Advice: Can a Foreign Woman Have a Career in India?

Dear Lauren, I have been in a long distance relationship for many years and I’ve just completed my bachelor degree.  I want to live with my love permanently in India but my parents want me to have a career. They want me to be able to live a normal life and save money for the future. So I am trying to find a job in India but this has not been easy. Companies never reply to me and I am not keen on having to work on a low salary.

I want to be with my love and India seems to be the perfect place as I am truly in love with this country. I know India very really well as I have spent many months there with my in-laws in the past. My only concern is, will I be able to have a career?

Anonymous Reader

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I have been asked about having a career in India many times, not only from readers who are planning to move to India but people asking me why I have not got a job. I’m always telling the people who ask about my career that adapting to India has been my full-time job! I say that, but I can see great value in getting a job when you move to India.

Not only will you earn money, you will also meet friends and settle into Indian life much faster!

Unless a company will sponsor you for an employment visa, it will take you two years after registering your marriage to be applicable for an OCI card and have the right to work.  I have been in India for a while now so I just assumed that you were planning on getting married… oops. I am sorry if I am wrong.

If you are unable to find a company that will employ you without an OCI card, I have a couple of suggestions:

  • Find a local charity you can volunteer with, there are lots of  NGOs in India. I am sure you will be able to find one close to your heart. You won’t earn a salary but you will meet new people, have a sense of purpose and priceless experiences.
  • You could think about starting your own business online or work for a company based in your home country that operates online.
  • Have you thought about continuing your study and enroll on a distance learning master’s degree programme?
  • Do something creative or join a class and learn a new skill. This is another way to prepare yourself for a future career and settle into your new Indian life.

Always check the terms and conditions of your visa first.

These are my suggestions but unfortunately I don’t have much experience on this topic, luckily I know I have several readers who are Western women with careers or have in the past worked in India…

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Dear Readers, Do you have any advice, experience or a fresh perspective to offer? (Helpful and respectful comments only)

Are you looking for advice to help resolve your dilemma? Submit a question here!

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31 thoughts on “Advice: Can a Foreign Woman Have a Career in India?

  1. Hi
    Yes definately I work in swedish firm who employs few swedes here in our Goa branch but Like most countries in the world, work visa, known as Employment Visa of India, is available to foreigners if there is an Indian company willing to sponsor or offer a letter of employment to the foreign worker.
    Im not sure which country you belong too but what you can do is hunt down the companies which are in India or planning to have base in india but originally belong to your country,I feel stands a higher chance of company management hiring you so they can have someone from their country and knows work ethics and will be an asset for Indian branch office.

    Else if you dont find any such companies you just need to marry him and get OCI card and then finding job will be just like any normally indian wld do without worrying abt visa and blah blah…

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      • Get an OCI through your husband. No visa hassels. As you are white, it should not be much of a problem to get it..

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      • It is “overseas citizen of india” (its easy to get if your husband is indian and you do not belong to a country with which india does not have conflicts aka Pakistan). It is however not dual citizenship. you can do everything except vote or become a public representative or officer.

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    • Hi there.

      Further to Vikas’s advice, I would say that companies (certainly in the UK) that send someone to India usually send someone who has years of experience at management level with that company…. someone who, for example, has already successfully opened branches and been at the helm of regional expansion within the UK, before they let them loose on another country. It is at this level that the opportunities in India tend to arise, not graduate entry-level jobs. It could be a decade or more before you arrive at that level of experience.
      Also, many openings in India tend to be for a fixed period of time only. I know of people who work in financial services in the UK who have been sent by their employer to train the staff at a new branch of their company in India, but the contract has been for a year only. The plan is, that once the staff (Indian nationals) have been trained in the way the UK company wants them to do things, the UK national who trained them hands over the reigns and returns to the UK.

      Another thing to consider is location. If you want to move to India in order to be with your partner, what are the chances of a company in your home country which may be expanding into India opening up for business in the exact place where he lives?

