Editorial: 6 reasons why RBI’s extended deadline will not help most NRIs

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After several weeks of confusion and thousands of distress calls from Non-resident Indians (NRIs), Reserve Bank of India on Saturday announced that NRIs can exchange old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes till June 30, 2017.

The announcement came as a relief to many NRIs who possess demonetised currencies of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 with them. However detailed explanation of the RBI requirements reveal that the extension will not be helpful to majority of NRIs abroad.

Here are the reasons:

1. Facility only in 5 RBI offices

Unlike what many social media messages claim, the exchange facility for NRIs is not available in regular banks and all RBI offices. If you approach your regular bank with demonetised currencies, you will be disappointed.

  • The extended exchange facility for NRIs will be available ONLY through Reserve Bank offices at Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and Nagpur.

It has to be noted that Reserve Bank of India has offices at 31 locations all over India (see the map below), but only 5 regional offices have been selected to open this window.

RBI Office

RBI Office Locations in India (Image: RBI website)

Obviously it will not be feasible for people from distant places or other states to visit these cities, just to exchange Rs 25,000 or less.

While states like Kerala, which has millions of NRIs living abroad, has two RBI offices, none of them provide this exchange facility.

As a matter of fact, someone who lives in Trivandrum (which already has an RBI office) will need to travel at least 1500km (return travel to nearest RBI office in Chennai) and spend thousands of Rupees to exchange his own money.

2. Only notes brought from abroad can be deposited

If you are carrying demonetised currency to India, a declaration form with the number of notes and total amount has to be filled and submitted to Customs Official at airport. The official will issue a certificate or stamp on the declaration form and the same has to be submitted along with other documents to RBI offices.

While the intention here is to control unaccounted money, sadly many NRIs would lose value for the money they had kept in lockers & vaults in India – even if it is accounted and earned through proper channels.

3. Only Rs 25,000 allowed for NRIs

The RBI circular says that there will be no monetary limit for exchange for eligible Indian citizens who were abroad for short period.

However, deposits from NRIs will be subject to the relevant Foreign Exchange laws, which limits it to Rs 25,000 only.

So if you have more than Rs 25,000 with you, the maximum you can deposit is Rs 25,000 and the rest become valueless – even if the source is legal.

Third party tender is not allowed, which means you cannot authorize someone to exchange. In case a husband and wife carries Rs 50,000 to India, both of them will have to travel all the way to RBI office and stand in queue to exchange the currency.

4. Too many documents required

Here are the documents required for exchange of currency at RBI office (as stated in RBI website)

  1. A Copy of Passport with immigration stamp as proof of the individual’s absence from the country during the period November 9, 2016 to December 30, 2016.
  2. Passport in original should be presented at the RBI counter for verification.
  3. A certificate issued by Indian Customs on arrival through Red Channel indicating the import of SBNs, with details and value thereof.
  4. Copies of statements of all bank accounts in India evidencing that no SBNs were deposited during November 10, 2016 to December 30, 2016.
  5. Requisite document as per provisions of Section 114B of IT Rules, 1962.

While requirements 1, 2 & 3 are reasonable, we do not understand the logic behind “statements of all bank accounts in India evidencing that no SBNs were deposited during the period”.

With document 1, the person is already proving that he was out of country for last 7 weeks. Only NRO accounts were allowed to accept deposits of SBN and that too with authorization letter. So why statement from all bank accounts?

By showing the Customs certificate, you are already proving that the money was brought from abroad.

  • If an NRI already had some money in India and he deposited it to NRO account (by authorizing someone else) why is he being prohibited from depositing more money he had abroad?
  • While no such restrictions applied for resident Indians, how does RBI assume that NRIs will not have more than Rs 25,000 (white money) with them?

5. Why PAN card if the amount goes to KYC-compliant account?

Even though PAN card and Aadhaar Card are recently being promoted as mandatory requirements for many transactions, the big question is how many NRIs have got them.

According to RBI circular, requisite document as per provisions of Section 114B of IT Rules, 1962 are required to be submitted.  Section 114B of Income Tax Rules is about PAN card as a requirement for depositing Rs 50,000 to bank accounts.

