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Category Archives: Residency & Citizenship by Investment and Indian market

August 4, 2021

In its 2018 judgment, the Supreme Court of India made several observations regarding the rights of foreign lawyers or law firms to practice/operate in India.

Here are some observations from the said judgment:

1. Thus, we uphold the view that the practice of law includes litigation as well as non-litigation (Para 39).

2. The prohibition (to practice law in India) applicable to any person in India, other than the advocate enrolled under the Advocates Act, certainly applies to any foreigner also (Para 40).

3. The plea that a foreign lawyer is entitled to practice foreign law in India without subjecting himself to the regulatory mechanism of the Bar Council of India Rules can also be not accepted (Para-41).

4. We uphold the view of the Bombay High Court and Madras High Court in para 63 (i) of the judgment to the effect that foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law in India either in the litigation or in non-litigation side (Para-41).

5. Visit of any foreign lawyer on a fly-in and fly-out basis may amount to practice of law if it is on regular basis (Para-44).

6. If in pith and substance the services amount 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 (Para-46).

In view of the above observations made by the Supreme Court of India in its judgment, Advocate Prashant Ajmera was interviewed by EB-5 Investors Magazine regarding the impact of this judgment on the EB-5 industry and residency and citizenship practice in India.

To read this complete article on EB5 Investor magazine click here

June 17, 2021

The Golden Visa Program of UAE is the latest program to join the Residency by Investment bandwagon. Launched in May 2021, it is welcome news for many wealthy expatriates living in the UAE and outside of it. These expatriates, with plans to secure permanent residency in the United Arab Emirates, have been eagerly waiting for such a program to be introduced by the UAE government.

This program will offer a lot of flexibility, freedom, and security to investors, especially those living in the UAE, who previously had to adhere to very stringent do’s and don’ts when it came to doing business in the UAE.

The Golden Visa Program essentially grants people who fall into the following categories long-term residency (5 to 10 years): Investors, Entrepreneurs, Individuals with exceptional talents such as researchers, Medical Professionals, and those in the scientific and knowledge fields, and exceptional students.

The greatest advantage would most likely be security; by issuing the Golden Visa, the UAE government has demonstrated its commitment to offering expatriates, investors, and virtually anyone wishing to make the UAE their home with an additional reason to feel comfortable about their future.

Eligibility for a 10-year visa:

The following categories are entitled to apply for a 10-year residence visa in the UAE.

1. Investors in public investments of at least AED 10 million

The investment may take many forms such as:

  • A deposit of at least AED 10 million in an investment fund inside the country
  • Establishing a company in the UAE with a capital of not less than AED 10 million
  • Partnering in an existing or a new company with a share value of not less than AED10 million
  • Having a total investment of not less than AED 10 million in all areas mentioned, on condition that the investment in sectors other than real estate is not less than 60 percent of the total investment.

Granting a visa is subject to the following conditions:

  • The amount invested must not be loaned.
  • The investment should be retained for at least three years.
  • There should be financial solvency up to AED 10 million.

Visa can be extended to include business partners, on the condition that each partner contributes AED 10 million.

The long-term visa can include the spouse and children, as well as one executive director and one advisor.

Investors from abroad may apply for a multiple-entry permit for a six-month period.

2. Persons with specialized talents

This includes specialized talents and researchers in the fields of science and knowledge such as doctors, specialists, scientists, inventors, as well as creative individuals in the field of culture and art. The visa advantage extends to the spouse and children. All categories are required to have a valid employment contract in a specialized field of priority in the UAE.


Granting a visa is subject to the following conditions:

  • Scientists must be accredited by Emirates Scientists Council or holders of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Excellence.
  • Creative individuals in culture and art must be accredited by the Ministry of Culture and Youth.
  • Inventors must obtain a patent of value, which adds to the UAE’s economy. Patents must be approved by Ministry of Economy.
  • Exceptional talents must be documented by patents or scientific research published in a world-class journal.
  • Executives must be owners of a leading and internationally recognized company or holders of high academic achievement and position.
  • Doctors and specialists must meet at least two of the following conditions:
  • A Ph. D. degree from one of the top 500 universities in the world (refer to the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship website for information)
  • An award or certificates of appreciation in the field of the applicant’s work
  • Contribution to major scientific research in the respective field of work
  • Published articles or scientific books in distinguished publications in the respective field of work
  • Membership in an organization related to the field
  • A Ph.D. degree, in addition to 10-year professional experience in his/her field
  • Specialization in areas of priority to the UAE

Eligibility for a 5-year visa

The following categories are entitled to apply for a 5-year residence visa in the UAE

1. Investors in a property in the UAE


Granting a visa is subject to the following conditions:

  • The investor must invest in a property of a gross value of not less than AED 5 million.
  • The amount invested in real estate must not be on a loan basis.
  • The property must be retained for at least three years.

2. Entrepreneurs

This category includes those having an existing project with a minimum capital of AED 500,000, or those who have the approval of an accredited business incubator in the country.

The entrepreneur is allowed a multi-entry visa for six months, renewable for another six months. The long-term visa includes the spouse and children, a partner, and three executives.

