The legal framework for administration of foreign exchange transactions in India is provided by the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999. Under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA), which came into force with effect from June 1, 2000, all transactions involving foreign exchange have been classified either as capital or current account transactions.
All transactions undertaken by a resident that do not alter his / her assets or liabilities, including contingent liabilities, outside India are current account transactions.
In terms of Section 5 of the FEMA, persons resident in India are free to buy or sell foreign exchange for any current account transaction except for those transactions for which drawal of foreign exchange has been prohibited by Central Government, such as remittance out of lottery winnings, remittance of income from racing/riding, etc., or any other hobby, remittance for purchase of lottery tickets, banned / proscribed magazines, football pools, sweepstakes, etc., payment of commission on exports made towards equity investment in Joint Ventures/ Wholly Owned Subsidiaries abroad of Indian companies, remittance of dividend by any company to which the requirement of dividend balancing is applicable, payment of commission on exports under Rupee State Credit Route, except commission up to 10% of invoice value of exports of tea and tobacco and payment related to "call back services" of telephones. Foreign Exchange Management (Current Account Transactions) Rules, 2000 - Notification [GSR No.381(E)] dated May 3, 2000, as amended from time to time, is available in the Official Gazette as well as, as an Annex to RBI Master Circular on Miscellaneous Remittances from India-Facilities for Residents available at RBI website www.mastercirculars.rbi.org.in.
Foreign exchange can be purchased from any authorised person, such as Authorised Dealer (AD) Category-I bank and AD Category II. Full-Fledged Money Changers (FFMCs) are also permitted to release exchange for business and private visits.
An Authorised Dealer is normally a bank specifically authorized by the Reserve Bank under Section 10(1) of FEMA, 1999, to deal in foreign exchange or foreign securities (the list of ADs is available on www.rbi.org.in ).
For private visits abroad, other than to Nepal and Bhutan, viz., for tourism purposes, etc., any resident can obtain foreign exchange up to an aggregate amount of USD 10,000, from an Authorised Dealer, in any one financial year, on self-declaration basis, irrespective of the number of visits undertaken during the year. This limit of USD 10,000 or its equivalent per financial year for private visits can also be availed of by a person who is availing of foreign exchange for travel abroad for any purposes, such as, for employment or immigration or studies.
No foreign exchange is available for visit to Nepal and/or Bhutan for any purpose.
A resident Indian is allowed to take INR of denomination of Rs.100 or lesser denomination to Nepal and Bhutan without limit.
For business trips abroad to countries, other than to Nepal and Bhutan, a person can avail of foreign exchange up to USD 25,000 per visit. Visits in connection with attending of an international conference, seminar, specialised training, study tour, apprentice training, etc., are treated as business visits. Release of foreign exchange exceeding USD 25,000 for business travel abroad (other than to Nepal and Bhutan), irrespective of the period of stay, requires prior permission from the Reserve Bank.
No release of foreign exchange is admissible for any kind of travel to Nepal and Bhutan or for any transaction with persons resident in Nepal.
Investments in Bhutan are permitted in Indian Rupees as well as in freely convertible currencies. If investment is made in freely convertible currency/ ies, sale/winding up proceeds are required to be repatriated to India in freely convertible currencies.
Travellers going to all countries other than (a) and ( b) below are allowed to purchase foreign currency notes / coins only up to USD 3000. Balance amount can be carried in the form of travellers cheque or banker's draft. Exceptions to this are (a) travellers proceeding to Iraq and Libya who can draw foreign exchange in the form of foreign currency notes and coins not exceeding USD 5000 or its equivalent; (b) travellers proceeding to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Russian Federation and other Republics of Commonwealth of Independent States who can draw entire foreign exchange in the form of foreign currency notes or coins.
AD Category I banks and AD Category II, may release foreign exchange up to USD 100,000 or its equivalent to resident Indians for medical treatment abroad on self declaration basis, without insisting on any estimate from a hospital/doctor in India/abroad. A person visiting abroad for medical treatment can obtain foreign exchange exceeding the above limit, provided the request is supported by an estimate from a hospital/doctor in India/abroad.
An amount up to USD 25,000 is allowed for maintenance expensesof a patient going abroad for medical treatment or check-up abroad, or to a person foraccompanying as attendant to a patient going abroad for medical treatment/check-up.
The amount of USD 25,000 allowed to the patient going abroad is in addition to the limit of USD 100,000 mentioned above.
