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Category Archives: Indian Regulatory Updates

July 24, 2023

“Indian Investors Welcome to Invest Abroad at Their Own Risk

Government Shows No Intention to SafeguardsIndian Investors”

In light of the changing demands of businesses in India within an increasingly interconnected global market, it is essential for Indian corporations and citizens to participate in the global value chain.

The revised regulatory framework for overseas investment aims to simplify the existing framework and align it with current business and economic dynamics. This introduction of “Overseas Direct Investment” and “Overseas Portfolio Investment” under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) has shifted various overseas investment transactions from the approval route to the automatic route, significantly improving the ease of doing business.

However, these regulations, rules, and past provisions have failed to adequately protect Indian investors and consumers by regulating foreign professionals and businesses who wish to attract Indian investors.

Since 2007, Indian companies and citizens have been engaging in outbound investment, with last year’s Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data indicating significant investments and remittances by Indian citizens of US$ 27 Billion and over $4 billion in investments per month by Indian corporations outside of India.

Given the size of the Indian market, it has attracted a large number of foreign professionals and companies who regularly visit or establish offices in India without any restrictions or regulatory licensing requirements.

“Disparity in Professional Licensing Regulations: Foreign Professionals Operate Without Restrictions in India, while Indian Professionals Face Stringent Regulation”

Let’s examine some real examples of the absence of licensing requirements for foreign professionals and companies aiming to attract Indian investors:

  1. Foreign Financial Advisors and Brokers:

According to RBI data from the previous year (2022-23), Indian citizens invested US $1155.44 million in foreign equity and debt products. Over the past 5-7 years, numerous foreign brokers and financial advisors have either visited India to attract Indian investors or established offices in India without any regulatory or licensing requirements from SEBI, RBI, or any state or central government agency.

Foreign professionals’ approach is straightforward: they find Indian citizens who will market their services in India, and these individuals are asked to register a company and rent an office in a business canter to initiate their operations in India.

Conversely, Indian citizens wishing to practice as financial advisors or professionals or MFDs need to obtain a license from SEBI as one of the licensed intermediaries. Recently, SEBI has taken strict action against many Indian citizens providing financial advice through social media platforms.

However, SEBI and RBI have completely disregarded foreign financial advisors, brokers, and companies that open offices or visit India regularly to attract Indian investors. If these foreign financial advisors and companies engage in fraud or misrepresentation with Indian investors, there are no remedies available to the Indian investors.

      2.Foreign Real Estate Developers and Brokers:

RBI data on foreign remittances for the years 2022-23 reveals that Indian citizens invested US $171.81 million in foreign real estate.

A considerable number of foreign real estate developers and brokers frequently visit India and open offices to market foreign real estate projects and properties in the country. When these developers visit India, no questions are asked about their marketing activities, and their projects are often endorsed by Indian celebrities. Many developers from neighboring countries have already established offices in India, with more on the way.

However, if you are an Indian real estate developer or broker, you are subject to the Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA), and your projects must be approved by the respective state’s RERA authority. Even Indian real estate brokers must register with RERA.

It is puzzling why there is a double standard when it comes to marketing foreign real estate projects to Indian investors or consumers. Are we presuming that all foreign projects are safe and require no regulation, or are we waiting for another significant scandal to occur?

Foreign real estate developers either visit India or open offices with the help of Indian citizens who register companies with the Registrar of Companies (ROC) in the respective states in India. The ROC does not question the nature of their business, allowing these companies to enter the Indian market without any restrictions.

Many foreign companies genuinely interested in attracting Indian investors are surprised to discover that they can enter the Indian market without requiring any government approval. They can conduct seminars in five-star hotels and directly engage with Indian consumers.

         3. Foreign Lawyers Operating in India

Although the Indian Advocates Act of 1961 clearly states that only Indian lawyers licensed with the State Bar Council can provide legal services in India, some foreign lawyers have found a way to circumvent this restriction. They register a company in India with the Registrar of Companies (ROC) and enter the Indian market without any regulatory requirements. The Bar Council of India (BCI) and state bar councils have also failed to regulate or take action against these foreign lawyers operating in India in spite of the Supre Court judgment in this matter. 

