Offering a low cost of living, a vibrant and rich national culture, and a lifestyle that’s second to none, India has emerged as a low-cost retirement destination for foreign nationals in recent years. Thanks to the country’s economic development and close ties to the Western world, many Western retirees are looking at India as a serious option for their retirements.
While India may be best known for its crowded cities and dense urban areas, the country’s immense rural regions and beautiful beaches have drawn the attention of many retirees seeking a break from their home country’s lifestyle. Unfortunately, however, visa options for foreign retirees in India are restrictive and quite limited.
Does India Offer A Retirement Visa Program For Foreign Retirees?
Unfortunately, India does not currently offer a retirement visa program for foreign expatriates looking to spend their twilight years in India. Perhaps due to the limited demand for Indian retirements, particularly when compared to nations in Southeast Asia, the Indian government has not yet explored the possibility of a retirement visa.
While India lacks a retirement visa program, it offers several other visas for short-term tourists and foreign investors looking to develop their interests in India. Both of these visas can be used to reside in the country as a semi-retired expatriate, with both requiring a slightly different strategy for visa renewals and approval.
What Other Visas Does India Offer For Expatriates And Retirees?
India’s two primary visas for visitors are the tourist visa and business visa. Tourist visas are granted to foreigner that would like to travel in India for a period of up to six months. Tourist visas are granted either before visiting India – typically at one of India’s foreign consulates – or upon arrival to India.
Note that India offers tourist visas of a variety of lengths, with some as short as one month and others extending to six months. Tourist visas are either single or double entry – the former allowing just one entry into India within its period of validity, and the other valid for its standard term multiplied by two entries into India.
Unlike Thailand and Malaysia, both of which grant back-to-back tourist visas with no issues, India has a two-month gap requirement for all tourists seeking to return to the country. This means that foreigners residing in India using a tourist visa will need to spend at least two months outside the country before re-applying.
India’s business visa system is fairly straightforward, particularly for citizens of the major Western countries with significant economic ties to India. Business visas are available for periods of one year. In special cases, Indian embassies and consulates may issue special business visas valid for five years, or even ten years.
India’s economy is relatively open and welcomes foreign investment, and for those retirees willing to work in at least a part-time capacity, a business visa may be the best way to reside in India for the long term. The business visa requires a close link with a company in India – a requirement that’s outlined in greater detail shortly.
Finally, India offers a special long-term entry visa for people of Indian origin that are living abroad. This visa allows non-Indian citizens to live in the country for up to five years at a time without having to re-apply for Indian citizenship. Note that this visa is only available to those that were former Indian citizens but lost their citizenship.
How And Where Can Retirees Apply For Indian Tourist And Business Visas?
Indian tourist visas can be applied for at two locations – either at the international port that you arrive at in India, or at one of the many Indian foreign consulates or embassies abroad. Visas granted upon arrival in India are only valid for thirty days, and as such are not ideal for retirees seeking a long-term stay in India.
The requirements for an Indian tourist visa are fairly simple. Applicants need to provide a passport with at least six months of remaining validity, as well as two passport-sized color photographs. Note that travel to some restricted areas will require an additional Restricted Area Permit, which also must be applied for.
Indian business visas are somewhat more complicated to apply for, requiring all of the standard tourist visa requirements, as well as a formal letter of invitation from a sponsor company within India. This letter must outline the terms of your planned investment in an Indian business, as well as your intended length of stay in India.
If you are working in India on behalf of a company based in your home country, you must also provide a letter of invitation to India from your domestic employer. For all retirees with their own enterprise at home that wish to use it as a platform to live in India, a simple letter wish a basic business plan will usually suffice.
As one of the world’s most populous countries with a large portion of its citizens working internationally, India has a large diplomatic presence around the world. Indian tourist and business visas can be applied for at any one of India’s embassies – a complete list of which can be found at this website.
Despite its somewhat restrictive immigration policies and its lack of a retirement class visa for foreign expatriates, India is a rewarding country to retire to for those that are willing to ‘jump through its administrative hoops.’ Offering some of the world’s best scenic locations, as well as a relaxed and rewarding lifestyle, India is rapidly growing into one of Asia’s top locations for expatriates.