For studies abroad the estimate received from the institution abroad or USD 100,000, per academic year, whichever is higher, may be availed of from an AD Category I bank and AD Category II. Students going abroad for studies are treated as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and are eligible for all the facilities available to NRIs under FEMA, 1999. Educational and other loans availed of by students as residents in India can be allowed to continue. A student holding NRO account may withdraw and repatriate up to USD 1 million per financial year from his NRO account. The student may avail of an amount of USD 10,000 or its equivalent for incidental expenses out of which USD 3000 or its equivalent may be carried in the form of foreign currency while going for study abroad.
Documentation may be done as advised by the Authorised Dealer.
A person going abroad for employment can draw foreign exchange up to USD 100,000 from any Authorised Dealer in India on the basis of self-declaration.
A person going abroad on emigration can draw foreign exchange from AD Category I bank and AD Category II up to the amount prescribed by the country of emigration or USD 100,000. He can draw foreign exchange up to USD 100,000 on self- declaration basis from an Authorised Dealer in India This amount is only to meet the incidental expenses in the country of emigration. No amount of foreign exchange can be remitted outside India to become eligible or for earning points or credits for immigration. All such remittances require prior permission of the Reserve Bank. If requirement exceeds USD 100,000, the person requires to obtain the prior approval from the Reserve Bank.
Dance troupes, artistes, etc., who wish to undertake cultural tours abroad, should obtain prior approval from the Ministry of Human Resources Development (Department of Education and Culture), Government of India, New Delhi.
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 1976 is administered and monitored by the Ministry of Home Affairs whose address is given below:
26, Mansingh Road,
New Delhi-110 011
No specific approval from the Reserve Bank is required in this regard.
Permissible foreign exchange can be drawn 60 days in advance. In case it is not possible to use the foreign exchange within the period of 60 days, it should be immediately surrendered to an authorised person. However, residents are free to retain foreign exchange up to USD 2,000, in the form of foreign currency notes or TCs for future use or credit to their Resident Foreign Currency (Domestic) [RFC (Domestic)] Accounts.
Foreign exchange for travel abroad can be purchased from an authorized person against rupee payment in cash only up to Rs.50,000/-. However, if the Rupee equivalent exceeds Rs.50,000/-, the entire payment should be made by way of a crossed cheque/ banker's cheque/ pay order/ demand draft/ debit card / credit card / prepaid card only.
On return from a foreign trip, travellers are required to surrender unspent foreign exchange held in the form of currency notes and travellers cheques within 180 days of return. However, they are free to retain foreign exchange up to USD 2,000, in the form of foreign currency notes or TCs for future use or credit to their Resident Foreign Currency (Domestic) [RFC (Domestic)] Accounts.
The residents can hold foreign coins without any limit.
Any resident individual, if he so desires, may remit the entire limit of USD 200,000 in one financial year under LRS as gift to a person residing outside India or as donation to a charitable/educational/ religious/cultural organization outside India. Remittances exceeding the limit of USD 200,000 will require prior permission from the Reserve Bank.
Use of International Credit Cards (ICCs) / ATMs/ Debit Cards can be made for travel abroad in connection with various purposes and for making personal payments like subscription to foreign journals, internet subscription, etc. The entitlement of foreign exchange on International Credit Cards (ICCs) is limited by the credit limit fixed by the card issuing authority only. With ICCs one can (i) meet expenses/make purchases while abroad (ii) make payments in foreign exchange for purchase of books and other items through internet in India. If the person has a foreign currency account in India or with a bank overseas, he/she can even obtain ICCs of overseas banks and reputed agencies.
Use of these instruments for payment in foreign exchange in Nepal and Bhutan is not permitted.
Residents are free to take outside India (other than to Nepal and Bhutan) currency notes of Government of India and Reserve Bank of India notes up to an amount not exceeding Rs. 7,500/ - per person. They may take or send outside India (other than to Nepal and Bhutan) commemorative coins not exceeding two coins each.
'Commemorative Coin' includes coin issued by Government of India Mint to commemorate any specific occasion or event and expressed in Indian currency.
A resident of India, who has gone out of India on a temporary visit may bring into India at the time of his return from any place outside India (other than Nepal and Bhutan), currency notes of Government of India and Reserve Bank of India notes up to an amount not exceeding Rs.7,500.
A person can take or send out of India to Nepal or Bhutan, currency notes of Government of India and Reserve Bank notes, in denominations not exceeding Rs.100.
