NRI Buyers Guide

Who is an NRI (Non-Resident Indian)?

Under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999,
(a) Non-Resident Indian is: a. An Indian citizen who spent less than 182 days during the preceding financial year in India OR

(b) An Indian citizen who is either employed abroad, undertakes a business or other vocational activity overseas, or for other reasons, is unable to indicate with certainty the length of his/her stay abroad. OR

(c) A government employee either deputed abroad on assignment or posted to Indian governmental offices located overseas, such as the Indian Diplomatic Missions. OR

(d) An Indian citizen working abroad on assignment with foreign governmental agencies such as the UN, the WHO, the IMF, the World Bank etc.,

Do non-resident Indian citizens require permission of Reserve Bank to acquire residential/commercial property in India?


Who is a PIO (Persons of Indian Origin)?

As per FEM Regulations, 2000 (Acquisition & Transfer of Immovable Property in India), a Person of Indian Origin is a citizen of any country (other than Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal or Bhutan), provided:

(a) He/She has held an Indian passport at any point in time; or

(b) He/She or either of his/her parents or grandparents was a citizen of India by virtue of the Indian Constitution or the Citizenship Act of 1955.

Note: A spouse (not being a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh) of an Indian citizen or of a person of Indian origin is also treated as a person of Indian origin for the above purposes provided the bank accounts are opened or investments in shares/securities in India are made by such persons only jointly with their NRI spouses.

For investments in immovable properties.
(A foreign citizen (other than a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, or Nepal), is deemed to be of Indian origin if, ):

(i) He/She held an Indian passport at any time, or

(ii) He/She or his father or paternal grandfather was a citizen of India by virtue of the (Constitution of India or the Citizenship Act, 1955-57 of 1955).

What kinds of bank accounts can NRIs maintain?

Who and How: The existing bank account of an Indian National going abroad is automatically assigned to be an Ordinary Non-Resident Account (NRO). An NRI can also open an NRO account by remitting funds from abroad or by transferring funds from an existing NRO account into an existing NRO account. Such accounts can also be opened by Overseas Corporate Bodies (OCBs). NRO accounts can either be opened by individual NRIs, or jointly by non-residents with their close relatives, resident in India. From then on, operations by the resident account holders can be made freely.
Type: Current, savings and term deposit accounts.
Transactions permitted: All types of transactions involving deposits and withdrawals to and from NRO accounts are usually permitted. Repatriability: As funds in these accounts are non-repatriable, they cannot be remitted abroad to the account holders or transferred to their NRE accounts without the Reserve Bank's prior permission. Nevertheless, the funds can be freely withdrawn from local disbursement without the approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Tax: The interest of deposits in NRI accounts and their outstanding balances are not exempt from Indian income tax.

Who and How: Non Resident Indians (NRIs) as well as Overseas Corporate Bodies (OCBs) are permitted to open NRE accounts. In order to open an NRE account, funds need to be remitted to India through the:

(i) proceeds of foreign exchange remittances from abroad through approved banking channels, or

(ii) proceeds of foreign currency and traveler's cheques bought into India by the non-resident while on a temporary visit to India,or

(iii) transfer of funds from an existing External Non- Resident FCNR account of the same person.
Type: All types of account i.e. current, savings and term deposits can be opened under the NRE Accounts Scheme. NRE accounts can be opened either by individuals or jointly. In the case of joint NRE Accounts however, all the account holders must be of Indian nationality or origin.
Repatriability: The entire credit balance of the account can be repatriated outside India at any given time without prior reference to the Reserve Bank. At the time of repatriation, the amount to be sent is converted into the designated foreign currency at the prevailing market exchange rate. In essence, NRE accounts offer all the facilities offered by NRO accounts in addition to which NRE account holders are allowed repatriation without informing the Reserve Bank.

Who and How: With the exception of persons of Indian origin from Bangladesh and Pakistan, all Non Resident Indians and Overseas Commercial Bodies are eligible to open FCNR accounts. FCNR (B) accounts are permitted in the following currencies:

  • Pound Sterling (GBP) | Deutsche Mark (DM)
  • US Dollar (USD) | Japanese Yen (JPY)
  • Euro (EUR) | or other currencies that fit RBI guidelines.

