the Mumbai Police Special Branch Building, near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on Badaruddin Tayabji Marg, behind St Xavier’s College (office hours are from 09:30 to 13:00).

Fill out and print several copies of the required online registration form before going to the FRRO. Moreover, you have to schedule your appointment online via the same website. You can normally choose between three different days for your appointment. Print out the confirmation message and take it with you to the FRRO.

As waiting times can be rather long, make sure you bring all the required documents with you as well as the completed registration form and fee:

  • your passport
  • four recent passport-sized photographs
  • several photocopies of the photo, visa, and Indian Immigration entry stamp pages in your passport
  • proof of your residential address in India (the original and several copies)

Other documents may be required depending on your type of visa. Just in case, bring along at least three copies of each of the following supporting documents:

  • your job contract, including salary details (for employment visas)
  • your application for a PAN card (i.e. an Indian tax ID number) (for employment/business visas)
  • a signed letter from your Indian employer or business partner, with their full name, title, position, and contact information (employment/business visas)
  • your admission document/bona fide certificate from an Indian university (student visas)

Take note that for employment and business visas you need to already have applied for a tax ID number before heading to the FRRO office. This is something your company can help you obtain.

Registration Certificates: Your Ticket to Living in India

Every foreigner receives a registration certificate and residential permit, which they must be able to produce if asked to do so by a magistrate or police constable. The registration certificates must be returned to the FRRO when expats leave India for good.

Changes of address, absences from your registered address for more than eight weeks, and requests for visa extensions must also be reported or submitted to the FRRO. If you would like to extend your residence permit, visit the FRRO at least two months before its expiry.

For more information on foreigners’ registration in India check out our guides to other cities in India such as Bangalore, Chennai, and New Delhi.

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  • Jan-Peter van Tijk

    I was searching on the internet for valuable tips on Bombay. Then I found InterNations and was surprised by its quality site.

  • Nellie Collins

    Bombay is definitely different from from the States. InterNations became my international home and my local 'family' of expats in no time.

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