It is also worth noting that some foreign governments have issued licenses to practice specific areas of foreign law to Indian citizens who are not Indian lawyers or advocates. This is also a violation of the above law and no action from the respective government agency.

Additionally, many foreign-regulated legal consultants visit India or open offices in the country, even though they are not Indian lawyers or advocates. These foreign legal professionals boast about being licensed in their respective countries.

However, the question remains: if Indian consumers are defrauded by these foreign-regulated legal consultants or foreign lawyers, what remedies do they have other than filing a First Information Report (FIR) or making a police complaint?

         4. Foreign Education Institutes Recruiting Indian Students:

In India, starting an educational institute at the school or post-secondary level requires complying with regulatory requirements to protect Indian students and their families from becoming victims of fraud and ensure they receive a quality education at a reasonable cost.

However, if you are a foreign educational institute, you can come to India, market your institute, associate with student visa agents or consultants, and start recruiting Indian students without facing any restrictions or requirements. There is a lack of regulations and reduced requirements for foreign education institutes and Indian education and visa consultants.

Many of us may remember the foreign recruitment fraud in the early 1970s and 1980s from several neighboring countries. This compelled the Indian government to regulate foreign recruiters in India by implementing the Emigration Act of 1983.

Considering the numerous instances of foreign education-related fraud in 2017 and 2018, the Minister of External Affairs at that time introduced the Emigration Bill 2019 to regulate foreign education institutes and Indian student visa consultants. However, due to COVID-19, this bill could not be implemented, and a revised Emigration Bill 2021 was enacted, which removed provisions to regulate foreign education institutes and Indian immigration and student visa consultants.

In response to a question posed by a Member of Parliament in the Indian parliament, the respective ministry stated that they receive two complaints per day regarding foreign education and visa fraud. Despite the abundance of such stories in both online and offline media, the authorities concerned have chosen not to take action to protect Indian consumers and citizens.

In conclusion, according to RBI data for the years 2022-23, the total foreign remittance and investment in the aforementioned categories amount to US $27 billion (approximately Rs. 221,859 crores). However, there is no regulatory framework in place to regulate foreign professionals and businesses aiming to attract Indian investors, leaving Indian consumers without adequate protection.

About the Author:

The author of this article/blog is Prashant Ajmera, an Indian immigration lawyer and the founder of Ajmera Capital. He has been a Canadian citizen for the past 30 years and is also the author of two books: “Millionaire of the Move” and “How to Plan for Your Child’s Foreign Education: Myth vs. Reality”. He has been assisting and advising parents o the subject of Financial Planning for Foreign Education.  Consult us

June 1, 2023

Recent data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) shows that Indian high-net-worth individuals (HNIs) remitted a total of US$27 billion out of India in the financial year 2022-23. This is a significant increase from the previous year’s figure of US$19.5 billion.

The RBI data shows that the majority of this remittance was used for foreign travel (US$13.5 billion), followed by education (US$10 billion) and gifts to relatives (US$3 billion). Only a small portion of the remittance (US$2 billion) was invested in foreign assets, such as equity, debt, and real estate.

This data raises the question of whether Indian HNIs are managing their wealth properly. On the one hand, the high level of remittance suggests that Indian HNIs are confident in the Indian economy and are willing to spend their money on foreign goods and services. On the other hand, the low level of investment in foreign assets suggests that Indian HNIs are not taking advantage of the opportunities available in global markets.

There are a number of possible explanations for this discrepancy. One possibility is that Indian HNIs are simply not aware of the investment opportunities available outside of India. Another possibility is that they are concerned about the risks associated with investing in foreign markets. Finally, it is also possible that they are simply not comfortable with the idea of investing their money outside of India.

Whatever the reason, the RBI data suggests that Indian HNIs have a significant opportunity to improve their wealth management. By investing in foreign assets, they can diversify their portfolios and protect their wealth from the risks associated with a single currency. They can also take advantage of the higher growth rates and lower taxes that are often available in foreign markets.

