Return to India Checklist & FAQ
I returned to India from the USA in 2017 end. While trying to find information about the whole process, I decided to roll up my sleeves and share my experience, list out the process, tools and learnings in an article, so that others benefit. I ended up creating the Back to India website, an amazing WhatsApp and Telegram group (invites available) and this article.
This article is made with the help and inputs of several well-wishers from the community and is an ever growing list. If you have any suggestions or input to develop it further, please let me know in comments.
Table of contents
- How to find a job in India
- Shipping your stuff
- Property in USA
- Cars & Automobile
- What to do with the money in the bank account?
- How to transfer money from USA to India
- Should I keep 401k or take the money out?
- Can you operate your US bank account from India?
- Should you continue paying for insurance?
- Should you withdraw your HSA funds?
- Taxes - Should you pay off everything?
- Should you cancel your credit cards?
- Should you pay off credit card balances?
- Should you freeze your credit?
- What to buy from USA to India
- Do you need an OCI card for kids (US citizens) moving to India?
- How to apply for OCI card
- When to apply for OCI card?
- Is PIO cards still accepted at immigration?
- Which are the best schools in your city
- Admission process
- Do OCI holders have higher fees?
- Best time to join schools in India
- Documents required for School admissions (for NRIs and OCI holders)
- Should you take your TV with you?
- How to keep your US number
- Maintaining green card status
How to find a job in India
Finding a job is probably the hardest of the entire process. I was lucky to have an entrepreneurship dream and made it happen within months of reaching India. But for others looking for a job, here are some helpful tips.
What not to do
Experts and HR folks recommend that going through the typical job portal route is a bad decision.
Reason 1 – There is no NRI tag for recruiters to see, they count you in with the regular folks applying from India and will give you no special consideration.
Reason 2 – There are no special jobs for NRIs or returnees that these job portals usually post.
What to do
Try hiring HR/Recruitment consultants who can place you with good companies who are looking for returning talent. Recruitment consultants work closely with such companies and will be able to give you better opportunities.
Websites to apply for jobs
Consultants to approach
List of consultants are here > https://dir.backtoindia.com/
When to start looking for jobs?
It is recommended to start looking for jobs as early as 8 to 10 months before moving to India.
So you have enough time to attend interviews and negotiate before having few options.
What salary to expect
Experts suggest that you can expect jobs in India that can pay up to 50% of your US job salary. But of course, there are many variations here and it really depends on you, your skills, experience and of course, your employer.
50% is never a guarantee and is probably the highest we’ve seen among returnees. (Source – Michael Page)
US v/s India – Work culture differences
While US has a laid back (this too is relative), professional culture with sharp 9-5 timings, in India, you’ll find people coming in late, leaving late, favouritism, politics etc.
However, this is a debatable topic as to whether only India has such a culture. Community members have reported that some of them have reported favoritism and politics in higher up positions in the USA as well.
Fact of the matter is that, the work culture depends on where you are in India. Which company, which city, which industry etc and it’s very hard to draw a common line through. Many Indian companies even follow strict guidelines and has professional approach these days, particularly startups.
Shipping your stuff
Here’s all the shipping related questions answered.
What are the USA to India shipping methods available?
You can ship all your stuff from the USA to India in three ways.
a. Through a shipping agency
b. via Air
c. As hand baggage
Using a shipping agency is cost-effective, but takes a lot of time (count weeks or months). Via Air is faster but costs a little higher than shipping. Taking your stuff along with you in boxes as hand baggage is safer, but the disadvantage is that you can’t take everything with you if you have a lot of items and depending on which flight you’re taking, the charges will be different and some items disallowed.
Community members suggest that you sell off all the “unwanted” items in the US itself and only carry the absolutely necessary items back. This way, you can avoid excess charges and go for a fresh start.
How to plan your move & prepare for shipping
Sell off all the heavy items like furniture, electronics etc via Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or using an app like OfferUp or LetGo.
Which is the cheapest shipping agency from USA to India?
It is very difficult to name one cheap company as the rates are not significantly different for each company. However, the service and customer service is vastly different for each company.
Here’s a curated list of most used (among the RTI community) shipping companies > https://backtoindia.com/tools
- Universal Relocation
- Earth Movers
- SFL Worldwide
Full container shipping charges
Booking a full container is a common way for returnees to ship their stuff from
You’d need to pack your stuff to boxes, and will be charged per box (considering its weight). You’d also have to pay for the insurance (optional).
Costs ~$100 per box and ~2.5% insurance, no duty fee and Rs 3,000 dock fee in India. (Based on actual user experience from Prashant Dewangan)
How much custom duties to expect on shipping?
Shipping companies will not pay for customs on your behalf and it’s totally up to you to pay it off once your load reaches customs/port. You’ll be intimated by the customs office and/or by the shipping agency and a fee will be slapped on, based on their evaluation of the value of your shipment.
