I had moved to the USA about 5 years back and I was at first reluctant to come to this foreign land leaving behind my family, friends, job and all that belongs to me. But I made this decision with great courage and started our new life with lots of excitement and hope. This might be the case with many of you readers who would have come here for a better job, quality of life, education etc. And there can be a set of readers who are in a dilemma whether they should wind up and go back to their homeland after staying here for considerable amount of time.
For those who are seriously considering going back to India will definitely find this article interesting and useful. Well, I hope so.
Why should you relocate to India?
Let’s start with some of the obvious reasons that would come to your mind.
– Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side – You will always want to go back to India thinking you will have a better life and opportunities.
– Missing family and friends.
– To relive the culture – You will feel that your kids are not understanding the significance of Indian culture, traditions and know about the various festivities. In short, you will want your kids to grow in India.
– Family constraints like having old parents who need more attention and care.
Now let’s go deeper into the reasons. Here are few of the conditions that leaves with no option but to move back to India.
5 Reasons to return to India, no matter what
– Your H1 B visa is in the last stages and you no longer have any visibility to stay in the USA.
– The Green Card (GC) has been processed and you have to relocate to India for a year as you no longer have a valid visa to stay in the USA.
– L1 visa expiration and the company wants you back in India.
– Wife’s Visa: I have also seen families who want to go back to India for the employment opportunities for the wife who was staying in the US on H4 visa.
– Even there could be health issues and you may want to be closer to your family members while undergoing the treatment.
– India has grown into one of the fast paced countries in terms of shares, stocks, and investments.
Returning to India (R2I) is not a simple task. There is a lot of thinking and decisions to be made before you come to a conclusion. Also, a lot of facts have to be kept in mind before you move back. Things may not be as similar as it was when you left the country. India is a developing country and there are a couple of states which has already taken the shape of some of the big cities in the USA. Hence, you may be culturally shocked at first. Never mind, you will get used to it.
Let me list 6 things to consider before making a big decision:
India is not what you would have seen 10 years or even 1 year back. India’s growth is so tremendous that it is impossible for a person to settle down initially.
Hygiene Factors (including quality of life, health, environment):
Of course, the quality of life cannot be compared to what you get here in the USA. Even though there are huge malls, hepp people, hi- fi cars, MNC’s everywhere, you will still miss the quality of life that you used to get back in the US. You would had a stressful week but most of you would have a peaceful weekend with family.
The work environment has not changed drastically. Still, you will have a bossy managers and colleagues slogging for 12- 14 hours a day.
Pollution & Population:
Traffic has increased so much that you will live half of your life stuck in the horrendous traffic. The infrastructure has not changed much but the population has doubled to what you can’t imagine. The population is directly related to pollution.
The social circle meetups will not be so frequent. For example: in the US, you will have your friends for each and everything. You have a doubt, you can call any of your friends for help. But in India, you will have to figure out a way on your own.
Cost of living:
In India, I have heard that it is impossible to survive with a single income especially when you have kids to raise. Because of the cost of living which has gone through the roof. Hence, you should plan in such a way that both husband and wife lands a job as soon as they settle in India.
Things to consider before returning to India
People who have been here for more than a year will have lots of tasks to complete before leaving. Here are few of the items that you need to keep in mind before leaving the country:
1. Notice to the apartment authority
Every community management would be waiting to pounce on you and charge a penalty for not giving them enough notice period.
2. Start looking for a job in India
If you do not have plans to continue with the same company with whom you were working before. Also, it is also important to have a long-term investment in India for example, savings from the Indian salary so that you can take a short break if you want. I have heard this from some of my friends that the work in the US is so stressful that they all want to take a break after going back to India.
3. Plan well ahead and sell off your big items like car and house
A friend of mine waited until the last week to sell her car and at the end, she had to sell off the car to a dealer that too for loss. If you wait and the days comes closer to your travel dates, you will end up selling the car, house and any other bigger assets in a loss.
4. Start selling the smaller items through craiglist or sulekha
These are the items which you would not want to take it along with you to India. Of course, shipping cost will definitely be higher. Hence, it is easier to dispose of the items which are irrelevant to carry. There are also donation boxes available in nook corners of the cities where you can dispose of items. You may also contact http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/ so that they will take off items that you want to donate.
