How to Obtain Permanent Residence in India

How to Obtain Permanent Residence in India

India maintains one of the most stringent immigration policies globally. Lacking specialised immigrant programs, the nation's general approach is less hospitable due to existing overpopulation concerns. With a populace of 1.4 billion and an upward trend, India actively manages its population dynamics. While India deeply values tourism for its economic contributions, measures are taken to deter extended stays among visitors, as the nation prioritises controlling long-term residency. 

Obtaining a residence permit in India is possible for purposes such as studying, working, marriage, or investment. However, these permits typically hold validity for a mere six to 12 months. The path to acquiring such a permit is already challenging, and navigating the intricate labyrinth of Indian bureaucracy makes it even more formidable. Foreign nationals find themselves under consistent monitoring, largely driven by the persistent threat of terrorism. The process is further complicated by an overwhelming requirement of documents and hindered by the sluggishness and occasional incompetence of local administrative personnel.

Continue reading to discover the essential steps required to secure permanent residence in India.

How to Become a Permanent Resident in India 

India exclusively permits individuals of Indian descent to apply for citizenship. Being married to an Indian citizen does not grant eligibility for either Indian citizenship or permanent residence. Instead, the option available is obtaining a temporary residence permit, necessitating regular extensions. 

In reality, there exist no established official procedures for foreign nationals of non-Indian descent to acquire Indian citizenship or permanent residence. India bestows citizenship in exceptional circumstances, subject to meticulous individual evaluations. The sole avenue for a foreigner to attain permanent residency in India is through investment-based pathways. 

Buddha Park, Ravangla, Sikkim, India. Photo: Pulak Bhagawati (Unsplash)

In essence, there exists an alternative pathway to attaining Indian citizenship, albeit one demanding an extension of your temporary residence for a span of 12 years. This process is notably complicated, as Indian residence permits are typically extended for a maximum of five years. Yet, upon successfully maintaining legal residence in India for 12 years, you become eligible to apply for Indian citizenship through naturalisation. Furthermore, it's important to note that you must remain within India during the last 12 months preceding your application for naturalisation. Additionally, a cumulative residency of 11 years within India within the 14 years leading up to the application is required to meet the eligibility criteria. 

Moreover, these are not the sole challenges. You will also need to successfully complete an integration examination assessing your understanding of Indian history, as well as an official language proficiency test. Demonstrating your integration within the society, adherence to laws and ethical standards, having a place of residence, and a sustainable source of income to sustain your way of life are also requisites. Lastly, embracing Indian citizenship would entail renouncing your original citizenship.

Pros and Cons of an Indian Permanent Visa 

Hence, the exclusive route to secure a permanent residence permit in India revolves around substantial investments in the nation's economy. Continue reading to explore the stipulated criteria for investors. It's important to note, however, that despite the label of "permanent," the obtained residence permit is initially granted for 10 years, with the option to extend it for an additional 10 years.  

However, possessing the permit doesn't equate to escaping the grasp of Indian bureaucracy for a decade. Indian permanent residents are obligated to annually furnish an extensive array of requisite documents to pertinent state authorities.  

Permanent Residency Status (PRS) gives you a great number of advantages in India.

  • PRS functions as a multiple-entry visa devoid of any constraints on the duration of stay. Holders of PRS are exempt from mandatory registration with the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) or the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO). 
  • PRS recipients are permitted to acquire one residential property in India, a privilege denied to non-PRS individuals.
  • Foreigners with the PRS can buy one residential property in India, while non-PRS holders cannot own properties in India.
  • In the private sector, spouses and dependents of PRS holders may seek employment, subject to authorization from FRRO/FRO. Unlike foreign nationals employed under a work visa, those possessing Permanent Residence Status can earn beyond 1,625,000 rupees ($19,500) annually.
  • Family members of PRS holders can pursue studies in India sans the requirement for a student visa or FRRO/FRO permit. However, they must duly notify the FRO regarding their enrollment plans, alongside submitting comprehensive course details and duration. Simultaneously, educational institutions must inform the FRRO/FRO about all PRS-enrolled students on their premises.

Kolkata. Photo: Apurba Nag (Unsplash)

The Foreigners Registration Offices (FRO) is a governmental entity in India tasked with documenting incoming foreign nationals and overseeing their movements throughout the nation. The primary objective of the FRO is to safeguard the well-being of foreign visitors and ensure their adherence to visa regulations.

All foreign nationals must register at the FRO. All foreigners with a long-term visa for over 180 days must contact the Registration Office within 14 days upon arrival. Pakistani citizens must register at the FRO within 24 hours after arrival regardless of the length of their stay in India.

The Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) have been established to facilitate the registration in other parts of India. You can find the FRRO in Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Amritsar, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. If there are no Foreigners Regional Registration Offices where you live, just register with the local superintendent of police.

Who Can Obtain PRS for Investment in India

Permanent Residence Status is granted to foreign investors who meet the requirements listed below. 

