India’s Economy Predicted to be Fastest Growing in World in 2021: Options for Expanding Your Business Overseas


The Indian economy is forecast to be the fastest growing in the world this year. According to a report by Global Data the Indian economy is predicted to grow by 9.7% as its vaccination program gets underway.

As India’s economy recovers and grows, its business owners and entrepreneurs are once again eyeing global growth. At Davies & Associates we are seeing an uptick in demand for US and UK business and investors visas, as well as some interest in new markets like Vietnam and Italy.


L-1 Visa: Expanding a Business to the United States

Our Indian clients have continued to want to expand their businesses to the United States throughout the pandemic. Travel restrictions and an immigration suspension have inevitably slowed things down, but with a vaccine and a new Biden administration, things are starting to open up.

The main visa for expanding a business to the U.S. is the L-1 Visa, which allows a manager, executive or specialized-knowledge employee to move to the U.S. to oversee the establishment of the new office. With its teams of corporate and immigration lawyers, Davies & Associates helps its clients establish the U.S. entity as well as conducting all the necessary visa work.

The L-1 is a time limited visa restricted to a maximum of seven years, so L-1 visa holders need to then return home or transition to another visa. There is a possibility of obtaining a green card under the EB1C Visa, provided the client is able to demonstrate that there was no immigrant intent at the time of applying for the L-1 Visa.


E-2 Visa: Starting a Business in the United States

The other key solution for setting up a business in the United States is the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. We have been helping an increasing number of Indians with this visa, despite it not been a typical route to America. In fact, we were one of the first law firms to obtain an E-2 Visa for clients from. This is because Indians are not directly eligible for the E-2 Visa because India does not hold a relevant treaty with the United States. Our Indian clients need to first become a citizen of an E-2 Treaty Country. Typically they opt for Grenada in the West Indies.

The E-2 Visa allows a person to move to the US with their family to invest in and run a business. The investment required needs to be appropriate to the business plan and usually upwards of $100,000. The visa can be renewed as long as the business continues to operate and spouses can apply to work outside the business.

The Grenada Citizenship by Investment application is quick and relatively cost effective. It takes just a few months and the applicant does not need to appear in person. The price starts from $150,000 for a donation to the national fund or $220,000 for an investment in real estate. Grenada has continued to process applications throughout the pandemic.


EB-5 Investor Visa

India was the largest market in the world for the U.S. EB-5 Investor Visa in 2019. That was before the investment requirement increased from $500,000 to $900,000 in November of that year to account for inflation that had not been applied since the program started in the 1990s.

The sticker shock of the price rise combined with Covid-19 dampened demand for EB-5 in 2020, but demand is on the rise again. It is good timing. Indians are limited to remitting a maximum of $250,000 each financial year – which will reset on April 1. This means that half the funds for and EB-5 investment can be remitted at the end of March and the remainder at the end of April. This should be done in a legally compliant way and we urge you to discuss this with our team.

Congress will debate the future of EB-5 at the end of June. The industry is hoping for long term reauthorization that will provide a clear steer to applicants. The changes could well be positive, but investors who wish to proceed with the certainty of the current regulations ought to consider applying before then.


UK Immigration Options

The UK has emerged from Brexit and is starting to look to Asia and to the Commonwealth. India ticks both boxes, and the UK remains a popular destination for our Indian clients. Entrepreneurs have the option of moving to the UK as the Sole Representative of their company, by transferring to the UK office of the business they work for, or by applying for a Start-up or Innovator Visa. The UK also offers residency by investment, albeit for considerably more than the U.S. with a starting price of £2 million.


Italian Immigration Options

Italy still has some way to go to be as popular with our Indian clients as the U.S. or the U.K., but people are nevertheless showing increasing interest in the country. Our recent expert webinar on One Euro Homes proved particular popular, and people have been intrigued by the Elective Residency Visa. This offers Italian residency to anyone who can prove they have at least €32,000 a year from income outside Italy to support themselves. Italy offers a residency-by-investment visa which is much cheaper than the U.S. or the U.K. The government recently reduced the price as a result of Covid, and investment now starts from €250,000.