      As regards getting a work visa to go to India, as I understand it, in order for a foreigner to be granted a work visa the company that is going to employ him or her has to provide proof that a foreigner is necessary for the role as the expertise required means that a local person cannot be found who could do that job. (For example, it might be that someone is needed who has extensive experience of UK business law, for an import/export business.) Most jobs that you might be eligible for in the UK you will not be eligible for in India, as there are plenty of well-qualified people in India who could do that job. And they can speak English just as well as you…. and Hindi!

      I have read articles about how there are now large numbers of young British people migrating to India to take up opportunities over there, but these articles can be misleading. When you read about the actual individuals involved, it is usually people who were born and brought up in the UK, but whose parents are Indian and who had migrated to the UK. These young British people moving to India have an Indian name, speak at least one Indian language, understand the culture etc.. And, of course, their appearance is that of an Indian person, which some employers will prefer if they think their clients will feel more comfortable with that, rather than someone who immediately stands out as a foreigner.

      I know I am highlighting all the obstacles, but they are very real ones that need to considered.

      Good luck!

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      • Nicola, your impressions and information also applies to those from the U.S., as well. Western companies tend to send people from our countries in high positions as expat workers who earn in dollars or pounds for a short time. However, some of these companies do hire interns or short term lower level employees from their country, not as expats on foreign salary but on Indian salaries or no salaries (especially if the job is categorized as an internship).

        I think what you said about people from the UK moving to India, and how they tend to be of Indian origin mostly tends to be true of Americans we hear of, too. Sometimes their parents have connections to companies in India and help hook them up with jobs In these cases, they are earning in Indain rupees, and probably they already have a PIO (getting phased out) or OCI so the Indian employer doesn’t have to sponsor a visa for them.

        The irony is that these foreign born Indians may not stand out because they tend to look more like locals, but they will not sound and behave like locals. Their accent, use of language and mannerisms will be so different. They will still tend to have culture shock like non-Indian rooted people (concept of times, how to talk to seniors, how to be direct/indirect, give feedback or lack there of, and other interactions). Due to this, some employers I find prefer to hire the foreign looking people because of their preconcieved notions. I have heard this not only happens in India, but other countries. I had an American born Chinese friend who tried to work in China a few years and felt everyone wanted her to be like a local Chinese though she was born and raised in the US and came to China at age 25.

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  2. AIESEC offers lots of internships in India. Avoid aiesec volunteer programs in India. There were too many scams in the past. Go for aiesec work internship which will give you salary, experience and at least 1 yr stay permit in India. There are many jobs for foreigners in India. Usually in big metro cities. If you are native speaker of any other language than English search for your language job options. Many companies outsource projects to India which require specific language.

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  3. If you are English native speaker you can easily get a job in one of the international schools. They are always eager to have white face to show off and tell how great they school is 😉 But you will require some teaching course I guess or sth like that. You will need OCI for that kind of job as salary is never as high to get employment visa. Normally to get working visa company has to offer you 1lakh 25 thousand rs monthly. Otherwise you are not eligible.

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  4. Getting job in NGO is good option, if she want to come immediate. As a voluntarily volunteer, she will not get money officially, or will get very low package. Becz all country has their own Working Visa Policy. If his would be Hubby try, then he will get some local company or NGO easily then her. So she can come and later start life here.

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  5. I think it depends on your line of work. I have seen foreigners get jobs in colleges, teaching English or their native language (if it is in demand), or some kind of freelance training in companies. I know a few foreigners who had their visa sponsored to work full time in colleges in India in the above noted jobs. Another popular job in colleges is foreign exchange or foreign student advisor mixed with trying to create tie ups with universities in your country. Those kinds of jobs can be tricky because they can have a salary or not, but may have some kind of commission attached to them. Regarding working in colleges, I’m not sure they have to justifiy a work visa with the high salary quoted (of something like US 25,000 per year?). I know someone who is making US 10,000 a year to work in a college here.

    Saving money and working in India is not so easy on such low salaries. Yes, cost of living can be lower, but then are you willing to live in a ladies hostel and share a room with 10 other people? Can you live with your boyfriend if you aren’t married? That can be tricky in India. Getting apartmetns as unmarried couples in many parts of India can be tricky. LIving as a single lady in some parts of India can also be tricky.