The RBI data is a wake-up call for Indian HNIs. It is time for them to start thinking about their wealth management in a more globalized way. By investing in foreign assets, they can improve their financial security and ensure that their wealth lasts for generations to come.

In addition to the reasons mentioned above, there are a few other factors that may be contributing to the low level of investment by Indian HNIs in foreign assets. These include:

·        Lack of information and resources: Indian HNIs may not have access to the same level of information and resources as their counterparts in developed countries. This can make it difficult for them to identify and evaluate investment opportunities in foreign markets.

·        Regulatory hurdles: The Indian government has put in place a number of regulatory hurdles that make it difficult for Indian HNIs to invest in foreign assets. These hurdles can add to the cost and complexity of investing and can discourage some HNIs from investing altogether.

·        Taxation: Indian HNIs are subject to a number of taxes on their foreign investments. These taxes can erode the returns on their investments and can make it less attractive to invest in foreign assets.

The RBI data highlights the need for the Indian government to take steps to make it easier for Indian HNIs to invest in foreign assets. This could include providing more information and resources to HNIs, reducing regulatory hurdles, and simplifying the tax regime. By taking these steps, the government can help Indian HNIs to improve their wealth management and protect their wealth from the risks associated with a single currency.

July 12, 2021

Until 2003, immigration consultants and agents were not regulated in Canada. The Canadian immigration department invited a group of immigration agents and consultants to form a self-regulated organization. Most of the leading agents and consultants in this group were former immigration officers. Only a few of them were lawyers.

To judge their English language proficiency, aspiring immigration consultants were required to take the IELTS examination. A six-month training course, followed by a short examination, was also introduced for these consultants. With this process in place, new immigration consultants were granted a license all over Canada.

However, within a couple of years, the initially formed immigration consultants’ association was dissolved and a new association was formed. https://iccrc-crcic.ca/

As per several Canadian media outlets, the presently operational immigration consultants’ association has failed to rein in widespread immigration fraud in Canada, which was the main objective of forming this regulatory organization. There is a possibility that a new licensing body may be launched by the Government of Canada to regulate immigration consultants practicing Canadian immigration and visa law.

If we look closely at the membership list of licensed Canadian agents and consultants, very few of them are former immigration officers. There are also very few members with a legal background having a sound understanding of Canadian immigration law.

After undertaking to take a short six-month study program and examination, anyone can become a licensed Canadian immigration consultant. This is likely to make most immigration consultants average advisors and not experts in every area of immigration law. Hence one needs to be very careful while choosing the right immigration consultant.

Similar is the case in Australia (https://www.mara.gov.au/) and New Zealand (https://www.iaa.govt.nz/) for licensed immigration consultants and agents.

These licensed consultants who have obtained licenses from Canada, Australia or New Zealand operate offices in India or appoint unregulated agents and practice immigration law in India.

This is in violation of the Indian Advocate Act 1961.

As per this Act and the Supreme Court of India’s judgment, only licensed Indian lawyers and advocates can practice law, including foreign law and immigration and visa law, in India.

Presumably, not being aware of this law, the Australia and New Zealand Immigration Consultants’ Associations have issued licenses to Indian citizens (who are not Indian lawyers) to practice their respective country’s immigration and visa law in India, thereby violating the Indian Advocate Act 1961. They are also in contempt of the Supreme Court of India.

This Indian Advocates Act 1961 and the Supreme Court of India’s 2018 judgment, makes one point very clear – that all Indian immigration consultants, who have not licensed lawyers or advocates in India, and who dispense legal advice on immigration and visa matters (visitor visa, student visa, work permit, permanent or business immigration) of any country to the Indian citizens in India are violating the Indian law.

In the event one is defrauded or cheated by an immigration agent or consultant, the person can file a complaint to their respective regulatory authority against the said consultant/agent. One important aspect to consider is whether the fraud was committed in India or in a foreign country and whether any legal action can be taken against the said immigration consultant/agent.

