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India crackdown on foreign real estate investors who flout residency laws

State governments are to check property transactions to make sure all documents, including visas, are in place.

The purchase of property illegally has been a particular problem in Goa where visa requirements and other paperwork has been 'overlooked' by some unscrupulous agents.

'It has come to the notice of the Central government that foreign nationals are buying property illegally in some parts of the country, particularly in Goa, which has raised concerns,' the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

Officials are being asked to be extra vigilant in matters of acquisition and transfer of properties by anyone who is not a resident of India and satisfy themselves about the eligibility under the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

'The enquiries may include both the intending buyers and sellers. The relevant travel documents and the nature of visa may also be verified before registering such sale or purchase,' the statement said.

The authorities may also consider reviewing the registration of sales already made to determine that they buyers and sellers who are residents outside India comply with legal requirements.

According to the law a foreign firm that establishes a branch office or other place of business in India, can acquire a property. A foreign national, who is residing in India for more than 182 days during the course of the preceding financial year for taking up employment or carrying on business or for any other purpose, can also buy property.

Also an Indian citizen resident outside the country and a person of Indian origin staying abroad may also acquire properties other than agricultural land, plantation or a farm house.

The new crackdown is designed to root out foreign nationals coming to India and staying beyond 182 days on a tourist or other visa meant for a certain period and illegally acquiring property in India in violation of the law.