You can expect up to 40% in customs duties on new items, but if you’re moving houses and can show the proof of it (letter stating that you are + visa cancellation or similar document) you can get fully exempted from it.
Overall, dealing with customs is a hit or miss and there are no standard fees. The maximum customs duty we’ve seen so far in the community is 36–40% on electronics. These were new electronics and hence the high charge.
For moving things that are already used, customs could charge anywhere from 0–10% (based on experience from community members).
What boxes to use for packing items
Pack your stuff into boxes while shipping. Some shipping agencies will do it for you (of course, you have to pay extra) or you can do it yourself by getting boxes from shops like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Community members recommend using 18x18x24 boxes with max 50 Lbs in weight per box.
It’ll cost about $100 per box approximate in companies like Universal Relocation. Its 18x18x24 boxes and max 50 lbs in weight.
Property in USA
What to do with the owned property in US?
Community members recommend that if you own a property in the US, it’s better if you rent it out with the help of a property management company, instead of trying to manage it yourself from India.
Make use of property managers
It’s suggested that you find a property manager, preferably local to your area, who can manage the property on your behalf while in India.
Cars & Automobile
What to do with a car loan?
If you have a car loan existing while moving back to India, it’s a good idea to either sell it off or transfer the ownership to a willing party (friend, buyer etc).
To sell it to another person, you should have cleared all your pending payments. Once paid off, you’ll get a notice from the DMV. Only with this notice can another person buy the car from you (legally).
If you want to transfer the ownership to another person however, you’d need to approach the DMV (both parties) and request for a transfer of ownership. This can take a few days to process.
Where & how to sell your car
CarMax can do the whole process in under one day or a few hours.
I sold my car to CarMax (while under
Should you take cars to India with you?
According to community members, importing cars to India from the USA is a bad decision, economically and practicality-wise. Because you’ll have to pay almost double the price of the car in customs duties. Plus, the US made cars will not have the standard specifics as India Govt. regulations.
How much would I end up paying in customs duties?
125% and upwards.
Difference in standards
Let’s answer some of the most frequent answered personal finance questions.
What to do with the money in the bank account?
One of the frequently asked question is what to with the money you’ve saved up while living in the USA. Savings, 401K etc.
Many members from the community
How to transfer money from USA to India
There are two things to consider. One, how fast you want the money transferred. Two, how big is the amount you’re trying to send.
If you want to send the amount fast, then services like Western Union, Remitly, Xoom etc are great options. They take a cut from you but will deposit the money within minutes to your NRE account.
However, if you can wait and want more value (better exchange rate) for your money, then going through a bank would be the better idea. A bank like SBI Cal (in California) will give you competitive exchange rates and send the money in about 24-48 hours. They have a 24 hour hold period, and that’s the only disadvantage.
Read more here : Best money transfer methods to India
Should I keep 401k or take the money out?
How about stocks and investments like bonds and ETFs?
Can you operate your US bank account from India?
Yes you can. Most US banks allow you to operate your account remotely online and this is good enough for most of the transactions you’d be doing from India.
Should you continue paying for insurance?
Probably not. Unless you have pending payments, you probably will not be using your medical insurance once in India. So it’s probably a good idea to close it off. However, if you have medical conditions that you think would be better treated in USA, then it might be a good idea to keep the insurance plan.
Should you withdraw your HSA funds?
Taxes – Should you pay off everything?
- Sailing permit
- What happens if you don’t get a sailing permit?
Should you cancel your credit cards?
Yes and No. Yes if you absolutely want to be sure that they won’t be used again. If you cancel, it will affect your credit score, so if you’re not worried about it, go ahead and cancel it.
Consider whether you’ll be using/needing the credit card for online purchases while in India. If you do, it’s probably a better idea to keep it for a while.
Should you pay off credit card balances?
Ideally, you should. If you don’t it’ll back bite you at some point. So, avoid maxing out your credit card before leaving your country thinking that it is safe. It is not.
Should you freeze your credit?
Yes. While you’re not using your credit card, your ID is prone to theft and to avoid some distasteful situations, it’s better to freeze your credit with all agencies.
Here are instructions on how to freeze your credit.
What to buy from
USA to India
For a list of things that you could buy from USA to India, check out this list.
Do you need an OCI card for kids (US citizens) moving to India?
Yes. You’d need to apply for OCI card for your kids (US citizens) well in advance before the move (at least 4–5 weeks earlier). If they are PIO holders, they need to be converted to OCI before moving.
With the OCI card, you’d get a multiple entry visa to India and this is enough for them to live in India. They can always return back to the USA when they are 21 years of age. (Source –Wiki)
If you are moving back to India, it is recommended that you get the OCI from the USA itself, because getting one from India has more processes and loops to jump through and might bet into some unwanted bumps.
