The Non-Resident Indian (NRI) status is hugely important from a taxation perspective. Because taxation is an evolving body of rules and regulations the definition of NRI is also prone to changes. Find out whether you qualify as an NRI or not, here.
Please Note – For the purpose of this article, the term “NRI” includes not only those who possess a permanent residence or a passport from a foreign nation, but also those who work on deputation or posting abroad through a long-term corporate visa. A typical example might be top executives of Hindustan Lever, who regularly get recruited in India as fresh, 24-year-old MBAs and spend their lives working for the holding company, Unilever, in various locations around the world.
No, we are not going to regurgitate the plot of “Swades” in this article! But it is much more usual than you think.
MEA statistics tell us that there are 32 million NRIs and PIOs outside India. It is only natural that a small percentage of them choose to move back every year.
This might lead you to scratch your head. These folks worked hard to get placed abroad, and they want to return? They escaped the heat and dust, the chaos, the dirt, and grime for exotic locations such as Dubai and Montreal. Why would they want to come back? It just does not make any sense.
But it is not so black and white. Let us analyze some of the reasons why NRIs want to move back to India.
Top Reasons NRIs Move Back to India
- Expiry of work visa Not all NRIs have a permanent residency visa (popularly known as green card in the U.S.). The Middle Eastern nations—Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman—do not grant citizenship to foreign nationals such as Indians. What they do allow are nearly lifelong work visas.
As long as you are employed by a company in the hundreds of Free Trade Zones or by oil and gas giants, you can enjoy life in the Middle East. But afterward, you have to return. The same also holds true for Indians working in Malaysia and a few other nations around the world.
Many NRIs also enjoy company posting (not necessarily H-1B). They moved into senior management and have spent time in Singapore, Tokyo, Canberra, and ended up in London. But this does not allow them the right to a permanent stay. When they retire, they either have 1-2 months to quickly find alternative employment, or they have to return to India. Technically, they were NRIs, but they had an Indian passport with some type of corporate work visa.
- Retirement NRIs with a permanent residence or citizenship abroad often choose to return because they grow nostalgic in old age. Life abroad, for all its glitz and glamour, is quite lonely.
Most western societies do not possess the type of bonhomie that people enjoy in India. Everything is more sterile and insulated, and that tells as age progresses. After all, there is only so much that a glitzy lifestyle can do for you. Human warmth is something everyone longs for, and that can only be offered by a king-sized Indian family with lots of chachas (uncles) and mausis (aunties).
- Better lifestyle back home If we are talking about an NRI returning home today, it is safe to assume they went abroad by the mid-1990s. India then was vastly different. There were no facilities. It took two years to get a phone connection, and even then, the line was mostly dead. Cars meant the chunky Hindustan Ambassador or Maruti 800 and Esteem.
From high-speed Internet to luxurious condos, nothing is lacking anymore. And with all that convenience, there are also the brand names that are present. Now, you could walk into a showroom in any major city in India and drive a Lamborghini home if you wanted to.
Apart from the fact that Indian cities are falling apart at the seams, there is very little difference between the lifestyles here and abroad.
- Far cheaper What is the main expense of old age? Medical treatment and pharmaceutical costs. These are much cheaper in India than elsewhere.
It costs $1,800 to have cataract surgery in an ordinary clinic in New York. That is ₹133,200. It costs 25% of that to have it done by a top-notch eye surgeon in India.
The same recurs across every sphere of care down to assisted living providers. A loaf of bread can cost $3 (that’s ₹220) in New York but at most 95 cents (₹70) in India, if made with organic wheat.
However, it is to be noted that Indian supermarkets still lack many products taken for granted abroad, including good-quality coffee, cheese, and chocolate. But there is no doubt that in five or so years, there would be no lack.
- Urge to give back This is quite natural among NRIs. They want their homeland to improve and do better. There is a vast scope to improve things back home, and NRIs can help with funds and expertise.
The laws that govern NGOs have relaxed over the years. It is easier to set up a charitable organization and, with social media, rope in volunteers and donors.
Man does not live by bread alone. After achieving financial independence, there is a desire to work for the sake of those who are not so fortunate.
- Social issues abroad Many large parts of the world are in turmoil. There has been a two-decade-long war on terror accompanied by several economic downturns since 2000. Life abroad is not so secure anymore. There is subtle hostility in many parts of the society, not against Indians alone, but between various races and nationalities.
This is an unfortunate turn of events, and one hopes that the atmosphere would return to the caring, sharing 1990s once more. But as of today, it is polarized. At these times, one’s own country of origin seems a safe bet.
Not an easy choice…
However, this is not an easy decision at all.
Also, while they gain the company of their extended family, they often lose touch with their offspring who choose to stay behind in the U.S.
The decision to return home is a life-changing moment that requires a tightrope walk and lots of adjustments, and it has plenty of pros and few cons.
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