5. Do not forget to lock you SSN/ credit
It is very important to do that to avoid any sort of fraudulent activities. Deactivate your membership from all the wholesale dealers like Costco, Sam’s club etc.
6. Temporary relocation?
if you are planning to relocate for about a year, for example, you are just relocating to India because you do not have a valid visa and you may get it renewed in one or two years, then you can actually store your items in a storage area near your city.
If you have a kid who goes to school, a very wise decision needs to be taken. It is an additional responsibility to move around the time when the academic year starts in India.
I do have a couple of friends who have kids born in the US. Basically, they are US citizens. For them, it is important to create an OCI or PIO card in order to visit India. It is also essential to submit a registration application to extend the stay in India which has to be done within the first 30 days after the expiration of 60 days of stay in India.
8. Always update your address details especially with the IRS
If you stayed in the US for more than 10 to 15 years, you would have earned a significant amount of credit scores and hence, the US Government will send you the check wherever you are.
If you have made your mind to relocate to India and you have plenty of stuff to ship too. It is not an easy task and you need a cart load of patience and persuasiveness. You will find details of all the movers and shipping companies and their best quotes in the link here.
How to prepare for shipping?
– Never buy boxes of different sizes. Always make sure you have bought boxes of same sizes from your nearest U-Haul.
– Buy some bubble wrap from 99 cents/Walmart/Costco/Dollar store for your precious crockery, glass items, and any fragile stuff.
– Buy loads of duct tape.
– Mover/shipper will provide you tags and you have to fix them in each of your boxes to identify among a plethora of boxes that you would have shipped to India.
– Fragile stickers are utmost needed as you never know how the movers would handle the boxes.
– Always fill the base and top of the box with items like papers, quilts, blankets or any waste clothes so that even if your box is kept in wet surface your items inside will not be damaged.
Related: Best USA to India shipping companies.
Items that can be shipped without customs duty
Crockery and kitchen items, Clothes and books, Toys & Furniture.
Items which are not a good idea to ship to India:
– TV sets: This is a true incident. My friend shipped her LED TV to India which was bought a year ago and had to pay customs duty + step up transformer + shipping cost which was equivalent to buying a brand new Tv in India.
– Food items: You can buy most of the items that you see in the US in the supermarkets in India. Moreover, through FDI many of the big retailers have stepped into the Indian market. For example, Walmart has already set up its store in Punjab.
It is always good to be familiar with the laws in India before shipping your items. Most electronic items attract customs duty in India. Bring your small electronic stuff with you and avoid shipping it. You can refer this link for further details.
Insurance for shipment items:
Most of the professional packers and movers provide insurance to the damage and loose of items. This is only if the items are packed by them personally. If the packing is done by yourself, then the insurance is provided only to the lost items. It does not cover the damage items.
Financial things you should be mindful of
Related: Best bank accounts for NRIs
Moving to India is not an easy task. It is a factor that concerns every individual in the family. Now, what is that one important factor that concerns everybody? To be more precise, it is the financial factors.
– An R2I family in all likelihood will have investments both inside & outside India. The primary financial concern for these families is to see that they are able to transfer and consolidate their investments to India. Whatever money you have saved in the USA…
a) Has to be moved to the NRI account. Do not have an NRI account? Create one soon. b) Invested in the most tax efficient way
c) Plan for both short and long term investments.
Also, I have seen my friends who had moved to India and they had kept some money in the US account for about a year just in case they want to move and come back to the US. Of course, you have to think of both the situations.
– Another important financial aspect that you need to keep in mind is regarding the 401k plan.
(What is a 401k plan? 401K plan is the retirement saving plan sponsored by the employer. It helps the employees to save a piece of their paychecks before the tax is calculated.)
Some people believe that 401 (k) plan is wise and useful for Green Card holders and citizens and has nothing to do with the H1 b Visa holders. But that is not true. It is actually helpful for H1 B visa holders as well. It is tax-free and free money. And I am sure, many of my readers would have thought about the 401k plan and might have as well enrolled. Those of you have enrolled will probably enjoy seeing those savings increase each year.
Related: Best personal loans for NRIs
What are the consequences of withdrawing a 401 (k) plan before the maturity of the amount?