3. Outstanding Students

This includes:

  • Outstanding students with a minimum grade of 95 percent in public and private secondary schools
  • University students within and outside the country having a distinction GPA of at least 3.75 upon graduation.

The long-term visa includes families of outstanding students.

Program benefits

  • Foreign nationals can live, work, conduct business, and study in the UAE without the need for a national sponsor under the Golden Visa Program
  • Foreign entrepreneurs and investors are also permitted to own 100% of their businesses in the UAE
  • These visas will be issued for a time period of 5 or 10 years and will be renewed automatically
  • Investors can enjoy a very high quality of life in UAE
  • Due to its strategic location in the Middle East, UAE is extremely well connected to all major cities and business hubs in Asia, Europe and North America, making it very easy for investors to travel and conduct or expand their business

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

June 7, 2021

The rise in bank frauds and other economic offenses have attracted the attention of local and global media towards India. Lately, many fugitive economic offenders have been in the news, and thanks to them, we all now know where the tiny Caribbean islands of Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica are located on the world map!

As of today, the Indian government and its enforcement agencies are looking for more than 300 such offenders who have escaped from India. For the past few months, we have been constantly reading and hearing about a few ‘celebrity economic offenders’ in every Indian media. After spending crores of rupees and almost a week in Dominica, a private jet sent by the Indian government has returned back home with government top brass but without Mr. Mehul Choksi. Another Indian legal team is fighting in a London court to repatriate Mr. Nirav Modi and Mr. Vijay Maliya.

The scale of economic offenses in India and the way they are being handled have made India a hotbed for global agents and companies who assist such runaway criminals to obtain citizenship in another country.  These companies operate in India as a legitimate business but they are infamous globally for such activities. The fact they are operating in India openly makes one wonder why the Indian government and its allied agencies are not restricting their activities. In fact, to a common man, it seems as if the Indian government has spread a red carpet for such foreign companies to operate in India.

In 1975, when economic liberalization had started in the UAE and the Middle East, a large number of Indian laborers and workers were recruited to work in these countries. The agents and intermediaries in India often took advantage of these workers, who were poor and desperate to earn money. We have heard many horror stories about such frauds and scams during this time.

Finally, in 1983, the Migration Act was introduced by the Indian government which required foreign recruitment agencies and foreign employers to register with the Indian government if they wished to recruit manpower from India. Thanks to this Act, we now see a lesser number of foreign job frauds being reported in India. Originally this act was managed by the Ministry of Labour, but now it is managed by the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India.

Coming back to the present scenario, if the Indian government does act decisively, history will repeat itself. The problem is two-fold:

  1. Indian citizens are likely to become victims of global economic fraud perpetrated by foreign companies (financial and real estate sector) who target wealthy Indian investors. The work of such foreign companies is made easier by a lack of government control.
  2. There are many global companies, agents, and consultants who assist Indian economic offenders and criminals to escape from India. At present many such foreign companies have entered and are operating a business in India because there is no law that stipulates that they need a license or permit to open an office and conduct business in India.

Foreign companies and agencies started developing an interest in the Indian market when the Indian government opened its doors for outbound investment in 2008 under the Overseas Direct Investment (ODI) for Indian entities and under the Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS) for Indian citizens.

As per RBI data, up until now US$ 60-80 billion has been remitted or invested outside of India under each of the aforementioned schemes in the last 12 years. This makes India a very attractive destination for foreign government agencies and companies who wish to lure Indian companies and wealthy Indian citizens to make an investment in their country or investment products.

Under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), there are a series of RBI regulations, master circulars, and clarifications that specify how Indian companies can invest abroad or how Indian citizens can remit or invest money outside of India.

On the other end, there is no regulation under FEMA, or any other known regulation or act in India for that matter, to test the legitimacy of the foreign company or investment product in which Indian companies or Indian citizens make investments. These foreign entities are also not required to register with any Indian government agency or department.

Many legitimate foreign investment companies are surprised that they can come to India and offer their investment product (financial or real estate) without having to register with any Indian authority.

Let us see some examples that prove how easy things are for foreign companies as compared to indigenous companies/individuals:

  • Indian real estate developers and brokers/agents must register under RERA but foreign real estate developers and brokers do not need to register with any Indian government authority to market their real estate project in India. As per the RBI, Indian citizens invested almost US$ 86.4 million (Rs. 650 Cr.) in global real estate in the year 2019-20.
  • Indian companies and entities offering financial products and financial advice must register with the Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). However, foreign companies and financial advisors can come to India, open an office and offer their products/services to Indian citizens without any kind of registration or obtaining any kind of permit from an Indian authority. As per the RBI data, Indian citizens invested US$ 1054.78 million (Rs. 7910 Cr.) outside of India in global equities and deposits in the year 2019-20. It is estimated that this number will jump significantly in the current year.
  • Indian education institutes that wish to recruit Indian students in India must register with several government entities. On the other hand, foreign education institutes can enter the Indian market, appoint agents and recruit students from India for study in their respective country without any governmental interference. This apathy and lack of any regulatory body that oversees the operation of such foreign entities in India has resulted in widespread student recruitment scams and the proliferation of fraudulent education institutions in countries like America, Canada, and Russia.