    I have been living in India for 4 years. I came on a PIO card, so I could work from day 1. I own my own business doing cross-cultural training at companies.

    I hope this helps.
    Jennifer Kumar

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    • “Companies don’t respond to me.”
      Looking for a job in India is not the same as in the U.S. (if that is where you are from). In the US we wait for the employer to contact us back. Often in India, it’s the job hunters responsibility to follow up. The more you follow up, it often works out better. Often pick up the phone and call, emails don’t tend to work so well in India.

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  6. If she knows any foreign languages like French, German, Chinese or any other language then she can apply in a college or school as a language teacher.

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  7. Lots of advice here some good some not not so good. First things first you have to make sure your visa allows you to work. Voluntary work is also work even though you may not get any financial payment.

    It just takes one honest strict official to catch you and you will end up back in blighty.

    Now although you have done well by british standards getting your degree, your batchelors degree is ten a penny here. Its worth just slightly more than yesterdays newspaper.

    However your white skin may open several doors for you.

    Sorry to be blunt but its the truth.

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  8. Well I have been working in India 2 times! It’s a roller coaster for sure.
    As the answer says marriage has to be completing 2 years in order to get an oci which will allow working.
    Only other option is to find a job where an employer will hire you. You need to have a special skill and employer has to have a reason for choosing you and not a local instead. They have to pay you min $25000 per year which is A LOT of money in India and most employer don’t see a reason why do to this when they can hire a local instead for 10% of the salary. .
    Try find companies from your home country based in India and contact them, that’s the best option i would say. If u want an employment.
    Other option as mentioned too is to go for volunteering or study.. but then you won’t have an income..
    You are not allowed to earn money in India if u don’t have an employment visa tho..
    Also to remember if u get an employment visa you can work for that company only. If you want to change your job you need to go back home and apply again for a new employment visa for the new job!

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  9. Look in multi national and international corporations. But you have to have a special skill set. I was looking for jobs a few months ago and had recruiters helping. Recruiters are difficult too. Especially the Indian ones. One woman told me straight out she only helped Indians. Awesome.

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  10. Laurenji the best job I can suggest you to become an Englishing speaking teacher with companies dealing in overseas visa applications and indian visa seekers need to take exams like TOFEL. Suggested Reputed companies are IAEC Consultants. I think it would be good for you

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  11. You have not specified which field are you interested in and which location. Finding a job in India is difficult even more so for a foreigner and a woman.
    My advice – Talk to your husband and relocate to the UK. It is much easier for him to get a job there than you in India. Trust me , it is good for everyone involved. Your in-laws may not like it but in the long run it is good for everyone , including your in-laws.
    It is important to have financial security , so working for some years is essential unless you are super rich in which case you can abandon your career and do some kind of volunteer or charity work.

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  12. I thought I could share my experiences related to this! I have lived in India for a year (as an exchange student). I got to know two foreigners who were working in India, unfortunately men but anyway. One was engineer and working for a multinational company, so he probably got paid not per indian standards but more by western standards. He has shifted countries twice after that so I dont think its too difficult.
    Other one is a French guy who had a masters (?) degree in teaching French. He worked as a French teacher in an IB-school: the school must have paid him more than the required minimum per month to keep him there. His school was however one of the very fancy Delhi schools that charge enormous fees compaired to “normal” private schools.
    My school in Jaipur had previously a geography teacher who was from UK. I dont know how they afforded to pay him as the fees were only 300€ per term (/student). In normal Indian schools masters degree is probably not required, in my “English medium” school the sport teacher and some other teachers barely knew any English and I really doubt they had any degrees. But as a foreigner a degree is always better to have because only fancy schools can afford to hire foreigners!
    In my homecountry Finland teaching is highly respected profession and teachers always have masters degree, but in India it was seen more as a “time passing” for house wives by many people, and they certainly didn’t always have degrees or sufficient salary, more like “pocket money” (as described by one man whose wife was a teacher).

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    • In india almost all of the teachers have master degree in their respective subjects .also knowledge of english is not necessarily requiered for everyone to earn a master degree.obtaining a master degree is much more harder in india in comparision with your country considering the fierce competition in india amongst pupils to get a seat in universities.