Withdrawing the money before the maturity period would be a headache but if you are patient enough and ready to wait, you may get your money in a year. The 401(k) distribution is subject to income tax plus a 10% early withdrawal fee. Also, keep in mind that this money does not go into your savings account but invested directly into stocks and bonds which might go down when you are looking to head back to India. Hence you need to make sure you move back at the right time.
Life in the US v/s Life in India
- The US is a melting pot of cultures. You have a better social and cross-cultural interaction. In India, you probably feel like a frog in a well where you see only Indians everywhere. It is definitely a phenomenal experience to meet new people from different cultures in your workspace.
- In the USA, you are very independent. You can live the way you want. Whereas in India, you are an interdependent human being. Unless you belong to a very elite community, everybody bothers to intrude in your personal life. There are a lot of taboos and superstitions around and you tend to live with it.
- In India, owning a car, having a centralized air conditioner at home, living in a community with a gym and swimming pool view is very much accumulated to the upper-class community and middle class to some extent. But in the US, these are some of the physical comforts which can be owned by anybody.
- Work Life Balance in the US is religiously practiced and performed. People are off to work at 7am and are back to home by 5pm and nor they think about work after that neither on weekends. But that is not the case in India, people work late and also work on weekends. There is nothing wrong in it but that is how work culture is shaped around in India.
- Facilities and infrastructure are much better than in India. For example, people give you more privilege and respect if you have a baby, special parking lots for expectant mothers, handicapped car parking etc can be seen everywhere. People are kind and generous. Speaking of generosity, you will also find cars stopping for a pedestrian to cross the road safely. Every pedestrian crossing has its own “traffic light” that will light up, indicating it is safe for you to cross the road. In India, you will have to wait for another 10 years to enjoy these privileges and for that matter, I would blame the growing population for the slow growth.
- Family life in India is definitely much happier and merrier as we have all the relatives close by and there are frequent meetings. But in the US, you may or may not have your close relatives and meeting them is like once in a while.
- Money is not everything but surely it makes something and if you do some math, in the US you are paid 4 to 5 times more than what you are paid in India
Problems you will face in India
- Finding a house at an affordable price would be tough.
- School admission cost has increased so much that you will be overwhelmed to find an institution which is within your budget. For example, my friend is paying 1 to 2 lakhs per annum for her kid’s education for pre-school education.
- You may start feeling that roads are dirtier and there is less hygiene factor after being in the US for a long time.
- Finding and having a maid to do the household chores will be a necessity rather than a luxury.
- Growing competition in the job market. Hence, you need to be equally good and sharp at your skills. Never leave a gap in your career, take up courses through websites like coursera, udemy etc and vigorously keep up with the pace.
- Health issues – growing population leads to intensive pollution which also results in health issues. People who have just returned from India would feel that they are prone to more diseases in the beginning. But slowly your body will get accustomed.
- Traffic in most of the major cities is so horrendous and uncontrollable that half of your life in a day is eaten up by traffic.
- Corruption and bribery.
Related: Best NRI Home Loans
5 Things you will miss about USA when moving back to India
General life in the US is pretty cool and comfortable. Things are not dirty and dusty as you may see in India. You will miss those clear and clean roads which had litter barrels on the roads and well-built rest areas.
You will miss your social circle, those weekends, and long road trips with your friends which gave you complete cut off from the work.
Habits: In US you have the habit of greeting a strange guy “Hi, How are you”. When we move to another place, people behave differently. It takes us time to get used to the new behavior
You will miss the beautiful parks and lakes in the US where you go to take stroll or jog in the evenings. There is more time for your hobbies and also good time can be dedicated to a healthy and fit life.
Easy availability of everything will be greatly missed. You walk up to a store may it be Walmart, Costco, target or be it dollar tree you will find what you are looking for. The customer service is also exemplary.
5 Things you miss about India being in USA
- You will miss the feeling of “Lost in the crowd”.
Yes, you were running away from people all these while but you will start missing those people or rather the “Crowd” once you move to the US. Especially those Mumbaites who had a joyful ride in the trains, the Delhites who used to swim through the man ocean in the Chandni Chowk and Bangaloreans who used to spend half of their life in the metro and buses.
