Business Diary

Simplify Your India Travel
Did you know that you can only this much and no more?

S $ 180 worth of jewellery in your bona fide luggage into India without paying any duty? For female passengers who have been residing abroad for more than a year, this duty free limit stands at US$ 360, as per the Indian custom and baggage allowance rules. At the current rate for gold, this roughly translates into 3.5 grams of gold jewellery for men and 7.15 grams for women. If you are carrying anything extra, be prepared to shell out duty on that amount
Often, many Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and Person of Indian Origin (PIOs) are unaware of these norms. As a result, they face difficulties when they arrive in India. Among the Indian community abroad, a short term visit to their home country is ubiquitous and often for varied reasons, ranging from attending a marriage and meet relatives to adopting a child or simply travelling through length and breadth of the nation. But to simplify your travel and ensure that the journey is smooth, it is important to be aware of the rules of the road. In this case these are the regulations which govern short term travel and stay in India.

Besides jewellery, there are limits to the amount of Indian currency you can bring and also the household and professional items which you can carry into the country. According to rules, an NRI or PIO is not allowed to import any Indian currency. Indian expats returning home after a minimum of three months are allowed to carry used household items up to an aggregate value of Rs. 12,000 and professional equipment up to Rs. 20,000. Those who have been out of India for at least six months, have Rs 40,000 limit for professional equipment. When on a travel, it will be important to keep in mind that there are uniform admission fee for NRI/PIO for visit to historical monuments in India.

Also, the Reserve Bank of India made some relaxation in the facilities available under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) regulations. According to new norms, NRIs can open joint accounts with their close relatives in India. This would be especially useful in case they need funds urgently in case of an emergency as their relative, who has the power of attorney, would be able to withdraw on their behalf. Also, close Indian relatives can now pay towards medical expenses incurred by NRIs during their stay here. NRIs can now also take loans from their close relatives. The only condition is that the loan is interest free and the tenure is at least one year. An individual resident can lend money by way of crossed cheque / electronic transfer to a Non resident Indian (NRI)/ Person of Indian Origin (PIO) close relative within the overall limit of US$ 200,000 per financial year under the Liberalized Remittance Scheme, to meet the borrower's personal or business requirements in India, subject to conditions.

RBI has also doubled the limit to the value of shares and debentures a resident can give as gift to his relatives abroad. It is now up to US$ 50,000 per financial year. A resident is now also permitted to give rupee gifts to his close NRI/PIO relative up to US$ 200,000 per financial year through a crossed cheque or electronic transfer to their NRO account.

Of late, a number of NRIs/PIOs are visiting India to adopt a child. The current guidelines do not allow NRIs and PIOs to adopt any relative. However they can be the legal guardian to the child. As per the guidelines, the priority is given to NRIs followed by Overseas Citizens of India and then Person of Indian Origin (PIOs). To adopt a child, overseas Indians will have to approach the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The inter country adoption fees has also been raised to US$ 5,000, from US$ 3,500 earlier. The new guidelines introduced in 2011, also help check cases of fraud and duping of NRIs/PIOs.

—Courtesy OIFC

July 2012

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