This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


Why OCI may be the Next Best Thing to Citizenship for Indians

India does not allow dual citizenship, but Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status offers a form of permanent residency with many of the benefits of Indian citizenship.


Second Citizenship and OCI

We have experienced a sharp rise in demand for second citizenship among our Indian clients over the past few years. While many wish to relocate to long-popular destinations like the UK, Canada & Australia, a new trend has been quietly emerging.

Indians have started to obtain citizenship of less well-known places like Grenada in the West Indies. Places they have never visited and sometimes never even heard of before.

Why are they doing this? Well Grenada has lots to offer in its own right – a stable economy, beautiful beaches, and cricket, to name just a few. But one of the primary motivating factors is the fact that it offers Indians access to the United States E-2 Treaty Investor Visa.

The E-2 Treaty Investor visa allows a person to move to the United States with their family for the purposes of investing in and running a business. Unlike the popular H-1B Visa, there are no limits or quotas, and it is not subjected to the same fast changing political whims.

The E-2 Treaty is governed by treaties with sovereign states, which outlast one particular president or another. But it is precisely because it is governed treaties that India is not eligible. India does not have a relevant treaty with the United States.

Therefore, to become eligible the E-2 visa, Indians need to first obtain citizenship of an E-2 Treaty country. The E-2 Treaty countries with the quickest and most cost-effective pathways to citizenship are Grenada and Turkey. Grenada has typically been more popular with our Indian clients.


What is OCI?

The only reticence we see with Indian clients pursuing the Grenada + E-2 route surrounds the issue of citizenship.

While Grenada allows dual citizenship, India does not. So, our clients are faced with the prospect of giving up their Indian citizenship for citizenship of a much smaller country a long way from home.

While for some, this is entirely worthwhile. They see the strength of the Grenada passport worldwide (it is one of the few countries to have visa free access to China, as well as the European Schengen area, and the U.K. – not to mention its access to the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa).

But for others, the decision can be more daunting.

That is where OCI or Overseas Citizenship of India comes in. Anyone faced with the prospect of giving up their Indian citizenship can apply for OCI status and have many of the same rights as full citizens.

The principle differences between OCI and full citizenship are that Overseas Citizens of India are not eligible to vote, are not eligible to hold public office, and are not eligible to acquire agricultural land.

In most other aspects Overseas Citizens of India are treated much the same as Non Resident Indians (NRIs), Indian citizens who reside outside of India for at least 182 days per year.

The OCI is essentially a life-long, multiple-entry visa to visit or live in India for any purpose including work. It is essentially a form of permanent residency.


Some benefits of OCI
  • No need to report presence in India to the authorities
  • Same rights as Non Resident Indians except not able to acquire agricultural land
  • Additional permission required for work in fields of journalism, research, missionary and mountaineering
  • Same rights as Indian citizens to domestic air fares and to the admission price for national parks
  • Same rights as Non Resident Indians to work in registered progressions, e.g. doctors, dentists, nurses, advocates, architects, and chartered accountants.

And it is not only people who surrender their Indian nationality that are eligible for OCI status. Anyone with an Indian parent, grandparent or great grandparent is eligible. This makes the OCI program very popular in countries with large Indian diaspora communities like the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.


Restrictions on OCI
  • Cannot vote
  • Cannot run for political office
  • Cannot obtain government jobs
  • Cannot acquire agricultural land

Grenada Citizenship by Investment

Citizenship of Grenada can be obtained within an average of less than three months for an investment in real estate starting from $220,000 or a donation to a public fund from $150,000. The Turkish program requires an investment in real estate starting from $250,000 or deposits in a Turkish bank of $500,000 or more.


What is the E-2 Visa?