- The festivals and the celebrations:
You would meet your friends for social gathering every weekend but it cannot be equaled with the same fun you did in India during the festivals. I am a Malayalee and I missed Onam festival a lot during the initial years as I could not settle in with the fact that there are no more flower carpets or plantain leaf feast.
- Home cooked meals:
You will definitely miss the mom made delicacies when you move away from your home.
- Medical assistance:
There is no concept of a family doctor in the US whom you can call in the middle of the night in case of emergency. You book an appointment and meet the doctor. Of course, in India, you can call your physician at any point and ask medicines for fever or muscle pain.
- Local transport is something which every Indiawaale misses.
Yes, the auto rickshaws, taxis etc. Once you are tired, lost or bored, you can simply flag down an auto who will take you to wherever you want.
It is also necessary to know what you really want to do after returning to India. There are families who have been in the US for more than 10 to 20 years and wants to return with their second generations. They may also have plans to start a business on their own in India. This is in the minds of millions of NRI’s. I am going to give some insight on that too.
Is it ideal to start a company or business on your own after returning to India?
Starting your own company or business works out better if you have clarity on what you really want to do. If you have made up a firm decision to move back to India and accept India as it is, then setting up a company or business would ideally work out. If you are finicky about your decision and feel that you may have a double mind after relocating, then it is ideal to not lose your money and invest it elsewhere.
Here are few things to be kept in mind before making a decision to start a company or business:
- Plan your foreign savings well in advance and decide which city you would like to start a company.
People usually prefers Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, Kerala, Mumbai etc.
- To start a private limited, minimum requirement of 2 persons out of which one should be an Indian citizen or resident is needed.
Whereas for a public limited, minimum requirement of 7 persons out of which one should be an Indian.
- Notarizing the documents.
The very first step is to get the Digital Signature Certificates (DSCs) of the proposed directors and then apply for Director’s Identification Number (DIN). In all these cases, the ID and address proofs of proposed directors are needed. In the case of NR/NRIs, clear instructions have been issued by the government that if the present address of the NR/NRIs is outside India then each document of the person should be notarized from the Indian embassy of the country where the person presently resides.
Hence, it is not a bad idea to start your own company or business in India. The only thing you should keep in mind is that it will surely take few months for the business to catch up. You have to keep patience and select the best city wherein you can have the best results. The main area for growth and opportunity is the internet sector. E-commerce, help-desking, multimedia, software developing have all proven success in India.
Many times NRI’s who have returned to India for the good feel that they have made a bad choice in life. This is something which I would also want to focus upon through my article.
So, Is going back to India a bad idea?
Why do you think you have made a bad choice in life? Why do you start hating your own mother land? These are just your notions. I would say that those who are thinking that relocating to India was a bad decision are those who do not know what they want in life. In life, everything boils down to one thing – Happiness. You will never be satisfied if you cannot find happiness. Of course, going back to the US is not a tough task for a citizen or a green card holder. They would have got used to US luxuries so much that they will not be able to cope up with the nitty gritty in India. Everything in this world has exceptions and so are my views too. The ultimate decision is your’s and you have to figure out what is more important to you in life.
Here are few real life experiences of people who relocated to India.
Many people told me that attitude is what matters. Because you may see things as good as it was back when you left the country and vice versa. You should have the right attitude to accept the good and ignore the bad.
I recently had two of my friends returning back to India for good.
First, one had an issue with the Visa and had to return to India. They had two children of age 6 and 2 years. They left to India for 10 days and settled everything in India like finding a house, school admission for her kids etc. She answered me just one thing – “India is always close to my heart because that is where my family is. I am happy that we are here”.
The other friend relocated to India due to personal issues. He did not want his kid to grow in the US as he felt he was getting distant from everyone back in India. Also, they were keen on his wife’s job opportunities. They moved with a purpose and hence they are also immensely happy.
India is the country from where we all belong to. Even if we stayed outside the country for several years, we should never hesitate to go back to our homeland. Relocate efficiently and with minimum stress. Deal with any transition without any hesitation. I would wish all the very best to those who are planning for a relocation.
This post was written with inputs from Sruthi Menon. Sruthi is a travel blogger and she writes about her travel experiences – primarily about the places, food and travel tips.
P.S – We have a WhatsApp group where both folks who have returned to India and is planning to return to India huddle together sharing information that is useful to all. If you want to join, use this group invite link.