The rates of interest on the FCNR (B) account vary by currency. Type: Only term deposits, ranging over a period of 6 months to 3 years, can be maintained in FCNR (B) accounts. Current and savings accounts are not available under this scheme.

Do Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) rules and policies permit NRIs and PIOs to acquire immovable property in India?

Under the Foreign Exchange Management Act of India, Non Resident Indians are allowed to acquire immovable property in India, with the exceptions of agricultural/plantation properties and farm houses.

PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) residents are permitted?

To acquire any immovable property other than agricultural land/farm house/plantation property in India by purchase using:

(i) Funds received in India through remittances from abroad, or
(ii) Funds held in the investor's non-resident accounts

(a) To be gifted any immovable property in India other than agricultural land/ farmhouses /plantation property from a resident, NRI or PIO

(b) To inherit any immovable property in India from a resident or non-resident who had acquired the property in accordance with the law of foreign exchange valid at the time of acquisition. Any non-resident person who has established a branch, office or other place of business (excluding a liaison office) in India in accordance with FEM Regulations, 2000, may acquire an immovable property so long as he/she provides a declaration in Form IPI to the Reserve Bank of India within 90 days of the date of acquisition.

What are the benefits offered to NRIs/PIOs/Overseas Commercial Bodies under the Liberalized Exchange Policy in the context of immovable property?

(i) Non-resident Indians are permitted to transfer any immovable property in India to a resident person, and any immovable property other than agricultural or plantation property or farmhouses, to a Non-Resident Indian or Person of Indian Origin.

(ii) Persons of Indian Origin are permitted to transfer any immovable property in India other than agricultural land / farm houses /plantation property by way of sale to a resident person; any agricultural land / farm house / plantation property in India, by way of gift or sale to a resident person who is a citizen of India; and any residential or commercial property in India by way of gift to a resident person or NRI or PIO.

(iii) Any Non-Resident person who has acquired any immovable property in India for establishing an office or other place of business (excluding a liaison office), is permitted to transfer such property by way of mortgage to an authorised dealer as security.

Can the sale proceeds of immovable property in India be repatriated?

The sale proceeds of immovable property in India can be repatriated if the following conditions are fulfilled:

(a) The immovable property was acquired by the seller in accordance with the law of foreign exchange in force at the time of acquisition.

(b) The amount to be repatriated does not exceed the amount paid for the acquisition of the immovable property in foreign exchange received either (i) through normal banking channels, or (ii) from funds held in the seller's FCNR A/c, or (iii) the foreign exchange equivalent, as on the date of payment, when the amount was paid of out the seller's External Non Resident Rupee Account (NRE A/c).

(c) In the case of residential property, the repatriation of sales proceeds is restricted to two properties.

(d) If a non-resident person acquired an immovable property in India when he was a resident or inherited it from a resident, the repatriation of sales proceeds of the property will only be allowed once the Reserve Bank of India has granted permission. Similar restrictions shall apply for the successors of the above mentioned.

(e) No permission is required for the renting, transfer or gifting of property so long as there is no repatriation of proceeds. (The condition for the non-repatriation of sales proceeds for a period of three years has now been withdrawn by the Reserve Bank of India as per the RBI circular of 1.11.2002).

Can the Non Resident Indian avail of housing loans using immovable property in India as security?

Yes. Authorised dealers and financial housing institutions in India, approved by National Housing Banks, may grant housing loans to Non Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin for the acquisition of immovable property in India subject to the following conditions:

(a)The size of the loan, interest rate, fees and other charges as well as the repayment period must be at par with those applicable to housing loans being granted to Indian residents.

(b) The loans must be fully secured by creating an equitable mortgage of the property being acquired, and if necessary, additional liens may need to be placed upon other assets belonging to the borrower in India.

(c) The loan amount must not be credited to the NRE, FCNR or NRNR (Non Resident Non-Repatriable Term Deposit Account) accounts of the non-resident borrower.

The borrower may repay the loan in installments comprising of principal and interest payments and other charges through remittances from abroad via normal banking channels, or from funds held in his/her NRE/FCNR/NRO/ NRNR accounts in India.