As per the RBI data, in the year 2019-20 Indian parents remitted US$ 4989.04 (Rs. 373,178 Cr.) in foreign education fees for their children studying abroad. Additionally, US$ 5341.99 (Rs. 400,649 Cr.) was remitted for living expenses and as a gift.

Though such a large industry exists in India for foreign student recruitment, neither the student visa agents and consultants nor the recruiting foreign education institutions are regulated in India by the government.

In the year 2017, a major fraud was reported that involved an American university. Hundreds of Indian students were affected and their career and future were ruined by this scam. At that time, the External Affairs Minister, Late Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, was shocked to see the condition of the Indian students and she tried her best to revise the Migration Act. However, due to her untimely death, this Emigration Bill of 2019 is still pending with the Ministry of External Affairs.

Further irony concerning this matter is that the Indian government and all major Indian banks now offer bank loans to Indian students for foreign education with basic documentation. However, these same banks and financial institutions will ask for a pile of documents if an Indian citizen wants to make an investment in the U.S. or global stock market which is highly regulated.

  • There is no licensing and regulatory body in the immigration and visa industry in India. This has allowed foreign immigration law firms and visa consulting firms to enter the Indian market by simply registering a company in India, hiring Indian staff members, and renting a physical/virtual office in India. To attract their target audience, these companies regularly release advertisements or press notes in the Indian media and highlight how many Indian HNIs, and UHNIs have left India. These reports are based on vague estimations and serve no purpose other than inciting readers to have a go at a chance to immigrate to a foreign country.


A number of foreign immigration law firms continue to operate in India even after the Supreme Court of India’s ruling that foreign lawyers cannot practice law in India, nor can they open an office in India or make frequent visits to India to meet Indian clients. Based on this judgment, RBI issued a notification directing Indian financial institutions and banks to refrain from opening an account for such foreign law firms. However, the reality is totally different. Many foreign law firms are still operating freely in India. A remote-controlled company operation, which is allowed in India, could be an ideal place for global illegitimate operators.

Many global consulting firms representing governments of small countries and independent islands are also operating in India. These firms acting as marketing agents for these small countries that offer residency and/or citizenship by investment (RCI) programs. Paid by foreign governments, these consulting firms pitch the RCI programs in India on behalf of the foreign governments.

Mr. Mehul Choksi had obtained the citizenship of Antigua & Barbuda by investing a sizeable amount of money in the tiny Caribbean island of Antigua & Barbuda just a few months before the PNB scandal broke in India.

Invest above amount and receive a second passport in few months!!!

Many high-profile Indian celebrities and prominent individuals have obtained citizenship or residency in foreign countries.  Very recently a famous Bollywood star was in the news for having been granted residency in a Middle East country.

All these particular service industries are open-ended and highly unregulated in India. Unless and until the Indian government seriously acts to close the loopholes, an increasing number of economic offenders will run away from India. Private jets (funded by hard-working taxpayers’ money) will then have to be sent to bring them back to India to face justice.  

June 1, 2021

The New Zealand government has announced the formation of an inquiry commission to examine the country’s working-age immigration policy, including analysing the skilled migrant visa category and making recommendations on how to enhance investment immigration.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said, “This inquiry will enable New Zealand to strategically optimise its immigration settings by taking a system-wide view, including the impact of immigration on the labour market, housing and associated infrastructure, and the natural environment.”

The commission’s mandate includes looking into the effects of rising net migration on housing markets, social cohesion, and the global ecosystems, as well as exchange rates and GDP growth. It will also analyse how the country can address potential labour and skill shortages, as well as whether migrants’ skills are aligned with job opportunities in New Zealand.

The inquiry body will emphasise on “how to attract and gain from investor migrants and entrepreneurial migrants whose expertise, experience, resources, and international ties will help New Zealand’s economic and social development, including through the creation of new businesses, and improving New Zealand’s reach into higher-value industries.”

Other questions the commission will address include whether the perceptions that domestic workers’ jobs are being taken over by migrant workers, especially in the low-skilled category, are accurate or not. Student visas as a pathway to permanent residence would also be scrutinised and closely watched.

Before the deadline of April 30, 2022, the Productivity Commission must present its findings.

In a statement, the Productivity Commission’s Ganesh Nana said, “The Commission looks forward to working alongside Maori and Pacific communities, migrant and ethnic communities, relevant government agencies, skills organisations, partners (the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi and Business New Zealand), and many others.”

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

June 1, 2021

By removing the Trump administration proposal that aimed to kill the initiative, the Biden administration wants to resurrect an immigration program that allows foreign entrepreneurs to operate in the United States.

The International Entrepreneur law, which was then proposed by President Barack Obama’s administration three days before he left office in 2017, enables foreign entrepreneurs to work in the United States for up to five years if their start-ups can raise at least $250,000 from the venture capital in the United States, recruit ten employees, or meet other criteria.

As part of its attempts to revive the program, the Biden administration intends to market it. These actions are in response to demands from venture capital firms, which want the administration to support a program that would encourage thousands of foreign start-up founders to relocate to or stay in the United States to expand their ventures.

