India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and every year many thousands of workers from around the world move to India to start work on a temporary or permanent basis. Trying to understand the tax and administration systems in a new country can be confusing, but one of the key pieces of paperwork which anyone working in India needs is the PAN card, or Permanent Account Number.
The PAN numbers are issued by the Indian government’s Income Tax Department, and the PAN card application form is online to make it easier for new workers to register. The PAN number is unique to the individual and even if you change name through marriage or move house while you are living in India, the PAN will not change. PAN is not proof of Indian citizenship but can be used as identification as the card has the photo of the holder on it. You will need a PAN number for most financial transactions in India such as opening a bank account, receiving a salary or fees as a consultant, and for selling and buying property or other assets with a high value. PAN numbers are used to check that the correct amount of tax is being paid, and although having a PAN card is not compulsory, it is almost impossible to live and work in India without one. If you have an Aadhaar biometric identity card already, or are in the process of applying for one, you will still have to apply separately for a PAN card, but when completing the PAN card application form there is a section for Aadhaar data to allow the two records to be linked. PAN cards can also be issued to companies, associations, trusts and other organisations to allow them to make financial transactions legally too.
A paperless PAN application form which is all completed online is probably the easiest way of applying for your PAN card. The Indian government’s computer system allows you to complete the paperwork digitally, then scan and upload any supporting documentation you have for your PAN application. This will include uploading a scanned photograph, passport, sample signature and other documents such as an employment contract or residence visa. There are different PAN application forms for Indian citizens and foreigners, so make sure you are completing the correct form or it will slow the application process. Also ensure that you are selecting the correct category for your application. If you are already in India, there is also the option of attending a PAN service centre in person, where agents can help with completing the PAN card application form and give guidance on the process and supporting documents. If you need to correct or change any details on a current PAN card, this can also be dome online.
Normally, assuming the PAN card application form and supporting documents have been completed and submitted correctly, getting the PAN card back in the post will take between 2 and 3 weeks.