Relocating from California to India: Your Essential Guide

Relocating from California to India: Your Essential Guide

Apr 17, 2024

Redevelopment in Mumbai- scenes in Bhendi Bazaar.

Moving from California to India is likely to bring you a mix of feelings. You’re thrilled and excited, yet worried at the same time about smoothly transitioning to a different country and culture. The best way to maximize the excitement and minimize the anxiety is to do the work of planning every detail of your move – And hiring a moving partner with experience in supporting relocations like yours. 

If this is your first time relocating from San Diego, CA, to India, this guide is for you. As renowned relocation specialists in San Diego, we’re here to help you plan your move like a pro.

India Gate Delhi

The Basics of Moving from California to India

Whenever there is a challenge at hand, it’s a good approach to start with the basics. After all, mastery of the basics is fundamental to success.

When it comes to international relocation, there are three basic things you need to take care of. These are:

  • Deep research
  • Legal Requirements
  • Packing and transportation

Let’s unpack each of them.


Moving locally and moving internationally are two different things. And compared to moving within a state, relocating to a new country requires much more preparation.

When moving from California to India, the first thing to research is the difference in customs and traditions. India is radically different from California in how people live and behave. It is important to note that India is a vast country with a diverse culture. You will need to familiarize yourself with the culture of the specific area of India where you plan to live. 

Local Culture, Customs, and Social Norms

Researching local culture, customs, and social norms will help you understand and respect the cultural differences you will encounter in your new home. Learning about greetings, gestures, traditions, and social etiquette can also help you to avoid misunderstandings and foster positive interactions with locals. This is the first step in settling into your new home.


The second thing you need to research is the neighborhood where you plan to settle. Every Californian neighborhood has its own unique vibe, even when neighborhoods are in the same city. Similarly, Indian cities offer diverse experiences. Researching neighborhoods can help you find your ideal fit. Are you looking for a bustling metropolis like Mumbai or a more laid-back coastal town like Panaji, Goa? Understanding the character of different areas will help you choose a place that feels like home.

Modern City high-rise skyscraper buildings.


Next, you need to find some communities that cater to California expats. Feeling connected can make all the difference in a new place. Researching online expat communities or social groups catering to Americans, Californians, or foreigners in general in India allows you to connect with others who are on a similar journey. Sharing experiences, advice, and some things in common with others can ease the transition and help you build a new support network.

Note that outsiders usually stick to certain locations like Goa, Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, and Kolkata. So, search for “California to India expat guide” to find some resources like these:


You also need to learn about the cost-of-living differences between California and India. Your budget will be glad to hear that India is significantly cheaper compared to the US or California,.

The cost of living in Delhi is around 113,274 Rupees or $1,354 per month for a family of four. Likewise, the figure for Mumbai is 113,615 Rupees or $1,358 per month. Posh neighborhoods like Golf Links in Delhi or Bandra in Mumbai will likely cost more. On the other hand, cities like Panaji in Goa or Puducherry, a former French colony, are going to be on the lower side.

Dig specifically into the costs associated with the location in India where you are settling, but feel confident that you will likely spend less in your new home than in the expensive state of California. 

Close up photo of male travel agent and young woman. Young man giving tickets and passport with visa to female tourist

Legal and Formalities

Relocating internationally also requires you to navigate a complex web of legal requirements. While it can be painstaking, it is also absolutely necessary.

The first thing you need to obtain is a visa. When moving from the United States to India, you can choose from several different types of visas, including the following: 

  • Employment Visa: This is for those with a job offer in India. Your employer will likely handle most of the paperwork, but it is good to be familiar with the process. This visa typically requires educational qualifications, work experience documents, and a medical certificate.
  • Business Visa: Ideal for entrepreneurs or freelancers. It allows for business activities like attending conferences or exploring potential business ventures. Be prepared to show proof of business funds and a return ticket.
  • Student Visa: Enrolling in a recognized Indian institution opens the door to a student visa. You’ll need acceptance documentation from the school and proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay.
  • Spouse/Dependent Visa: Moving to join a spouse or dependent already residing in India? This visa streamlines the process for accompanying family members.

Determine which document most applies to your situation and follow the process for obtaining it. You should apply online or visit the Indian consulate in San Francisco.

Besides a visa, you will need other paperwork like a valid passport, a valid driving license, a work permit (if you intend to work), a medical certificate, insurance, and so on. Start early so you have time to gather your documents and work through the process without the stress of time constraints. 

Packing boxes close-up

Packing and Transportation

The last component of a successful move to India involves transportation. Like other things, you want it to be smooth and safe.


For yourself and your family, you will want to purchase flight tickets, preferably directly to the destination city. Search for tickets in advance and book according to your plans and preferences.  


For your belongings, you will need to securely pack them for transport and ensure that they can pass the customs inspections. The San Francisco consulate provides the list of formalities you need to complete. Although it doesn’t issue any documents, it does guide you to relevant authorities that do issue them. 

Also, there are prohibited items that you cannot legally bring into India. Thus, make sure your belongings do not contain any of these items to avoid problems at customs. 

After you have sorted out the items you need to transport, it is time to start packing them. Use high-quality packing materials like sturdy boxes, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap. If you are shipping a large amount of goods, it might be classified as a commercial shipment and attract customs duties. In such cases, check with a reputable corporate relocation specialist in San Diego for guidance.

Consider purchasing cargo insurance to protect your belongings against loss, damage, or theft during transit. Verify the coverage options and exclusions with your shipping company or insurance provider.

Hiring a moving company

For transporting your belongings, you can either hire a moving company or work with moving brokers. Please note that a moving broker is not a mover who will be handling your belongings directly They are simply a mediator who will hire a moving company to relocate your belongings. These brokers are also far more likely to engage in moving scams that could cost you significant time and money. A professional mover, on the other hand, takes both responsibility and liability when handling luggage cross-border until it arrives at the destination’s doorstep. Thus, professional international movers provide a better sense of security when relocating from San Diego, CA to India.

Aerial view of Atlas Allied Truck along the California coastline

Plan Your Move Now!

By planning effectively, packing diligently, and understanding the legalities involved, you can ensure your belongings arrive safely in India, ready for your new adventure.

Remember, reputable San Diego international movers can guide you through the process and ease the stress of moving your California life across the globe. Atlas Allied, an Allied Van Lines agent since 1948, is an experienced international mover, whether you are engaging in residential moving or corporate moving. Request a free moving quote to get started with your California to India relocation.

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