The Biden Administration is unlocking an enormous job growth opportunity by incorporating the International Entrepreneur Rule, which will help the United States remain the global leader in innovation,” said Bobby Franklin, the group’s president and chief executive.

“Immigrants in the United States have a long history of entrepreneurship, hard work, and creativity, and their contributions to this nation are incredibly valuable,” said Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Tracy Renaud.

Currently, there is no visa available for start-up founders in the United States, despite the widespread bipartisan support for the concept. Other visa types must be used for foreign entrepreneurs, but none are ideal.

Between 2017 and 2019, USCIS received only 30 applications for the program, with only one being accepted, according to a USCIS official.

According to USCIS, if the program is properly implemented, about 3,000 international entrepreneurs would qualify per year, resulting in the creation of about 100,000 jobs over a ten-year period.

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

April 20, 2021

How many Indian HNIs really left India?                        

In the last few years, we have time and again read articles in the Indian media with the following eyeball grabbing headlines:

Being in the immigration industry with more than 28 years of experience, I was intrigued by these headlines and the alleged figures. Yes, India’s rich and famous are leaving the country and opting for a second passport but the numbers cited in many of these articles seemed preposterous.

I decided to do some research to determine if this was true. I picked out the last article and tried to reach the author of the article.  He was nice enough to send me the report which was referred to in this article. He also sent me a note saying – ‘Our figures are estimates’. 

I also reached out to the bank which has been part of the same report and quoted in several pressnote. The bank, however, has not replied to my email.

Regulatory Bank of India


Here is the official data from the Reserve Bank of India (the regulatory bank in India) of the remittance/investment made by Indian citizens overseas in the last 4 years.

Outward remittances/investments made under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) for Resident Individuals / Indian Citizens – Published by Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
(US$ Million)
Item2016-172017-182018-192019-20TOTAL of Four years
1 Outward Remittance under the LRS – TOTAL for the year8,170.7 11,333.613,787.5818,751.4052,043.28
1.1 Deposit283.8414.9455.94623.371778.01Investment
1.2 Purchase of immovable property92.989.684.5386.43353.46Investment
1.3 Investment in equity/debt443.6441.8422.90431.411739.71Investment
1.4 Gift749.51,169.71370.241904.535193.97Expenses
1.5 Donations8.88.58.6722.3248.29Expenses
1.6 Travel2,568.04,022.14803.816954.2018348.11Expenses
1.7 Maintenance of close relatives2,169.52,937.42800.883437.4611345.24Expenses
1.8 Medical Treatment17.327.528.5933.88107.27Expenses
1.9 Studies Abroad1,536.42,021.43569.874989.0412116.71Expenses
1.10 Others300.8200.6242.15268.741012.29Expenses
Note: 1.10: Includes items such as a subscription to journals, maintenance of investment abroad, student loan repayments, and credit card payments.


We can plainly see from the above RBI data that the ‘estimates’ cited in most reports and their subsequent press notes are nowhere near the actual figures. It appears that these articles/press notes are nothing more than self-serving paid advertorials.

By creating a hype that a large number of Indians are leaving the country by opting for a second passport, they perhaps want to popularize the Residency & Citizenship by Investment programs offered by different countries in India. They hope that rich Indians will join the bandwagon and sign up for these programs.

April 19, 2021

An article by Mr.  Nasee Genani has been published on Outlook.com titled:

Mysterious ‘Invest In Turkey’ Hoardings Appear In Srinagar’s Lal Chowk  

After reading the article, it appears that the media and local authorities are perplexed regarding the origin of these hoardings. This story was followed by several other media. ( IBT, JKNS, VEN, etc.)

These hoardings were put up by an immigration consulting firm from Dubai with offices in Mumbai and Delhi. The likely aim of these hoardings was to attract Indian investors to invest in Turkish real estate so as to acquire Turkish Citizenship.

Investors, including Indian citizens, acquiring Turkish citizenship are eligible to apply for an E2 business visa of the USA and a business visa of the UK (under the Ankara Agreement between the UK and Turkey).

This is not an invitation from the Turkish government to apply for citizenship but an advertisement by an immigration agent who is licensed in the UAE but not in India.

But at the same time, it is interesting to note that this Dubai-based immigration consulting firm is operating illegally in India.

Invest in Turkey
Istanbul, culture and historical capital of Turkey. Aerial photo from above. City view and landscape photo by drone. The Galata Kulesi Tower

Why illegally you may ask?

When it comes to advising on Turkish immigration and visa law, the Indian law clearly states that only Indian advocates can practice law ( Indian or Foreign), including immigration law, under the Indian Advocates Act of 1961 and The Supreme Court of India’s judgment.

In view of the same, RBI has also issued a notification specifically directing Indian banks and other authorities to refrain from issuing or renewing permission to foreign law firms from establishing offices in India and opening bank accounts in India.

Note: After this blog was written, it has been brought to the attention of the author that the said hoardings have been duly removed.

May 11, 2019

An Indian immigration attorney with more than 20 years of experience points to a common mistake investment migration firms make when courting Indian clients, and explains what to do instead.

Since the Indian government recently opened the doors that allow Indian investors to go out and invest abroad, many Indian businessmen are now exploring international avenues for expanding and securing their financial future.