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      • I really doubt that, I knew some women who were teachers in a village school and didn’d seem to have any training…
        About the competition, I dont know, here university is completely free so everyone can apply; so there is a lot of competition.

        Now that I think of it, I also knew a woman who was German and she was a jewellery designer. But keep in mind that Indian taste is very different from anything else, with a unique mix of colours and expensive metals.
        One of my friends who married an Indian moved with him to her homecountry as it was easier for her and she didnt want to be depent on her husbands salary. Some I know have married very rich guys so they don’t really do anything at all (well they do go to fancy restaurants to eat and enjoy, I have been invited a couple of times as well).

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      • Your jealousy and hatred towards those housewives who work tirelessly throughout the day for the betterment of their families by providing them the cushion of love and affection and by taking every responsibility of the household duties 24 *7 without demanding anything in return is really apalling. Now since india is vastly populated country with almost 65 percent of its population being youths every year almost 20 million people are entering in the employable age but they are being served with only 2million job oppurtunities per year.In that fore mentioned context i actually thank all those housewives and househusbands married in the rich families who despite of accuring good education are withdrawing themselves from job market and creating oppurtunities for the less priviledged households . and it is more gladenning that they are using their education for charitable causes .

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      • Tirelessy working for their families? If having a maid, cook, driver, and so on is working tirelessy then ok. I know a lot of Western women who dont have any of these and they work outside their home and take care of house! So no, I dont think its such an achievement to be a housewife with all the help available in India. Especially when they didnt seem to do much at home either, because they seemed to go out every day gor shopping and the like.
        I also dont think that being completely depent on your husbands salary/his family wealth is a good idea. Being able to earn and spend your own money, earned by yourself is really empowering. Why would I be jealous? I think its extremely naive to be depent on someone and not being able to support yourself.

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      • Comparing village schools & a school in Jaipur & or in Delhi are very different things. You can have a Master’s degree, a PhD or a B.Ed or M.Ed (teacher training degrees) in all official languages of India, so if a teacher does not speak English, it is not a sign of a bad or unqualified teacher, it’s someone who has trained in the local languages.

        There is a lot of competition for jobs and you will get great and less great teachers like everywhere else. A lot of them are housewives too, and most of my teachers needed the money- it was not “pocket money”. Always bad to generalise from one example. All of them were graduates with an extra B. Ed degree, that is the minimum.

        Living an Indian life also places a lot of social responsibilities on one. I agree that you will see some people floating about for the sake of it with no cares but for the most part everyone has their own (different) sets of responsibilities & duties and a lot of it is obligatory. I know that you just cannot wriggle out of social stuff you would rather not do as I do here.
        I for one do not envy too much people I know having to manage the households with servants; it has a whole load of complications attached along with responsibilities for their lives.
        In fact, I am even amazed at the skill with which so many of my friends manage all this social life-responsibilities & even their clothes on very limited budgets.

        Back to the job front, it is difficult to give advice without knowing anything about the field you studied & the area of country. The salary of course will be lower but it also depends on what city you are living in.
        People talk about high-level jobs, but I do know of people in mid-level jobs in factories who have been sent from here. International companies working in India will have a section (in fact, job sites will often have an international section). So narrow down to search the area you are interested in. Follow up with phone-calls and e-mails to show you are really interested.
        .

