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Foreign nationals seeking to buy land or any building in India will now face greater scrutiny. Taking a serious note of foreign nationals buying immovable properties illegally in India, the Centre has asked the state governments to keep an eye on such transactions.

“It has come to the notice of the central government that foreign nationals are buying immovable property illegally in some parts of the country, particularly in Goa, which has raised concerns,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

States would now have to verify relevant travel documents and the nature of visa before registering any sale or purchase of property.

“Government of India has advised state governments to be extra vigilant in matters of acquisition and transfer of immovable property in India by a person resident outside India and satisfy themselves about the eligibility under Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema) before registering a sale or purchase of immovable property. The enquiries may include both intending buyer and seller,” the statement said.

The Centre also asked all concerned state authorities to review, wherever appropriate, registration of sale or purchase already made to determine their compliance with legal requirements. Persons acquiring immovable property have to fulfill the requirements prescribed by the state authorities, it said.

The Centre had received several representations expressing concerns on foreign nationals buying land illegally, particularly in Goa. It was also observed foreign nationals coming to India and staying beyond 182 days on a tourist or other visa meant for a certain period are illegally acquiring immovable property in violation of the rules under Fema, the statement said.

A foreign national who resides in India for more than 182 days in the preceding financial year for taking up a job or doing business can acquire immovable property as he would be a ‘person resident in India’, as per the provisions under Fema.

But, to be treated as a person resident in India under Fema, a person has to satisfy the condition of the period of stay. Also, his purpose of stay and the type of visa should clearly indicate his intention to stay in India for an uncertain period. In this regard, the intention to stay has to be unambiguously established with supporting documents.

The Fema also allows a foreign company, which has set up a branch office or other place of business in India, to acquire immovable property necessary for carrying on such activity. But, this is subject to conditions stipulated in the Fema regulations. The Fema allows an Indian citizen resident outside India and a person of Indian origin resident outside India to acquire immovable property in India other than farm land, plantation or a farm house.

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