The E-2 visa allows a person to move to the U.S. with their family to actively invest in and run a business. The required investment should be suitable for the business, usually starting from $100,000, and this should be reflected in a credible business plan. Spouses can apply for work authorization outside the business and the family is free to travel to and from the United States.

It is possible to invest in a franchise business, or set up a business from scratch. It is important that the business is structured in a way that complies with all immigration regulations. We advise E-2 applicants to engage not just our immigration lawyers, but also our corporate lawyers. Both teams work closely together to maximize the chances of a successful application and subsequent renewals.


Reversing the Process: Becoming a Citizen Again

The decision to surrender Indian citizenship is rarely taken lightly. OCI offers many of the same benefits, and for people whose minds or circumstances have changed, there is a route to re-obtaining Indian citizenship.

A person who is registered as an OCI for 5 years is eligible to apply for Indian Citizenship if they have been living in India for one of those five years.

This is, nevertheless, an immensely important decision. We recommend that you speak with our attorneys so you are fully apprised of OCI, citizenship by investment, and where applicable, the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. Please contact us to discuss your personal circumstances.


This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


July Visa Bulletin shows India EB-5 Visa Priority Date as “Current”

The State Department has published the July Visa Bulletin, which offers some insight into the waiting times for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program. The most notable change in this month’s Visa Bulletin is that EB-5 Visa Priority Date for India has become “Current”.

What this means is that India is no longer in retrogression and EB-5 applicants born in India can progress to the next stage and schedule their visa appointment once they are approved.

At first glance this is exciting news and would appear to spell the end of the waiting list for Indians seeking an EB-5 Green Card. However, as we have cautioned before, this is likely to be artificial.

The probable explanation is that the rate of I-526 adjudications at the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has slowed significantly. Only after an I-526 has been approved can an applicant progress to obtaining a visa. So with fewer adjudications there is likely to be less demand at the National Visa Center, causing India to appear as “Current”.

With Covid-19 compounding the slowdown at USCIS, we will be keeping a close eye on the priority dates for you over the next few months.


Insolvency & Bankruptcy in India during Covid-19

Neha Mehta analyses what the Indian government is doing to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on bankruptcy and insolvency.

COVID-19 & INITIAL MEASURES

Covid-19 has altered the fabric of the global economy. Worldwide lockdowns, travel restrictions, restraint on international trade and other stringent measures to curb the pandemic, has led to uncertainty around the future of many businesses.
With the objective of lending support to struggling businesses, most nations, including India, have introduced fiscal, monetary and protective measures to prevent multiple bankruptcies.
In its first measure to protect small and medium enterprises, already under severe financial stress, the Government of India, in March 2020, raised the threshold of the default amount for invoking the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) to Rupees One Crore (earlier Rupees One Lakh).
The Government, to support and provide relief to businesses across all sectors subsequently indicated that it may suspend, for an initial period of six months, the (key) sections 8, 9 and 10 of IBC which trigger the insolvency process, and perhaps further extend such shield to a year, if the pandemic continues.


THE UNCERTAINTY
The effective date of such amendments would be the date of promulgation of an ordinance. However, as one was not issued, till now, speculation was rife over what the Government will do, especially with respect to the cut-off date to invoke insolvency under sections 8, 9 or 10.
In the midst of this, there has been an overwhelming section of the public that has been disenchanted over the attempt to shield defaulters and provide them benefits that they may not deserve. There has also been concern over whether the protections would extend to prior defaults, existing pre Covid-19. This includes borrowers, banks, financial institutions, legal professionals and parties affected by breached contracts.

Ultimately, on 17th May 2020 the Union Finance Minister, in line with earlier announcements, announced that the Government will promulgate an ordinance suspending initiation of fresh insolvency cases for a year, and that the amended definition of ‘default’ under the IBC would exclude Covid-19 related debt.
Despite the announcement, it was unclear whether fresh insolvency filings would include a debt or default occuring prior to the onset of Covid-19.