  • Invest in a newly-launched or pre-existing enterprise through the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) program. 
  • The amount of investment must amount to a minimum of 100 million rupees ($1.2 million) within 18 months, or 250 million rupees ($3 million) within 36 months. 
  • These investments should generate a minimum of 20 employment opportunities for local Indian citizens annually. This compliance will be rigorously verified by a corporate auditor from the Indian investee company, facilitated through self-certification.
  • PRS is exclusively extended to foreign investors, along with their spouses and dependents, who fulfil the aforementioned prerequisites. Co-founders, directors, or senior executives of a foreign firm investing in an Indian entity are ineligible for PRS, and they are required to acquire a work visa for their engagements in India. 
  • Additionally, Pakistani citizens or individuals of Pakistani origin are not eligible for PRS in India, owing to the various restrictions and security regulations periodically enacted by the Indian government concerning citizens of other foreign nations. 

Indian authorities strongly emphasise that the conferment of PRS to investors is not obligatory, even if all prerequisites are met. Each application is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

New Delhi, Delhi. Photo: Akshay syal (Unsplash)

Obtaining PRS: Required Documents and How to Apply 

If you are prepared to invest in the Indian economy to secure the PRS, exercise patience. Initially, you will be issued a business visa lasting 18 to 36 months, contingent upon the scale of your intended investment. This falls under the B-1 category, commonly referred to as the investor visa. It does not impose any stay limitations and obviates the need for registration with the FRRO/FRO. Spouses and dependents of the investor are eligible for the B-1X visa under the same terms. Once you have successfully met all stipulated criteria pertaining to investment amounts and the creation of jobs for local residents, both you and your family can proceed to apply for PRS online through the FRRO/FRO websites.  

Here is the list of documents you must submit: 

  • Copies of your ID and visa. 
  • A recent photo.
  • Proof of residence.
  • Copies of the FC-GPR form, which is the Annual Return on Foreign Liabilities and Assets submitted to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by the Indian company receiving Foreign Direct Investment.
  • A copy of the confirmation letter issued by the RBI.
  • A copy of the Income Tax Return submitted to the Income Tax Department to fulfil the conditions for obtaining the PRS.

Subsequently, you will need to obtain a preliminary permission for the issuance of the PRS from the Ministry of Home Affairs of India. Additionally, you will be required to undergo a security check. 

Once all the aforementioned steps are completed, it is necessary to reach out to an Indian embassy or consulate if you are applying for the PRS from outside of India. Alternatively, if you are already within India, you should contact the nearest FRRO/FRO to authenticate the submitted copies against the original documents. Additionally, the provision of biometric data is required.

The PRS visa is valid for 10 years and gives you the right to enter the country multiple times. If you meet certain conditions during these 10 years, you will be able to extend it for another 10 years. It's important to note that PRS holders are exempt from the requirement of registering with the FRRO/FRO.

Goa. Photo: alexey turenkov (Unsplash)

Requirements for Annual PRS Confirmation

To retain your Permanent Resident Status (PRS) in India, it is essential to annually submit the subsequent documents to the FRRO/FRO:

  • A copy of the FC-GPR form.
  • A confirmation letter from the Reserve Bank of India confirming receipt of the FC-GPR form.
  • The Income Tax Return demonstrating fulfilment of all investor-related conditions.
  • Comprehensive details outlining the establishment of new employment opportunities for Indian citizens, supported by a self-certification assessment conducted by an auditor from the Indian investee company.

If you are residing in a hotel, the owner of the establishment is required to submit Form C to the FRRO/FRO. It is important to promptly notify the FRRO/FRO regarding any changes in your address or passport details, ensuring that your information is kept current and up-to-date.

Revocation of Permanent Residency Status (PRS)

The FRRO/FRO can recommend the Ministry of Home Affairs to revoke your PRS if you were subject to any of the situations listed below: 

  • Failure to comply with the conditions of investment and job creation. 
  • Identification by the Reserve Bank of India or other relevant entities as a wilful defaulter.
  • Being legally declared of unsound mind by a court. 
  • You are an undischarged insolvent. 
  • Conviction for a criminal offence or violation of moral standards. 
  • Existence of other reasons, as determined by Indian authorities, that deem your continued stay in India as undesirable. In such cases, the Ministry of Home Affairs is obligated to provide clear and objective reasons for their decision to revoke your PRS.

Upon the revocation of your PRS, you and your family must leave India within three months from the signed date. 

If you possess a residential property in India, you are required to divest yourself of it "within a reasonable time, but no later than 12 months" following the revocation of your PRS, in accordance with Indian law.

Delhi. Photo: Sergio Capuzzimati (Unsplash)

In a Nutshell

Acquiring permanent residence in India is highly challenging. In practice, only substantial investors meet the criteria for obtaining Permanent Residence Status, necessitating an investment of no less than $1.2 million into the Indian economy. Moreover, the PRS remains valid for a limited duration of 10 years, requiring annual confirmation to maintain its status.

Cover photo: Laurentiu Morariu (Unsplash)

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