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  13. Welcome to my annoying world!
    I have worked in India on a work visa – it was very hard to get and lots of hoops to jump through and not a huge amount of info available readily about quite what those hoops are.
    I applied for lots of jobs online and got no response – you will be very lucky if you get a job this way. I got my job by being there and meeting the right person who knew the right person but still it took several months before my work visa came through. Working conditions were a lot more tough and low paid than for the same job in UK but I had a fantastic time working there and would recommend it to anyone! India’s economy and industry are growing and it is a fantastic place to have a career!
    When I left and wanted to go back to a different job, I couldn’t find one that paid enough for me to get the work visa, even though i have some very good contacts in my industry there. It is a competitive job climate and while being an ex-pat gives you some advantages (rightly or wrongly – this is a very controversial subject!) it has the big disadvantage that the job you are applying for has to be highly skilled and highly paid, unless you are an English teacher, in order to be able to get a work visa.
    Rather than being in India for two years on an X-visa waiting for and OCI after marriage waiting to be able to work (which seems like the stupidest rule ever!) my partner is coming to UK where he will be able to work straight away and then in a couple of years we can return to India if we want and he will have had a european adventure.
    Our other option was the online business/freelance to foreign companies online one as Lauren suggested but we decided it was too risky as we have a child to support and with both of us freelance we wanted a stable and dependable income. Freelance web portals like Upwork are a great way to get online work abroad and if you are young and childless then go for it! If it doesn’t work out just make sure you have an emergency fund and a plan B and then you have nothing to lose by trying it out! Good luck! 🙂

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  14. Hi! As many other people have said, its a bit difficult to work in India. I was fortunate enough to travel as a client on a business visa, I decided I wanted to move to India and I found a company willing to do my employment visa. As others have said, to get an employment visa to be allowed to work you have to get paid enough salary (more than 25lakh per annum) and you can not change the company unless you leave India and reapply for a new employment visa with the new company. In the 5 years I was living and working in India I did work for 2 different companies. I met my husband while working in India and we just completed 2 years of marriage so I am going to apply for OCI now. Feel free to ask questions. I will say that reaching out to a few headhunters can be helpful, but never pay someone to do a job search for you in India (many people try to scam and get money from a foreigner).

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    • Also some of them get there Language or Culture in India and are successful in achieving Job.I know many europeans who did these. If you know languages like German,Japanese etc then also you can get opportunity here as Indians can’t compete in that domain

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    • Indian women will be best to answer this one, of course, but my own experience has been a resounding, yes! Indian women can have a career in India! The head of my company when I worked in India (as a foreigner on an employment visa) was and still is a woman. My lady friends there work at Google, Deutsche Bank, Target, IBM and a lot of other amazing companies. They make great money, get promoted like mad and keep working after marriage and kids. My female in-laws have loads of masters degrees and PhDs among them. My cousin-in-law worked on India’s mars orbiter project! At least in Bangalore in South India, the women and girls I met and lived with were being equally educated with their brothers (in all classes, the kids of lawyers, maids, auto drivers I know all had an equal shot at education and jobs.) I had no problems working in India as a woman myself culturally. The logistics are way more of a pain, IMHO. I am thrilled to be moving back to India next month and being able to work there again, probably for the rest of my life, thanks to my lovely husband. We both have had much better jobs and quality of life in India, and much smarter, better educated women to hang out with! 😉 Don’t mistake me, women in India still get the very, very short end of the stick by many measures, but they are taking advantage of every opportunity and are absolutely doing an amazing job of it! Literally.
      For particulars on working as a foreign women in India, there are lots of great comments on this page that give some solid information, both the good and bad of it and the logistics, so definitely read those, too. It is so nice to read about other people’s experiences with this! Thanks for bringing up a great topic, Lauren!

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  15. Like getting a job anywhere – you need to have the right experience, education and probably connections to find the right fit.

    Indian work visas do require you (or the company sponsoring you) to prove no one else can do the job like you can so… there has to be something that makes you ‘special’.

    Also if you think $25,000/year is a ‘low salary’ (this is the minimum for foreign passport holders), you may want to adjust your expectations!

    Longer term is it possible to have a career in India? You bet!

    But what I did back in 1995 is had my hubby join me in Canada where I spent 7 years building a career before we moved back to India.

    When I returned, I had something of value to contribute. Even still, I began at 6 lac a year (under $10,000)… in less than ten years I was well above 60 lac a year… with a wealth of fabulous work experience well beyond anything I could have achieved in Canada.

    Today, 20 years later, I have my own company and work all across Asia.

    In short, you can do anything… in time… if you temper your initial expectations, embrace every opportunity and work for it! Good luck! 🙂

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  16. Lauren. I have recently started following your blogs. It is genuine and funny at the same time. I hope you really enjoy the rest of your life in India with your husband and your family.

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