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Indian Diaspora including NRI and PIO across the Globe:


Indian Diaspora spread across the globe comprises of Non Resident Indians (NRI), Persons of Indian Origin (PIO). As per official figures by Ministry of Overseas Affairs in India, by January 2015, the number of Indians living in different parts across the globe and comprising of NRI and PIO were 28455026.

Migration from India started well over hundreds of years ago. Earlier it was primarily due to mercantilism. During the Colonial period, it was mainly due to the recruitment and migration of indentured labor. During Post colonial era, many Indians migrated on guest work programs. In 20th century however, high skilled Indians migrated to work in developed countries, semi-skilled Indians migrated to ECR countries. However, in the last 3 decades of 20th century, many Indian students migrated to foreign shores in pursuit of higher education and ended up taking white collar jobs in those developed countries.

Definition of Non Resident Indians (NRI) – An NRI is principally a citizen of India holding Indian Passport. NRI is nonresident in India because of temporarily emigration to another country for the duration of 6 months or more. The reasons for emigration could be education, employment, residence, or any other such purpose.

Definition of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) – Person of Indian Origin is a foreign citizen but is of Indian origin or Indian ancestry. Person of Indian Origin does not hold Indian Passport. A PIO may have been an Indian citizen but subsequently took the citizenship of another country. Government of India offers PIO card to such people. A PIO card offers several benefits such as no requirement of Visa to visit India and many other economic, financial, educational benefits that are applicable to an NRI.

New information about PIO card: If the PIO card was issued on or before 8 Jan 2015, then, card does not expire and remains valid for lifetime and will be treated like an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) Card. However, if the card was issued on or after 9 January 2015, then, card has expired. And one needs to apply for an OCI card here.

Country wise Population of Indian Diaspora spread across the world including Non Resident Indians (NRI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO):

Country Population of Non Resident Indians (NRI) Population of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) Overall Overseas Indians
Australia 251000 235000 486000
Bahrain 350000 2500 352500
Canada 184320 831865 1016185
Fiji 1400 313798 315198
France 18000 90000 108000
Germany 43000 67000 110000
Guyana 300 325000 325300
Indonesia 10600 100000 110600
Italy 162862 14400 177262
Japan 22230 981 23211
Kenya 20000 50000 70000
Kuwait 758615 1096 759711
Malaysia 150000 2000000 2150000
Mauritius 10757 881137 891894
Myanmar 5576 2000000 2005576
Nepal 600000 - 600000
Netherlands 20000 205000 225000
New Zealand 45000 110000 155000
Oman 707850 880 708730
Philippines 70000 1024 71024
Qatar 600000 677 600677
Saudi Arabia 2800000 13 2800013
Singapore 350000 350000 700000
South Africa 50000 1500000 1550000
Spain 34974 20000 54974
Sri Lanka 14000 1600000 1614000
Suriname 150 153306 153456
Switzerland 12059 6515 18574
Thailand 20000 150000 170000
Trinidad & Tobago 1500 555000 556500
United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2000000 2349 2002349
United Kingdom (UK) 325000 1500000 1825000
United States of America (USA) 1272846 3183063 4455909
Rest of the World 467707 824676 1292383
Overall 11379746 17075280 28455026

Source: Ministry of Overseas Affairs in India - January 2015

Remittances by Indian Diaspora:

Since the dawn of 21st century, more and more Indians are occupying white collar jobs in information technology, management and engineering fields around the world. And this has meant a steady rise in remittances. Inward Remittances are money sent by Non Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin to India. A closer look at the remittances into India depicts a picture of success achieved by sheer hard work and perseverance by Indians settled across the world.

In 2014, remittances into India were 70.39 billion US$. In 2015, India received 72.18 billion US$ from Indian Diaspora, largest for any country in the world. The remittances into India were approximately 3.4% of India’s GDP in 2014. Since 2008, India has been the largest recipient of migrant remittances followed closely by China.

We do not have segregated data about the use or deployment of remittances sent by overseas Indians. However, as per Ministry of overseas affairs report, share of remittances going for private consumption including the maintenance & support of households in India has been the highest. The investments made by Diaspora is not substantial but have largely been deployed in property, land, and securities. Do you own a Property in India? And finding it difficult to manage? NRI and PIO can avail Property Management Services here.

NRI remittances into India (US$ billion)

Source: World Bank

Even though, India has emerged as the largest receiver of migrants’ money, the cost for transferring money from source country to destination country (India) is still very high. Therefore, many people living overseas remit small amounts through unrecorded channels. If we add up the informal channels of transferring remittances, then, it is highly likely that remittances to India could be equal or greater than India’s IT exports. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised the issue of reducing the cost of transferring funds at the G20 Summit.

Policy framework to encourage Investments by NRI, PIO:

Government of India is constantly framing & enhancing existing policies to encourage engagement and investments by Indian Diaspora. In addition to foreign direct investment policies that are also applicable to NRIs, the government has extended additional policy support to NRIs, PIOs.

  • These are investments in real estate and civil aviation up to 100%.
  • There are also various liberal deposits schemes (NRE/NRO or FCNR account) extended to NRIs as well as PIOs.
  • An NRI or PIO can purchase residential or commercial property except farm house /agricultural land/plantation property in India. An NRI or PIO can also sell property in India other than agriculture land, plantation property, and farm house. The proceeds from the sale of such a property (not more than 2 properties in case of residential property) can also be repatriated provided certain conditions are met including paying the taxes on income from property.
  • Further in May 2015, Government of India announced a policy decision which states that non-repatriable investments by NRI, PIO, and OCI will be treated as domestic investment and will not be subjected to FDI caps.

Government Initiatives targeted to engage further with Indian Diaspora:

In last few years, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and India’s External Affairs Minister have engaged personally with Indian Diaspora in various countries around the world. The Diaspora has shown considerable interest in new programs such as Make in India, Start-up India, Digital India, Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga program, etc.

In addition to Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) which is organized every year, new programs such as ‘Know India Program’, ‘Study India Program’, ‘Scholarship Program for Diaspora Children’, ‘Tracing the Roots’, ‘India Fellows Program’ have been designed to engage deeply with Indian Diaspora. The election commission of India has also initiated a process to allow overseas Indians to exercise their franchise from their overseas locations through electronic ballot paper.

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