How to apply for OCI card
Here are detail instructions on how to file an OCI application from the USA
When to apply for OCI card?
At least 4–5 weeks ahead of moving back to India.
Is PIO cards still accepted at immigration?
Not any more. You have to convert PIO cards to OCI cards before landing up at immigration to avoid surprises. Here are the instructions.
Which are the best schools in your city
Many aspiring returnees ask this question and I think it’s best to do your own research. Because, this is a very personal and subjective topic. What is good to me isn’t good for another person.
Having said that, there are many international schools that have come up in India recently, that claim that they have curriculums matching US or other countries. They are expensive but sure does come with it’s perks and benefits.
We have city based WhatsApp groups where a lot of questions on best schools gets discussed, so if you have a question, please ping me on +001-408-489-4785 and I can add you to the corresponding group (currently, there are groups for Hyderabad, Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Kochi, Kolkatta, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru etc.
Admissions process in Indian schools usually revolves around the following.
- Application – Where you fill in an application form for the class intended, filling in particulars of the student.
- Interview – Where they have a personal interview with the student and the parents. This can go
in torounds in certain schools.
- Test – Some schools do a written and/or a verbal test for the student, to check his/her aptitude.
- Fee – Once selected, you pay the fee to be able to join the class.
- Admission .
Do OCI holders have higher fees?
At the school level, kids who are OCI holders don’t get any special treatment or higher fees. School fees is dependent on which school they go to, the city/neighbourhood, the curriculum etc and not whether he/she is an OCI holder.
Best time to join schools in India
Schools in India start their admission process the previous year usually. So, if you contact them early on, the better. However, processes begin during early start of the year, so you might want to check in at that time.
Some schools, that have a reputation of enrolling NRI students usually take interviews etc via Skype even, but this probably isn’t common practice.
Documents required for School admissions (for NRIs and OCI holders)
- Passport originals.
- OCI card.
- Current visa.
- Parents KYC documents.
- Document from US school stating transfer.
Should you take your TV with you?
This is an often repeated question. Whether its a good idea to take your TVs with you to India.
The short answer is no, but it depends. Let me explain.
If you have a large TV (like 55inches and plus), it’s probably a good idea to take it to India, provided you can get a good shipping company that’ll take it safe and sound and not get you custom fees. The real advantage is only price. For 55 inch TVs and beyond, there is a significant amount of price difference between Indian and US TVs. Also, in some cases, you can get a better technology TV from USA (it is debatable whether you can use it in India though).
Price difference of TVs USA v/s India
If the TV is a new one, is bigger than 55 inches, then you’d get a TV from
Options in India
The reality is that you can get pretty much any top brand TV in India for cheap. Especially, if you follow trends and get one for one of
Agree that the same TV might be expensive in India, when compared to US prices, but always add customs duties and shipping charges, before you make a call.
Custom duties for imported TVs in India
When you bring a TV from USA to India, it automatically attracts customs duties and it can go anywhere from 10% to 40% of the actual price of TV.
Community members have reported that they have been charged customs duties at various levels depending upon which port they’re in, which city they are bringing it to and “the mood” of the officers.
Related: Best travel insurance for Parents visiting USA
How to keep your US number
If you use Vonage (or a similar VOIP), you could make use of the Vonage App to make calls using WiFi when you’re in India. But you’d need to keep the connection and keep paying it monthly from your US account.
Before moving to India, make sure you have your WhatsApp number tied to the US number. Once back in India, even if you change SIM, you can still use the US number on WhatsApp since it is tied to the phone. Some members prefer to keep using the US number on WhatsApp.
There are several call forwarding services available like Google voice that will help you forward your US number calls to an Indian number. But here, you have to keep paying for the US number as well as the forwarding service to make use of this feature.
Using Google Voice to use your US number
You could also use Google Voice to use your US number outside of the USA.
This method is a hit and miss though, and some members from the community have reported that it is broken.
Here are the instructions.
Maintaining green card status
How to maintain the green card status?
If you stay outside of the US for more than six months, then you may be losing your green card/permanent resident status.
Experts recommend that you get a re-entry permit from USCIS before leaving the country for extended stays.
To qualify for a re-entry permit, an applicant must prove ties to an “unrelinquished lawful permanent residence” in the United States. To determine whether these ties exist, USCIS looks at various factors, including:
- Location of family, property holdings, and jobs;
- Intention to return to the United States as a place of employment, business, or as an actual home;
- Purpose for departing from the United States; and
- Whether the visit abroad is short.
Whether or not a returning PR has a re-entry permit, he/she may be subject to increased scrutiny if an act that triggers “removal” was committed before or after departing the United States.
Is there a restriction as to how long you can stay outside the US?
If you are a permanent resident, then yes, six months. (Read this article)
This is an article written with inputs and contribution by members of the backtoindia.com community. A wiki version of this article is available here.