Residency and citizenship by investment (RCBI) is one lucrative option that offers Indian HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals) a multi-faceted solution for their long- and short-term goals. Not only can such programs ensure the safety and security of their investment, but also allows the HNWIs to obtain residency/citizenship of another country.

India is perhaps the last economic powerhouse in the world whose HNWIs have yet to take full advantage of the opportunities and options available to invest abroad and truly become global citizens.

The graph below demonstrates the untapped potential of the Indian market. Despite having nearly half a million HNWIs (according to Knight Frank), Indians show up on the radar of only a handful of residence program destinations.

This is because most Indians still hold the perception that investing abroad is for the purpose of wealth generation only. They’re thinking goes: If we can easily generate wealth in India, then why invest abroad? However, it is important for them to know that investing abroad can help to achieve not only financial but other personal and professional goals as well.

Over the past few years, curiosity about RCBI programs has grown sharply in India, but there is a lack of professional advice regarding the various benefits of these programs, especially the non-financial ones.

But investment migration firms are making one crucial mistake:

Selling their projects before selling their countries

Service providers who wish to establish a presence in India need to attune themselves to the Indian mindset. It is not enough to promote their program aggressively in the Indian market. It is important that they also sell their respective countries and educate their clients about the non-monetary returns offered by these programs. In short, they don’t have to just sell their product but also sell their country and its uniqueness.

Service providers coming to India to market their product must keep in mind the following facts:

  • For starters, it is important to remember that Indian businesspeople are not, inherently, risk takers. They always prioritize the security of their investment and substantial returns in any kind of investment.
  • Second, there is the ‘trust’ issue. Indians will not invest until trust is established with a service provider. Businesses in India mostly operate through references and mutual acquaintances. They are more comfortable when business has to be given or taken from someone who is known, even vaguely.
  • Most service providers who come to India are only focused on selling their product/service. For example, they will explain everything about the investment program and its pros and cons. Indians, however, are savvy investors and are not only looking for financial gains (though that may be their primary motivation) but other non-financial matters as well, such as –
  • Is the place welcoming and business friendly?
  • Is there a well-established Indian community there?
  • Is it going to benefit the family, especially the children?
  • Can the children obtain a good education and have bright career prospects there?
  • Can they settle there and still maintain their personal and professional ties to India?

Service providers should focus on the following motivating factors when dealing with Indian clients:

Children’s education: 

Several surveys show that Asian parents give top priority to their children’s education and are particularly keen that they study abroad. This is probably due to the fact that the approach and attitude towards education in Western countries is very different compared to that in Asian countries.

The number of Indian students studying abroad has increased many-fold in the past five years. Members of India’s upper- and upper middle class can plan their children’s study in foreign countries by making investments in nearly risk-free but unconventional products in many countries. There are excellent opportunities available for investing in countries like the US, Canada, the UK, and the Caribbean islands that guarantee subsidized education for the children of these investors.

In most countries offering RCBI schemes, permanent residency or citizenship status is accorded to the investor and his/her family. As such, the investor’s children can have a head start in their career when they finish their education.

The most important advantage that service providers can stress is that, by obtaining residency and citizenship by investment, the investor’s children can enjoy reduced tuition fees at most universities and colleges. Tuition fees for permanent residents and citizens are significantly lower in most foreign universities as compared to those paid by international students. In many cases, the amount to be invested by an investor in a particular country is just a little higher than the tuition fees that have to be paid, especially if the investor has two or more children.

In other words, the investor can often recover the capital invested in citizenship or residency through the savings garnered from paying in-state – rather than international – tuition fees.

Quality of life: 

Members of Indias upper- and upper middle classes now have considerable assets and disposable income, a relatively recent phenomenon. Hence, foreign travel and pleasure trips abroad have become a frequent occurrence. Having traveled abroad, these individuals have new-found aspirations to achieve the quality of life enjoyed by their peers in developed countries.

This is another attraction that service providers can leverage; tempting investors by showcasing the quality of life and high standard of living in their countries. They need to assure investors that not only will they enjoy high-quality living, but also continue to maintain their business operations and family ties in India. The newly liberalized foreign exchange policies allow well-heeled Indians to purchase real estate in countries in which they wish to live or to which they want to travel frequently.

Expansion of business, tax planning and wealth management:

Even though India is an economic powerhouse with which Western countries are keen to develop trading ties, many Indian businessmen are still hesitant to venture outside domestic markets to expand their business.

The Indian government has opened up doors for investing abroad since it believes that joint ventures (JVs) promote economic co-operation between India and other countries. Since the globalization of trade is a two-way process, integration of the Indian economy with the rest of the world – with all its attendant benefits – is achieved through overseas investment. It is the reverse of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); Indians directing investment abroad.

Thanks to this new liberalized vision of the Indian government, subcontinental entrepreneurs can now expand their business to the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and many other countries through RCBI. Many HNWIs will be taking advantage of the new foreign remittance policy to make investments in businesses abroad and diversifying their business or bringing in new technology to India. Service providers can explain how this can be a win-win situation for Indian businessmen who wish to establish a global presence.