In such a scenario, the only option available to Indian citizens is filing a police complaint, which may not be very effective and may not give desired results.

So before you hire a licensed immigration consultant/agent, be extremely careful. Check their backgrounds thoroughly and obtain references from them before entrusting your hard-earned money and hopes to them.

Read the Supreme Court of India’s judgment here  | Read RBI Notification here

June 3, 2021

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) confirmed on May 31 that banks and other regulated entities cannot cite its 2018 circular on cryptocurrencies because it was set aside by the Supreme Court (SC) in March 2020. The RBI stated that the circular is no longer effective as of the date of the SC ruling and that it cannot be referred to or quoted from.

This clarification follows a series of previous investor communications from banks like HDFC and SBI, which highlighted a 2018 circular to warn investors about the “uncertain regulatory landscape” in this industry. Investors were urged to understand the nature of these transactions and to be mindful of the hazards connected with crypto and virtual currencies.

The circular does, however, include a cautionary warning about banks performing due diligence in cryptocurrency concerns. Banks were told to maintain complying with KYC (Know-Your-Customer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) requirements, among other things.

“We welcome the move from the RBI to clarify the stand around the old circular which was set aside by the honorable Supreme Court. I hope the confusion around the same ends now. We also respect the concern the banks may have around AML (anti-money laundering) policies and discussions around the same will make the industry stronger, and investors and investments safer.” said Sumit Gupta, CEO, and Co-founder, Coin DCX.

Due diligence, on the other hand, is a legal requirement that all financial institutions must fulfill. All of this leads to a bright future for the booming crypto business, which has been hampered by ambiguous government policies and laws.

Despite the country’s ambiguous cryptocurrency landscape, Indians have invested more than $1 billion in the cryptocurrency market, making India one of the top virtual currency trading countries.

Experts believe there is now a chance for substantial industry-government collaboration on crypto-related policies. “This is very positive for the ecosystem and it feels like overall consensus within the government and regulatory bodies are against stifling innovation and growth in the Crypto ecosystem in India,” Sandeep Naliwal, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at Polygon, an Indian blockchain scalability platform, said.

When Mark Cuban of Shark Tank fame invested in Polygon, the company skyrocketed in popularity. Polygon’s native token, Matic, has risen in value from $26 million upon its start in 2019 to moreover $14 billion in recent months.

RBI’s statement to banks on cryptocurrency investments clears their position on whether customers are legally allowed to invest in crypto. Instead of denying service to their customers based on an invalidated circular, it is time banks came on board the crypto investment bandwagon, allow the crypto exchanges to hold accounts with them, and enable customers to make investments via all possible options, including UPI and bank transfers. Cryptocurrencies are the future and we must ensure we stay at the forefront of this technology”, emphasizes Ashish Singhal, CEO, Coinswitch Kuber.

With RBI’s consent and clearance on the trading of cryptocurrency and an increasing number of businesses and individuals embracing cryptocurrencies and the underlying blockchain applications, formal regulation of the sphere is no longer a pipe dream. As the government strives for increased financial inclusion and engagement, it is critical that a suitable environment be created to make this possible.

This article is contributed by Ms. Dishita Sheth, Intern at Ajmera Law Group

March 23, 2021

Indian Supreme Court Prohibits Practice Of Law By Foreign Lawyers/Law Firms In India

(This judgment has a direct effect on foreign immigration lawyers, immigration consulting firm, and  real estate developers who wish to attract Indian HNI for residency and/or citizenship of respective country) 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India recently passed a crucial verdict that foreign lawyers/firms are not entitled to practice law in India either on the litigation or non-litigation side unless they fulfill the requirement of the Advocates Act, 1961, and the Bar Council of India Rules.

This was very high-profile case and global law firms, associations and many foreign entities were involved in this case which went on for 4 years.

This judgment has a far-reaching effect on the immigration industry and in particular Residency and Citizenship by investment practice in India.

As per the judgment foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers do not have an absolute right to practice law in India and they will be governed by the code of conduct applicable to the legal profession in India.

