Foreigners Buying Property in India: Things To Know (2022)

Foreigners Buying Property in India: Things To Know

For foreign citizens looking to invest in property, India is a viable option. There are several aspects that make purchasing property in India attractive for overseas buyers, including the country’s rapidly growing economy and stable political environment.

There are also several, Non-Resident Indians (NRI) with foreign passports and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) who want to settle down in India. When they plan to move back to India, one of the first steps would be to buy a property.

However, there are a number of legal restrictions on foreigners buying property in India. Here we will discuss some of the key factors foreign nationals should consider when purchasing property in India.

Can Foreigners Buy Property in India?

The answer is yes as well as no. There are different conditions applicable for Persons of Indian Origin (PIO), foreigners of non-Indian origin living outside India and foreigners of non-Indian origin living in India. Let’s discuss them in detail.

Persons of Indian Origin

A foreign citizen who is a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) can purchase any immovable property in India other than agricultural land, farm house or plantation property. He/she can also inherit such property by way of a gift from an Indian Resident or an NRI or a PIO. Normally he/she wouldn’t require any approval from the authorities.

However, citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan cannot acquire or transfer immovable property in India without prior permission of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). They can only lease a property for a period not exceeding five years.

Foreigners Residing Outside India

Foreign nationals of non-Indian origin, resident outside India, are not permitted to acquire any immovable property in India unless such property is acquired by way of inheritance from a person who was resident in
India.

Also note that foreign nationals of non-Indian origin who have acquired immovable property in India by way of inheritance with the specific approval of RBI can not transfer such property without prior permission from RBI.

Some exceptions to this rule would be foreigners buying property for business activity, foreign diplomats or foreign spouses of NRIs/OCIs (which are explained below).

Foreigners Residing In India

Foreign nationals of non-Indian origin, who are Indian residents are allowed to purchase property in India but have to obtain the approvals and fulfil the requirements if any, prescribed by other authorities, such as the concerned State Government etc.

However, a foreign national resident in India who is a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal or Bhutan would require prior approval from the RBI. Such requests are considered by RBI in consultation with the Government of India.

Foreigners buying property in India

Foreign Spouse of an NRI/OCI Buying Property in India

According to RBI, a person resident outside India, not being a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) or an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI), who is a spouse of an NRI or an OCI may acquire one immovable property (other than agricultural land, farm house or plantation property), jointly with his/her NRI/OCI spouse subject to the conditions laid down in regulation 6 of FEMA 21(R).

The conditions are as below:

  1. The consideration for transfer, shall be made out of (i) funds received in India through banking channels by way of inward remittance from any place outside India or (ii) funds held in any non-resident account maintained in accordance with the provisions of the Act and the regulations made by the Reserve Bank;
  2. No payment for any transfer of immovable property shall be made either by traveler’s cheque or by foreign currency notes or by any other mode other than those specifically permitted under this clause;
  3. Provided that the marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the acquisition of such property;
  4. Provided further that the non-resident spouse is not otherwise prohibited from such acquisition.

Can Foreigners Inherit Property in India?

An NRI, PIO or a foreign national of non-Indian origin can inherit and hold immovable property in India from:

  • a person resident in India
  • a person resident outside India

However, the person from whom the property is inherited should have acquired the same in accordance with the foreign exchange regulations applicable at that point in time.

Note that in such cases, a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan should seek specific approval from the Reserve Bank.

A PIO or NRI may transfer agricultural land, plantation property or farm house acquired by way of inheritance, only to Indian citizens permanently residing in India.

Can Foreigners Sell Property in India?

A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) may sell any immovable property other than agricultural land, plantation property or farm house in India to a person resident in India. He can also transfer it as a gift to an Indian Resident or another NRI / PIO.

A PIO may transfer agricultural land, plantation property, or farm house in India by way of sale or gift to a person resident in India who is a citizen of India.

Type of PropertySaleGift
Any immovable property other than agricultural land, plantation property or farmhouseTo Indian Resident, NRI (or PIO with prior approval of RBI)To Indian Resident, NRI or PIO
Agricultural land, plantation property or farmhouseTo Indian Resident CitizenTo Indian Resident Citizen
Transactions allowed for Persons of Indian Origin

Foreigners Buying Property in India for Business Activity

A branch, office or another place of business, (excluding a liaison office) in India of a foreign company established with requisite approvals wherever necessary, is eligible to acquire immovable property in India which is necessary for or incidental to carrying on such activity provided that all applicable laws, rules,
regulations or directions in force are duly complied with.

The entity/concerned person is required to file a declaration in the form IPI with Reserve Bank, within ninety days from the date of such acquisition. The non-resident is eligible to transfer by way of mortgage the said immovable property to an authorised bank as a security for any borrowing.

On winding up of the business, the sale proceeds of such property can be repatriated only with the prior approval of Reserve Bank.

Purchase or Sale of Property by Foreign Diplomats

Foreign Embassies, Consulates, as well as Diplomatic personnel in India, are allowed to purchase or sell immovable property in India other than agricultural land, plantation property or farm house provided:

  1. a clearance from the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs is obtained for such purchase or sale, and
  2. the consideration for the acquisition of immovable property in India is paid out of funds remitted from abroad through a banking channel.

Important Points To Consider

First, it’s important to be aware of the restrictions on foreign ownership. As explained above, foreigners are only allowed to purchase property for commercial purposes, such as office space or retail outlets, residential properties are generally off-limits. That said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. So it’s always best to check with a local real estate agent or lawyer before making any purchase.

Secondly, it’s important to have a realistic budget in mind. Prices in India’s major cities have been skyrocketing in recent years, and they show no signs of slowing down. If you’re not careful, you could easily end up overpaying for your property.

Finally, don’t forget about due diligence. Foreigners buying property in India should make sure to do their research and visit the site in person. There are a lot of scams in India’s real estate market, so it’s important to be cautious and go through trusted agents.

References: Ministry of External Affairs, Reserve Bank of India

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Frequently Asked Questions


Should NRI/PIO file any document with RBI for purchasing a property?

No. An NRI / PIO who has purchased residential/commercial property under general permission is not required to file any documents with the Reserve Bank.

Can a foreign national of non-Indian origin be a second holder of immovable property purchased by NRI/PIO?

No, a foreign national of non-Indian origin cannot be the second holder of such property.

Can a foreign national of non-Indian origin lease property in India?

A foreign national of non-Indian origin may take residential accommodation on lease provided the period of lease does not exceed five years. In such cases, there is no requirement of taking any permission or reporting to the Reserve Bank.


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