Indian exporters, in particular, have been quite reticent or unforthcoming in investing through RCBI. Service providers can accentuate the benefits of RCBI to Indian exporters by expounding on how exporters from China, Taiwan, Korea, and even Pakistan have used these programs to their advantage.

Individual exporters and export companies in these countries have realized that having a presence in the importer’s country is the most efficient and effective way to sell their goods. Through these programs, they obtain permanent residency/citizenship of the respective country. This then allows them to conduct business in their adopted country as local businessmen. Additionally, the confidence level of the buyers/importers is greater when doing business with a local exporter rather than with an exclusively India-based exporter with whom they’ve never interacted.

Visa-free travel:

Indian businesspeople face hindrances when traveling in and out of India to their preferred destinations for business or pleasure due to visa restrictions. Obtaining the necessary visas is a time-consuming process in India, and the number of countries to which they can travel visa-free is very limited. Additionally, the fear of visa application rejection always looms.

Quite often, these businessmen and women have to cancel their trips because of visa application rejections or delays. Visa-free and hassle-free travel ensures mobility and networking opportunities. Investment through RCBI can help investors obtain passports or resident permits of countries whose residents and citizens enjoy the freedom of visa-free travel to many countries around the world.

Non Resident Indian (NRI) status and benefits: 

Investing in foreign countries can also facilitate the acquisition of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) status and the tax exempted benefits associated with it. As we already know, many Indian celebrities, politicians, and sports personalities have obtained residencies of different jurisdictions around the world for tax planning purposes.

In fact, as NRIs, individuals can invest abroad as well as in India. This makes tax planning easier because it enables the creation of legitimate international trusts. The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DATTs) signed between India and many countries around the world help NRIs with estate planning and the reduction of personal and corporate taxes.

Investing in developed and developing economies could be a good option for savvy investors and HNWIs when it comes to wealth management and portfolio diversification. Investments can be made in stocks, real estate, mutual funds, and government bonds. These can come with financial and/or non-financial rewards.

In conclusion, because India is a new market for RCBI, foreign developers and service providers should not merely copy the marketing strategy that worked for them in other countries, but rather tailor their approach to local tastes. The first step, in that respect, is to primarily market the destination rather than the program.

April 15, 2019

On the surface, India’s market for investment migration has the same fundamental conditions as China; a population of some 1.3 billion, a passport with limited mobility, a large number of HNWIs, and plenty of push factors like pollution, restrictions on individual liberty, and lack of educational opportunities. But look closer, and you’ll find that India has many more obstacles – mainly cultural – that have prevented the investment migration market from flourishing to the same degree that it has in China.

We’ll look at each of these limiting factors in turn but, first, some background.

Read also: Basic Dos and Don’ts for Entering the Indian Investment Migration Market – By Prashant Ajmera

A brief history of Indian emigration

Migration from India to other countries around the world started in earnest more than 100 years ago. Back then, the migrants were mostly laborers recruited to work on sugar plantations in the Caribbean islands and Mauritius, railroads in Canada, and as industrial and domestic workers in South Africa, Malaysia, and Indonesia. During this period, only people with meager means thought of migrating abroad in order to sustain their families.

After India’s independence from British rule in 1947, however, this labor migration decreased dramatically. The post-independence period saw Indians leaving the country for a very different reason; that of obtaining higher education and, thereafter, settling abroad. During this period, foreign migration became a symbol of social status, and obtaining a foreign education and living abroad become aspirations that most Indians nurtured but which very few of them could afford.

The most favored destinations were the USA and the UK. Qualified Indians pursued higher studies in these countries and then settled into lucrative jobs. Doctors, engineers, and architects from India settled in these countries during this time.

In the mid-seventies, the Gulf countries – notably the UAE, Oman, and Kuwait – were growing exponentially thanks to petrodollars. Need for advanced infrastructure development, high-tech facilities and world-class standards of living generated demand for a huge labor force; qualified professionals as well as labourers.

This unprecedented growth prompted a second wave of workforce migration from India to the Middle Eastern countries. Presently the Indian diaspora is the most populous expat community in the Middle East.

This era was fraught with recruitment scams and fraudsters cheating ignorant workers with false promises of a highly paid job and a better life in exchange for huge amounts of money. Because of this, in the year 1983, the Indian government passed the Emigration Act to regulate agents recruiting manpower from India mainly to Middle Eastern countries.

In 1993, Canada introduced skilled migration. It was a highly streamlined process, paving the way for systematic skilled worker migration from India to Canada. Eventually, Australia, New Zealand, and some European countries also joined the fray.

During the late 80s and all throughout the 90s, the growing IT industries and start-ups in Western countries and the Y2K problem attracted a large pool of IT professionals from India.

These professionals, who received mediocre salaries in India, were highly paid by foreign companies. Good money, cushy jobs and a high standard of living eventually prompted them to settle down with their families in these countries. This was a period of ‘brain-drain’ for India.

All this migration created a very deep stigma in the upper echelons of Indian society who began to regard migration as something undertaken by economically deprived people only. According to them, migration was for people with lesser means so that they could earn more abroad.

Interestingly, many of these wealthy people who looked down on migration had themselves migrated from villages to cities within India in search of wealth and a better life during their youth.