One of the arguments made was that lawyers means who are arguing cases before court, but the Supreme court made it clear that practicing of law includes not only appearance in courts but also giving of opinion, drafting of instruments, participation in conferences involving legal discussion. This regulatory mechanism of India for the conduct of advocates applies to non-litigation work also.

The Advocates Act of India 1961 and the Scheme in Chapter-IV of the Act makes it clear that advocates enrolled with the Bar Council of India “alone” are entitled to “practice law”, except as otherwise provided in any other law.

This means if any person or company or entity in India if is involved in the practice of giving advice of law whether foreign or local law are not entitled to do the same unless they are having license to practice as a lawyer in India and regulated by the Bar Council of India.

In my opinion, immigration agents and consultants in India who are not licensed and regulated and if they are giving legal advice of foreign immigration law are in violation of the Advocates Act of India.

Further observation and clarification made by the supreme court are more crucial.

  • First observation made by the court was, the prohibition not only applicable to any “person in India”, other than advocate enrolled under the Advocates Act, but certainly applies to any “foreigner” also.


  • Visit of any foreign lawyer on fly in and fly out basis may amount to practice of law if it is on regular basis. A casual visit for giving advice may not be covered by the expression ‘practice’. This means if the foreign lawyer is visiting in India on a regular basis to give advice to clients in India is likely to be in violation of the Act and subject to prosecution.


  • The third and final remarks made by court say all “If in pith and substance the amount of the service to practice of law, the provisions of the Advocates Act will apply and foreign law firms or foreign lawyers will not be allowed to do so.”

In view of the above, not only foreign lawyers but Indian or foreign immigration firm and companies,  registering as a company India and establishing the presence in India and if giving and advise on foreign or Indian law inducing immigration law are also in violation of the Advocates Act of India and subject to prosecution.

Based on this judgment, central bank of India including, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) also came out with a special notification

Establishment of Branch Office (BO) / Liaison Office (LO) / Project Office (PO)
or any other place of business in India by foreign law firms” which provided as follows.

  • No fresh permissions/ renewal of permission shall be granted by the Reserve Bank/ Indian banks to any foreign law firm for the opening of the Liaison Office in India.


  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court has while disposing of the case, held that advocates enrolled under the Advocates Act, 1961 “alone” are entitled to practice law in India and that foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law in India.

As such, foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers or any other person resident outside India, are not permitted to establish any branch office, project office, liaison office or another place of business in India for the purpose of practicing the legal profession.


In view this all Banks in India are directed not to grant any approval to any branch office, project office, liaison office or other place of business in India under FEMA for the purpose of practicing legal profession in India.

  • Further, the Indian bank shall bring to the notice of the Reserve Bank in case any such violation of the provisions of the Advocates Act comes to their notice.

The action by the central bank of India is also the first time I have seen and it has a far-reaching effect on residency and citizenship by investment practice in India.

July 22, 2019

Since independence in 1947, the Indian economic era can be divided into three main periods:

  1. 1947 to 1993
  2. 1993 to 2007
  3. 2007 to the present day.

The first period is most accurately described as pre-liberalized – a time when pre-liberalisation of the economic policies was taking place in India.

We may regard the second period as the start of economic liberalization– this is the time when inbound investments in India began in earnest.

The third period, in which we currently find ourselves, is the period of optimum economic liberalization – a time when inbound and outbound investments to and from India are in full swing.

The wave of economic liberalization seen in the past few years has catalyzed growth in the number of HNWIs in India. Wealth generation is at its peak, lifestyles, standards of living, travel, education, weddings, savings, retirement, and many other important aspects of life have changed drastically since 2007.

One metric by which we can measure this is the change in India’s HNWI population during the period:

As the above figures from the Knight Frank Wealth Report indicate, the number of HNWIs in India is growing exponentially. Financial advisors, RCBI-professionals, and others who deal with HNWI clients need to adapt and get with the times.

Before the year 2007, most Indians were aspiring just to own a home. But now, they not only want a house with four walls but are looking for a fully furnished, luxurious home. Some years ago, a two-wheeler Bajaj, Fiat, or Ambassador car was the pride of a family. Now, owning two to three cars and a holiday home or farmhouse outside the city is very common.