A person coming into India from abroad can bring with him foreign exchange without any limit. However, if the aggregate value of the foreign exchange in the form of currency notes, bank notes or travellers cheques brought in exceeds USD 10,000 or its equivalent and/or the value of foreign currency alone exceeds USD 5,000 or its equivalent, it should be declared to the Customs Authorities at the Airport in the Currency Declaration Form (CDF), on arrival in India.
A person resident in India is free to send (export) any gift article of value not exceeding Rs.5,00,000 provided export of that item is not prohibited under the extant Foreign Trade Policy and the exporter submits a declaration that goods of gift are not more than Rs.5,00,000 in value.
Export of goods or services up to Rs.5,00,000 may be made without furnishing the declaration in Form GR/ SDF/ PP/ SOFTEX, as the case may be.
Taking personal jewellery out of India is as per the Baggage Rules, governed and administered by Customs Department, Government of India. While no approval of the Reserve Bank is required in this case, approvals, if any, required from Customs Authorities may be obtained.
A person resident in India is free to make any payment in Indian Rupees towards meeting expenses, on account of boarding, lodging and services related thereto or travel to and from and within India, of a person resident outside India, who is on a visit to India.
Residents may book their tickets in India for their visit to any third country. For instance, residents can book their tickets for travel from London to New York, through domestic/foreign airlines in India itself.
Persons resident in India are permitted to maintain foreign currency accounts in India under the following three Schemes:
a. Exchange Earners Foreign Currency Accounts
All categories of resident foreign exchange earners can credit up to 100 per cent of their foreign exchange earnings, as specified in the paragraph 1 (A) of the Schedule to Notification No. FEMA 10/2000-RB dated 3rd May, 2000 and as amended from time to time, to their EEFC Account with an Authorised Dealer in India. Funds held in EEFC account can be utilised for all permissible current account transactions and also for approved capital account transactions as specified by the extant Rules/Regulations/ Notifications/ Directives issued by the Government/RBI from time to time. The account is maintained in the form of a non-interest bearing current account.
b. Resident Foreign Currency Accounts
A person resident in India may open, hold and maintain with an Authorised Dealer in India a Resident Foreign Currency (RFC) Account to keep their foreign currency assets which were held outside India at the time of return can be credited to such accounts. The foreign exchange received as (i) pension of any other superannuation or other monetary benefits from the employer outside India; (ii) received or acquired as gift or inheritance from a person referred to sub-section (4) of section 6 of FEMA, 1999 or (iii) referred to in clause (c) of section 9 of the Act or acquired as gift or inheritance there from or (iv) received as the proceeds of life insurance policy claims/maturity/ surrender values settled in foreign currency from an insurance company in India permitted to undertake life insurance business by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority; may also be credited to this account.
RFC account can be maintained in the form of current or savings or term deposit accounts.
The funds in RFC account are free from all restrictions regarding utilisation of foreign currency balances including any restriction on investment outside India.
c. Resident Foreign Currency (Domestic) Account
A resident Individual may open, hold and maintain with an Authorized Dealer in India, a Resident Foreign Currency (Domestic) Account, out of foreign exchange acquired in the form of currency notes, Bank notes and travellers cheques, from any of the sources like, payment for services rendered abroad, as honorarium, gift, services rendered or in settlement of any lawful obligation from any person not resident in India. The account may also be credited with/opened out of foreign exchange earned abroad like proceeds of export of goods and/or services, royalty, honorarium, etc., and/or gifts received from close relatives (as defined in the Companies Act) and repatriated to India through normal banking channels. The account shall be maintained in the form of Current Account and shall not bear any interest. There is no ceiling on the balances in the account. The account may be debited for payments made towards permissible current and capital account transactions.
In terms of sub-section 4, of Section (6) of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, a person resident in India is free to hold, own, transfer or invest in foreign currency, foreign security or any immovable property situated outside India if such currency, security or property was acquired, held or owned by such person when he was resident outside India or inherited from a person who was resident outside India. (Please also refer to the Liberalised Remittance Scheme of USD 200,000).
For further details/guidance, please approach any bank authorised to deal in foreign exchange or contact Regional Offices of the Foreign Exchange Department of the Reserve Bank. A 'person resident in India' is defined in Section 2(v) of FEMA, 1999 as : A person residing in India for more than one hundred and eighty-two days during the course of the preceding financial year but does not include -
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