This gives us a brief background as to how migration evolved in India. Though we are at the threshold of the year 2020, Indian HNWIs are quite slow in making a decision to immigrate abroad. Residency and citizenship by investment is a concept that still hasn’t struck a chord with many Indians.

The 10 main reasons Indian HNWIs have been slow to embrace residence and citizenship by investment

1.The mind-set that immigration is only for the economically deprived

As mentioned, not only HNWIs but a majority of Indians harbor a deeply rooted belief that immigration is only for the economically deprived. In my 27 years of practice, I have come across a great number of people who come to consult me and start the conversation with these lines: “We are very well-to-do and not interested in moving abroad. But I am doing this (immigrating) for the sake of my children’s education and future”.

Most of these people are senior executives of multinationals, owners of SMEs, or wealthy businesspersons. They enjoy a high standard of living and their net worth is in the millions of dollars.

2. Stable democracy and good standard of living

India became independent in 1947, but today it is the world’s largest democracy. Though home to several religions, languages, and classes of people, it is a relatively safe country in which to live. The law and order situation is reasonably good and, though there may be unrest in a few pockets across the nation from time to time, there is peace and safety most of the time.

Additionally, the Indian economy is getting stronger by the day. These factors discourage many Indian HNWIs from moving abroad unlike their counterparts in countries such as China and Russia.

3. Lack of Knowledge among HNWI advisors

In the past three or four years, we have seen a growing interest among HNWIs in various residency and citizenship programs. Unfortunately, their usual financial advisors like chartered accountants, wealth managers, and lawyers have little-to-no knowledge about any of these programs.

Many HNWIs are even skeptical about the existence and authenticity of these programs and wonder if it’s an international scam. I recently met the senior partner of large and reputed client advisory firm who had no clue about investment migration and was surprised that it can be a highly beneficial investment opportunity for HNWIs.

4. Lack of familiarity with investing abroad

Until recently, Indian banks and concerned government agencies had very strict and conservative rules in place that deterred Indian professionals and businesspersons from remitting money outside of India. Hence, the entire concept of investing abroad is quite novel for most Indian HNWIs. Now, with more favorable regulations, HNWIs are showing a willingness to venture into the unknown RCBI territory.

5. Lack of knowledge about residence and citizenship by investment programs

Lack of basic knowledge about RCBI and its benefits makes HNWIs less trusting of such programs. With no one to assist them and clear their doubts, they are confused regarding the value of investment migration programs as a safe and rewarding investment.

6. Multiple obstacles related to cash transactions and liquidity

With the exception of large metros, most real estate and large financial transactions in India are carried out in a split manner to avoid taxation – around 30-35% of the real estate price is paid through bank transfer whereas 65-70% of the transaction is by cash. This creates a perennial liquidity issue for Indians who often have to struggle to show that they have the necessary financial capacity to invest abroad through official banking channels.

7. Difficulty with documents and other legalities

India does not have a nationwide social security system. Additionally, there is no credit rating system for individuals and corporates. Business is commonly conducted based on personal references. Drawing up detailed agreements and legal documents and hiring professionals to guide through the entire process is still not a common practice.

In contrast, RCBI programs involve a plethora of legal documents and other formalities that can be completed only with the help of qualified and knowledgeable professionals. Many Indian HNWIs are flummoxed when they realize how many supporting documents they need to submit with their application and the other legalities they need to complete. Gathering and compiling relevant documents is an uphill task for most of them.

8. Negative perceptions of investment migration

Indians often assume that if a wealthy person has applied for immigration, he/she must be doing so for all the wrong reasons. In recent times, several UHNWIs have fled the country in order to escape prosecution and possible jail time and taken refuge in foreign jurisdictions through investment migration programs.

The Indian media has exploited these stories extensively to generate negativity about RCBI programs, highlighting how HNWIs are taking undue advantage of these programs to avoid persecution at home and live a comfortable life elsewhere. All this undue attention has made many high profile HNWIs very cautious and secretive when they seek immigration through such schemes.

9. Lack of trust

Non-payment of invoices and private investment is widespread in India. HNWIs, as consequence, generally don’t trust foreign developers and their projects. This lack of trust – combined with the Indian mentality of investing in a foreign project where other Indians, preferably friends or relatives, are involved – has proved to be a great disadvantage for foreign developers and their projects.

There are several examples wherein many Indian-origin investors from the USA have been successful in raising millions of dollars for their debut EB-5 projects whereas some highly reputed EB-5 regional centres are still struggling to establish their presence in India.

10. The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA):

FEMA and the regulations therein make it difficult for Indians to transfer or remit payment outside of India. Violating the law was a criminal offense in bygone years but is now just a civil offense that can result in up to 300% penalty if money is remitted without duly following the law.

The need of the hour is to work hard collectively to educate Indian HNWIs and the professionals serving them about how RCBI programs are not only about immigrating to a foreign country but much more.

Though the Indian market is slow to pick up, it is my firm belief that in the next few years, India will be a significant player in the global investment migration market.

April 15, 2019

India is one of the few emerging economic powerhouses whose HNWIs have yet to appreciate the benefits of residency and citizenship by investment (RCBI). In this article, we outline some of the major do’s and don’ts of Indian investment migration market success.