This is how I would compare the financial aspirations of an Indian businessperson a decade ago and at present:

Before 2007: 

  • Own a two-wheeler or a car
  • Have a portfolio of investments (in India)
  • Go on holidays (in India)
  • Give their children an education in India and perhaps a Master’s degree in a foreign university
  • Own a second home (in India)
  • Get married (in India)
  • Engage in inbound business (in India)

After 2007:

  • Own a luxurious home
  • Own two cars
  • Have a portfolio of investments abroad
  • Go on international holidays
  • Give their children an education abroad, starting from the graduation of high school in India
  • Own a second home abroad
  • Get married, abroad
  • Engage in outbound business, globally

Today, many HNWIs and upper-middle-class Indians own a second home outside India, their children are studying in foreign universities, and they spend at least one vacation abroad each year, all thanks to the booming economy and the concomitant increased spending power.

Foreign destination weddings are catching on and now the new generation of power couples want to have grand, elaborate weddings in exotic locales. In their golden years, senior citizens dream of retiring outside India or living in foreign countries with their children so as to enjoy a better quality of life.

According to data received from the Reserve Bank of India, over the last six years shows the volume of remittances sent abroad by individual Indians has increased ten-fold.

This is not some haphazard newspaper survey; again, these foreign investment figures come directly from the country’s central bank, which closely monitors capital flows to and from India. It provides unique insight into how Indian HNWIs are spending their money. The overall figure for outbound investment has increased from US$440 million US in 2007-08 to US$13.5 billion in 2017-18. In the last six years alone, we’ve witnessed a ten-fold rise in the spending power of Indian HNWIs.

Note also that a large part of the items “Gifts” and “Maintenance of close relatives” is made up of remittances by parents to their children who are studying abroad, while their tuition payments are covered in “Studies Abroad”.

Looking at the data, it’s apparent that RCBI is quickly becoming part of affluent Indians’ considerations in their foreign investment strategy.  The chance to market investment migration services to more than a billion people is a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The first of those opportunities has already passed us by. Don’t miss out on the second chance, for there will never, ever, be a third.

January 5, 2018


Further liberalization of remittance of investment from India to foreign countries for Immigration purposes; including USA EB-5 investor visa:

Over a period of time, the Foreign Exchange Reserve in India has increased India’s foreign exchange (Forex) reserve to $377.751 billion US, the gold reserve to $20.691 billion, SDRs (Special Drawing Rights with the IMF) to $ 1.512 billion and IMF reserves to $2.291 billion totaling US$ 402.246 billion as of September 22, 2017, as per Forex.

As per one survey, the government of India is aims to have a foreign reserve of $ 750 Billion dollars.

In view of the continued rise of the foreign reserve , RBI ( Central Bank of India) has further liberalized the remittance of foreign currency from India to abroad.

Following are the latest proposals included under the Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS). 
Individual Indian citizens can avail of foreign exchange facilities for the following purposes, granted that they remain within the LRS limit of USD $250,000 on a financial year basis.

  1. Private visits to any country (except Nepal and Bhutan)
  2. Gift or donation
  3. Going abroad for employment
  4. Emigration
  5. Maintenance of close relatives abroad
  6. Travel for business, or attending a conference or specialized training
  7. Meeting medical expenses, or check-ups abroad, or for accompanying as attendant to a patient going abroad for medical treatment/ check-up
  8. Studies abroad
  9. Any other current account transaction is not covered under the definition of the current account in FEMA 1999.

This limit is US$ 250,000 per year per person, therefore a family of 4 can remit a million dollars in each financial year which is from April 1 to March 31 of the following year.
It is important to note that the Government of India has allowed the remittance of the fund for Immigration purposes, which opens the gate in India for all types of Residency and Citizenship programs around the world.

This will also allow the Indian citizen to make an investment in foreign business, real estate or unlisted securities and at the same time obtain residency and citizenship by investment.