If the limit allowed to NRIs is only Rs 25,000 and the amount is being directly deposited only to KYC-compliant bank accounts, that too upon showing an original Passport, why the requirement for PAN Card?

6. Is six months enough for everyone?

The RBI has extended the deadline to 30 June, 2017 which is a good move. But is it good enough for all?

Considering that average return-ticket rates from most countries is more than Rs 25,000, no one will travel to India to get Rs 25,000 exchanged. The only option is to exchange during holiday visit.

Most NRIs, especially families, visit India during July-September as it coincides with school vacation and festival season. Even in 2017, the school vacations in GCC is expected to start around last week of June. And then there are many more, especially in US, UK etc, who don’t visit every year.

So with the deadline being 30 June, how many people would be able to make use of this facility?

Can’t we do it in a better way?

We understand that some suggestions like exchanging currency a Indian Missions abroad or allowing foreign banks to exchange are not feasible. However, being the apex financial body in India, RBI should have come up with a more practical and simpler facility for NRIs who contribute billions of dollars to Indian economy every year.

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It would have helped millions of people if regular banks were allowed to collect demonetised currencies through NRO accounts – of course after producing the necessary documents.

With dynamic leaders like Sushma Swaraj heading Ministry of External Affairs, NRIs are still optimistic that the regulations will be reframed and their currency woes will be answered.


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- Published on 4 January 2017

50 Comments

  1. Mr Modi
    Congrats for winning the elections. India is poised to do well under your leadership. But ,do not forget the Indians abroad(with the title of OCI which is a title NOT of their choosing). We ,OCIs,are left with currency which is our hard earned money but sadly is useless. Please,sir,I sincerely request you to allow us to exchange these (up to a limit) in our country of residence. Now that you are free to make new agenda,let this be your top priority. Please do not allow this money go waste. That will be an insult to goddess lakshmi. No one would know more about this than you.

  2. I totally agree with Suraksha. Our Prime minister Mr. Mode has these Indian values instilled in him and he respects them with sincerity. I hope he proves it by allowing NRI/OCI hard earned white money not going to waste.

  3. Demonetization was good for Indian economy. But the way it has been executed is pathetic and frustrating. PM/FM and RBI has no right to let people’s legally, hard earned money go waste. RBI also has been so inefficient and careless in issuing notifications/guidance regarding this. Requirement of declaring note numbers and value at customs was published so late (I believe on 31st Dec 2016) that people travelling around this date were not aware of such requirement and could not declare it at customs. For this reason I lost my hard earned money for which I had paid tax. I am sure 1000s of people living outside India are suffering. I feel so insulted and humiliated
    I hope Govt. and RBI understand the valid pain of 1000s of Indians and provide logical, rational and practical way to exchange old notes

  4. SYED AKMAL MAHMOOD on

    This type of demonetization is unjust for NRIs on the part of the government. Some NRIs did not get custom declaration certificate due to some reasons and left the airport and were not allowed to get it later date from the airport customs office. Secondly, some of them keep some cash at home, especially sick people, like heart patient for emergency as hospital does not accept checks or credit cards for payment. How can they declare this type of money at the airports on arrival. Therefore, Govt. guidelines are unfair and showing a bad remark on them, Still there is a time to consider such cases even on individual basis and allow them to deposit in all RBI offices of India.

  5. Neeru Saxena on

    I wish Mr Modi do something for innocent NRIs who are still loves India and part of India, I left India on 10th November, I went to bank but there was big quee and the bank staff were working very slow, and my flight was same day, so I was unable to exchange my money, and thought that I can exchange when I visit to India, again, now I am visiting again on 14th April. I do business and I had some currency which I was unable to exchange and thought, like in abroad, they exchange any time, we can do same in India, I never thought our money will be wasted.. I have now 95,000 rupees, and I am unable to exchange, as I am holiding OCI card. Therefore Govt, guidlines is unfair. Mr Modi you trying best to give hard time to corrupt people. But they are changing currency, taking some commission. But whats wrong to those people who lives abroad, and frequently visit to India, and I am helpless and just very stressful, unable exchange the money. We work hard and its shame that money will be wasted. I request to Mr Modi and Government of India, personally please help your innocent NRI citizen.