CLARITY
The air was cleared with the promulgation of an Ordinance on 5th June 2020 (Ordinance), suspending the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) for all defaults arising on or after 25th March 2020 for a period of six months, with a possible extension upto one year that may be notified subsequently (Suspension Period)
In essence, by virtue of the Ordinance no CIRP proceedings, may be invoked at any time in future, for defaults that have arisen during the Suspension Period. However, defaults occurring before or after the Suspension Period are not protected.
In addition, the Suspension Period is excluded from the six-month default period for declaration of a debt as a non-performing asset (NPA).


LENDERS – A HAPLESS BUNCH?
To say that these are challenging times for lenders would be an understatement. The IBC has not only provided efficacious and speedy remedy for recovery, it has also proved a strong deterrent against borrowers defaulting.

In the absence of this formidable weapon and shield, lenders may turn to The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI) for enforcement of security interests, including enforcing mortgages of real property, and assuming management and control of a debtor.

While the Government has not suspended SARFAESI (at least not as yet), the deferment of NPA classification for the six-month Suspension Period may render SARFAESI a toothless tiger. This may leave lenders with the sole option of invoking dispute resolution provisions, as a method of recovery, in respect of a default. 

As far as affected parties to a contract, as IBC is off the table for the time being, their only option would be to resort to dispute resolution, which, of course, is neither as economical or as speedy as the CIRP process. 

CONCLUSION 

With a flood of defaults looming, questions will arise over whether these protective measures shield those who don’t really deserve protection, with a view to save the few who are genuine and well-intentioned. The argument in favour will, of course, be that the Government, by taking the broader long-term view, and allowing distressed businesses to heal and recover, will help the economy recover and, in the long run, even recoveries. Certainly, that would be the ideal outcome, but until we see that happen, lenders and parties to contracts that are owned monies will have to hold their breath and hope for the best. 

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. For more advice on the topic, please contact the author. 


India Tax Changes on Remittances Delayed to October

Sukanya Raman, Associate in our Mumbai office, analyses changes to India’s taxation of remittances.

In February, 2020 the Union Budget had proposed the levy of Tax Collected at Source (TCS) on remittances made under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) of the Reserve Bank of India. Although, the Scheme was introduced in the year 2004 with a limit of USD 25,000. This is the first time TCS shall be levied at 5% on remittances over and above certain limit.

TCS was to be applicable for remittances on or after April 1, 2020, as per the budget 2020. However, the provision shall now be effective from October 1, 2020.

In a Financial Year (FY) April- March under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme a resident individual can remit USD 250,000, equivalent to INR 1,90,00,000 with an exchange rate of INR 76.00.

LRS is applicable to resident individuals which also allows minors to remit money to any permissible current or capital account transaction or a combination of both. If remitter is a minor, then their natural guardian must undertake a declaration form. The LRS cannot be availed by corporates, partnership firms, HUF, Trusts etc.

TCS shall be collected at the rate of 5% on remittances aggregating to INR 7,00,000 or more in a financial year. 

Per the RBI guidelines, LRS is permitted for private visits to any country (except Nepal and Bhutan), gift or donation, traveling abroad for employment, emigration, investment abroad, maintenance of close relative abroad, medical treatment abroad, overseas education and Any other current account transaction which is not covered under the definition of the current account in FEMA 1999.

Under the LRS, remittances can be consolidated in respect of close family members. However, it shall be subject to the individual family members complying with the terms and conditions of the LRS.

The remitter is eligible to claim credit for the tax collected (TCS) by the bank while filing their Income Tax returns, if it is remitted to the sender’s own account abroad.  

Based on the data released by RBI, remittance rose by 36% in  FY20 to USD 18.75 billion over the previous high of USD 13.78 billion in FY19.

This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant as legal advice. For advice on this matter, please contact our team.