RCBI is a relatively new investment concept to most wealthy Indians. Complicating matters is that India is a very large country, its people as diverse as its landscape with multiple languages, religions, cultures, and food habits. Before even beginning to market RCBI programs in India, therefore, in-depth study and understanding of the market – and especially the Indian mindset – is essential.

7 mistakes to avoid to break through the Indian market

  1. Impatience: RCBI is not a readily grasped concept here, so try not to be impatient. It takes time for inquiries to convert into actual investment.
  2. Expecting local RCBI-agents to know what they’re talking about: India has more than 5,000 immigration agents/consultants, but their knowledge about RCBI is dismal or a bare minimum to say the least. So if you think appointing any old immigration agent in India to market your product is a sound strategy, think again. We’ve already met large international agencies that have burned their fingers trying to break into the Indian investment migration market by relying on local agents. To some, the results have been so disappointing that they’ve decided to pull out of the market altogether.
  3. Expecting HNWI advisors to do the work for you: Chartered accountants, wealth managers and lawyers who work with and for Indian HNWIs also have very basic or no knowledge about RCBI programs and its utility for Indian HNWIs.
  4. Underestimating the challenge of getting money out of India: Government regulations are not very favourable when it comes to transferring money from India to a foreign jurisdiction.
  5. Thinking most Indian HNWIs are in a rush to leave the country: India has a stable democracy and a vibrant economy. Thus, most HNWIs are not highly motivated or desperate to leave the country and acquire immigration elsewhere.
  6. Neglecting the stigma of HNWI emigration: RCBI is not well accepted socially. When wealthy Indians try to acquire residency or citizenship of another country, it is often perceived as an attempt to flee from the law, escape wrongdoing, or due to possible ostracism by the business or social community.
  7. Expecting Indian HNWIs to be open to the idea of RCBI: Indian HNWIs are quite conservative and many will not even consider the idea. Very few HNWIs have made an international investment through RCBI, so there are few examples for other HNWIs to follow. Changing these perceptions will take time.

What service providers and developers must do to successfully enter the Indian market

Consider this Rule Number One: Though they are both neighbors and economic powerhouses, India and China are by no means the same. So what works in China may not or likely will not work in India. This means, for example, that the marketing strategies that attracted thousands of investors in China may not attract a single one in India.

Case in point – One of the leading companies promoting RCBI in the world has a veritable fleet (100+) of agents working on their behalf in India. For the past few years, they’ve been conducting seminars and road shows on a regular basis but their efforts have produced virtually no results. Out of frustration, they have decided to pull out of the Indian market altogether.

This is a common experience for many foreign developers and project promoters. I’ve met several stakeholders at various events who have shared their frustrations with the Indian market. Not only foreign companies but even Indian origin developers and promoters face a roadblock when marketing their products and services to the Indian clientele.

Here are 11 pointers of things you should do to avoid the same fate:

  1. Educate: Be prepared to educate Indian HNIs regarding RCI program due to lack of awareness and knowledge.
  2. Build trust: Indians normally prefer doing business through personal references. They do not easily trust credit ratings and long drawn agreements. Trust is the main issue here. So finding a way to win the trust of Indian HNIs is imperative.
  3. Focus on selling your country, not your project: Try selling your country rather than your project Indian HNWIs. Better still, stress on the unique sales proposition (USP) of your country’s program from the Indian HNWI perspective. If the program does not appeal to their personal and economic sensibilities, Indians won’t part with their hard-earned money. Connecting with the psyche of Indian HNIs is the key – success stories of the Indian diaspora and the prominent presence and appreciation of Indian culture, food, and places of worship in your country will create a sense of welcome and belonging.
  4. Think out of the box – Create a USP for your country. Attract Indian HNWIs through trade missions, providing subsidies for shooting Bollywood movies, promoting luxury wedding destinations, etc.
  5. Don’t try to cover the whole of India in one trip. It can’t be done. Also, do not expect to close deals in the first meeting itself. It may take many meetings and follow-ups before an Indian HNI actually signs up.
  6. Find knowledgeable local representatives. Indians like working with reputed foreign service providers who have a strong presence in India. Appointing a knowledgeable and reliable agent or representative in India who protects your interests is important.
  7. Try working with one good agent rather than many mediocre ones. India is a big country but one good agent can generate more business than 10 frivolous ones.
  8. Appoint professionals as your associates; those who have good connections and professional rapport with HNWIs.
  9. Allocate a sizable budget for marketing: Newspaper advertisements, seminars, and road shows can prove to be quite expensive. Social media marketing is a good and cost-effective way of generating leads as most Indians are social media savvy.
  10. Be generous with good introducers: Don’t hesitate to seek help from local associates to convert leads into actual clients. Be generous in compensating them. This will motivate them to work harder and get more business.
  11. Find common ties: Caribbean countries can take advantage of common ties with India such as love for cricket, medical schools and the local Indian-origin population (who migrated to their countries 2-3 generations back) to attract Indian HNWIs. European countries can attract Indian HNWIs actively involved in business by showcasing the high quality of life, natural beauty and excellent opportunities for education and business across Europe.