  6. Madhav Manikal on

    These ‘regulations’ and very restrictive caveats are unhelpful and unjust for many NRIs – like me – with money in cash kept at home in the safe for the daily needs completely ‘white’ and taxed – with my Filing regular Tax Returns for 25 yrs +, Obviously I cannot get a Customs Declaration because these funds were lying here in my home. What justice is there in my incurring a big loss – of my Fully Taxed earned Money – with these ‘BabuRaj’ short sighted mentality – a special character and privilege of the Government ‘Babus’ and ‘Policy Makers’ – ??

    • There seems to be no announcement from RBI . The deadline of June 30 would be here soon,which is the last date for NRI (non OCI) to deposit their rupees. I hope Mr Modi takes care of OCIs after that. For those who have no bank account in India and have no intention to open one,he should allow some help in their countries of residence. One can be hopeful. There is no advantage for Modi in angering the OCIs who are potential or current investors in India.

  7. I dont think Mr. Modi cares nor has this whole demonetization made the huge impact and difference it was portrayed to the common man to be! It is a drama for Modi, by Modi for Modi’s sake! Corrupt and arrogant, Modi used the NRI to get elected as PM. He was Banned from the USA for atrocities in Gujarat as CM there. Then he wiggled into USA as PM, thanks to NRIs. He does not care about Indians in India or abroad. You are correct – our rupees are hard earned money but many of us are struggling to support our families and cannot make a visit to India by June 30, 2017. Also, we do not hold PAN and AADHAAR as we do not find the need for it. If that is required, why does the Indian Consulate not issue them just like they made all that money with PIO/OCI cards? We all have them. Cannot those cards be used for NRIs in place of PAN and Aadhaar?. Why would an NRI be allowed to own Aadhar or PAN when they do not live in India? That causes more corruption! For example, so many NRIs have relatives in India who help them get PAN and Aadhaar without the person even being physically present and getting it issued as a local Indian (not even as an NRI as it costs less). We, who do not have the DIShonest means are struggling with pending PAN issuance due to the silly form having an initial for middle name and then a dispute that passport has middle name spelled out. WHy is it so difficult for honest law-abiding folks to get anything done in India? Why is it that the NRI cannot get his hard earned rupees converted. If Modi is honest about what he is trying to do, he would have recovered ALL the rupees and including the so-called black money he was after. He was after no such thing. He just took a page out of dictator Indira Gandhi and played a game on the lives of Indians, at home and abroad. Meanwhile he is globe-trotting instead of helping the average Indian! Sad!! very sad!!

  8. Modi is corrupt and pretends to be very Indian in value! Are you kidding me? Sir Abdul Kalamji was the true Indian. He lived for the people and owned nothing. he left with nothing. he donated his salary as President to the poor and needy. Modi has wealth, wears silk clothes and pretends to LOOK like a Gandhian! Sorry, he is so corrupt only his state of Gujarat and the NRIs from Gujarat supported him to become PM. And why is he so supportive of BAPS? Arent tehre other Hindu temples in the USA? or even in India? BAPS builds huge temples with black money, they are a cult taking money from every member, promote you within the organization if you convert more into BAPS! Perhaps they have a locker in there for Modi ji too to keep his wealth secure! Enough of hypocrisy! This whole demonetization did NOTHING. The wealthy remain wealthy and the middle class continue to suffer NOW with lowered home values!

  9. vijal desai on

    Mr. Modi

    I know you want best for india and so do I , being an nri i help india anyway i can.
    But do not cut our hand by not helping nri to convert 500/1000 rs.notes.

    I think you should you must have lienincy for nri.we left our counry for better llife for us and our fellow
    counryman .we work very hard paid taxes and now we get punishment .our hard earn money should not go to waste.
    Haave some sympathy and consideratiion. this is not right.

    you keep 25000 rs limit to convert and i spend 1800$ for tickets?

    atleast keep higher amount to make woeth trip.
    this iis really a joke

    thanks mr president

    do the rright thing

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