Retiring to India

India is warm, exotic, and enchanting. It’s clear to see why so many of us are adding it to our bucket lists, both to visit on holiday and as a country to retire to. From Delhi to Mumbai and everywhere in between India is a country many people are now choosing in retirement and it’s easy to see why.

The country has a huge variety of climates and scenery from the Himalayas to the southern beaches, there really is something for everyone. If it’s always been your dream to live out a real Marigold Hotel experience and to retire to India, there’s no time like the present to start planning your move. 

Before you get carried away booking trips along The Golden Triangle, there’s a fair amount of planning to do. From arranging a visa and buying or renting a property, to accessing your pension, you need to sort out the paperwork before you leave.

You also need to consider funding your retirement. Can you live off your pension or could you cash in a life insurance policy? Here we look at the practical side of retiring to India, how you can do it, what documents you will need, and how to put your plan into motion.


Can I retire to India?

To retire to India you need a visa. But the process isn’t straightforward.

You’re not able to live in India permanently without a visa, although applying for a permanent resident visa for India is tricky. This is because Indian law doesn’t allow foreigners to live there permanently so your best option is usually a tourist visa.

These aren’t permanent, and usually last 180 days. To renew this kind of visa you have to return to the country where you previously lived and then wait two months before visiting India again, and applying for another visa.  

The rules change if you’re of Indian origin and in this case you can apply for a five-year visa.

This applies in the following situations:

  • Anyone who has held indian nationality before or a child, grandchild, or spouse of someone who has
  • A family member or spouse of someone coming to India with a long-term visa

There are full details of how the visa system works on the Indian immigration website

You might also be able to apply for Indian citizenship if you’re married to Indian citizen or if you’re of Indian ancestry. However, to do this you need to have lived there for 11 of the last 14 years prior to your application, and continuously for the last 12 months.


How can I retire to India from the UK?

The best way to retire in India depends on your circumstances. If you don’t have any connection to the country, such as an Indian spouse or family member, a tourist visa might be your only option. 

It’s also worth looking into applying for citizenship if you’re serious about living there for the rest of your life. 

Given the coronavirus pandemic, before considering travelling to India you also need to check any current restriction on travel.   


Can I cash in a life insurance policy to retire to India?

In some cases, yes you can.

For any retirement plans, you might want to think about how you’ll manage your finances. What money will you use to live on when you’re living in India? How will you afford the next 10, 20, or 30 or more years there if you’re not working?

It might be possible to cash in your life insurance policy, but it depends on the type of life insurance you have. In some cases, you could cash in a whole-of-life insurance policy early. These are usually the only types of policies you’re allowed to access before you die. 

To access the money from one of these policies, which usually last a person’s lifetime and pay out whenever they die, you might have to pay a fee. Check with your insurer first to see exactly how much it might cost if you decide to access these funds. 

It’s also worth remembering once you’ve taken the money, the policy usually ends and you aren’t covered unless you buy a new life insurance policy. 


Can I transfer my UK pension to India?

It is possible to transfer your pension when you retire to another country. This can be done with most types of pension and the process can take around three months. 

If you’ve spent your working life putting money away into a pension, when you retire you probably want to be able to access this money.

The Indian pension scheme you transfer your savings to must be a ‘qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme’ (QROPS). If not, your UK pension scheme might refuse to make the transfer, or you might have to pay at least 40% tax on the transfer. It’s worth speaking to a pensions expert to find out how much it might cost to do this.

You can find out more details about transferring a pension on the GOV.UK website


Can I buy a house if I retire to India?

You’re only able to buy a house in India if you have a residential visa or permit. If not, you’re able to rent property and the cost of renting is likely to be significantly lower than the UK. In fact the cost of rent in India is, on average, 83.07% lower than in the UK, according to Numbeo


Where are the best places to retire in India?

India is a huge country and it offers a vast array of landscapes. The area you choose to retire in depends on what you’re after. It might also be an area close to friends or family members or one you’ve been to before. 

In general if you’re in search of a bustling, vibrant city, you might want to stick with the cities in Northern India. If it’s the slow pace of life you prefer, India’s green mountains and the cities and beaches in the south could be a better choice.  


Eight reasons to retire to India

If you’re still looking for reasons to pick India for your retirement, we’ve picked eight of the best here: 

  • Breath-taking ancient architecture - with spectacular architecture like the Taj Mahal or the Akshardham Temple, it's easy to see why so many pick India to retire to.
  • Beautiful tropical beaches - India has no shortage of stunning beaches, and you’ll find some of the best in Goa.
  • Warm climate - If you’re looking for a sunnier climate and warmer temperatures, you’ve picked the right country. In northern and western India temperatures can reach over 45°c and the hot season is typically between April and October.
  • Your pension could go a long way - Forget the UK’s cost of living, in India your money should stretch a lot further. 
  • Colour and culture - In India the Holi Festival is held, known as the ‘festival of colours’ where people celebrate by throwing brightly coloured rice flour.
  • Fond memories - For lots of people retiring to India, it's a nostalgic trip back to their young adult days of the magic bus hippy trails in the 1960s and 70s. 
  • Strong sense of community - If you’re looking to live somewhere friendly and full of community, you are sure to find it in India. 
  • Excellent healthcare - In the big cities, such as Mumbai and the capital, New Delhi, India's healthcare is as good as the UK, if not better. It's mostly private, but relatively inexpensive compared to UK private treatments.