India - Country Commercial Guide
Licensing Requirements for Professional Services
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According to the Indian Ministry of Finance, the services sector accounts for over 50 percent of its economy. The sector was also the largest recipient of FDI inflows, receiving approximately $100 billion between April 2000-December 2022. India has implemented policy reforms over the years in several services sectors, including banking and financial services, telecommunications, air transportation, healthcare, postal services, and other professional services. However, India still has restrictions on the provision of certain professional services by foreign nationals. These restrictions may include the number of foreign employees, transaction value, the supplier’s legal structure, or amount of foreign capital. For example:

  • Accounting and audit services are highly restricted, but U.S. accounting firms have been able to navigate these by having an Indian accounting firm as an affiliate.
  • Although the practice of professionals in engineering, integrated engineering, and construction services are not restricted, foreign engineering and construction firms are generally not awarded government contracts unless local firms are unable to perform the work.
  • International architectural firms are not allowed to provide direct services in India. Foreign firms may only participate through joint ventures with Indian architecture firms. An Indian partner registered with The Council of Architecture must be a signatory to get an architectural plan approved for a project in India.
  • Indian citizenship is not required to practice law in India.  However, only lawyers who have fulfilled the requirements of, and hold, an Indian law license, may practice law in India.  Per the recent Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022, foreign firms are allowed to enter into partnerships with Indian law firms.

India is a signatory to the WTO negotiations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services, which came into force on January 1, 1995. Under this framework, India has progressively made several commitments, and is actively involved in comprehensive multilateral negotiations regarding trade in services. India is a proponent of the liberalization of trade in services, especially through Mode 4: Presence or movement of natural persons who are either service suppliers (such as independent professionals) or who work for a service supplier and are present in another WTO member country to supply a service.