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What is NRI Account – Know the Types, Benefits, Eligibility and More

  • Sidharth Sanjeev
  • 21 Nov
  • 7 minutes

A Non Resident Indian’s banking requirements are different from that of a resident Indian. This is because they can have income sources, both, in India as well as their country of residence.Therefore, the products and services offered by banks for such customers are specific and based on the needs of NRIs. One such banking product is the NRI account.   Let’s have a look at the concept of an NRI account, its features, eligibility criteria and other pertinent information.

NRI or Non Resident Indian

An Indian citizen or Person of Indian origin who stays out of the country is referred to as ‘Non Resident Indian’ (NRI). A person who is employed for a company based outside India will be deemed NRI immediately.    From a taxation point of view, individuals need to satisfy any of the following conditions for identifying their status as ‘Resident Indian’ :    If they were in India for a period of 182 days or more during previous Financial Year, or They were in India for a period of 60 days or more during the previous FY and 365 days or more during the four years immediately preceding the previous year   In case these conditions are not satisfied, the person is considered as a Non Resident Indian. 

What is NRI Account

Non Resident Indian or Person of Indian Origin (PIO) can own and operate a bank account in India, which is known as an NRI account. This account can be a savings, current or deposit account and can be used by NRIs for saving and investing their earnings from India or abroad. NRI accounts can be rupee denominated or in prescribed Foreign currency.   

Eligibility criteria for opening an NRI Account

The following type of individuals are eligible to open an NRI account:  

  • Officials of Government or PSU, posted abroad
  • Persons employed with UN (or its allied organizations)
  • Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)
  • Non Resident Indian
  • Indian citizen residing outside for studies, business or employment

  A foreign passport holder (except Pakistan or Bangladesh)  

  • who has held an Indian passport in the past 
  • whose grandparent or parent was an Indian citizen as per Indian Citizen Act or Constitution of India
  • who is a spouse of PIO or Indian Citizen  

Documents required for opening an NRI Account

  The following documents are required while opening an NRI account : 

  •  Copy of valid passport with all the basic details
  •  NRI proof document like – valid work permit / visa, 
  •  Address proof
  •  PAN Card or Form 60

  These documents have to be duly verified by authorized personnel.   

Types of NRI accounts

There are three types of NRI accounts offered by banks :  

1. Non – Resident Ordinary Account (NRO)

NRIs can operate Non Resident Ordinary (Rupee) accounts for receiving and managing their income arising in India. The source of income can be rent, pension, dividends etc.  The withdrawal from this account can only be in INR and interest earned is liable to tax.  

2. Non – Resident External Account (NRE)

It is a rupee based account and can be opened with any bank offering this service. NRE accounts can be opened from funds generated abroad and allows easy fund repatriation. Interest amount generated for this account is exempted from tax for the NRI. 

3. FCNR Account

Foreign Currency Non Resident Bank account or FCNR – B account facilitates only time deposits for NRIs, Persons of Indian Origin or Overseas Citizens.These deposits can be made in any of the nine foreign currencies as per Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines.   The current prescribed currencies are :   US Dollar (USD), Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP), Euro (EUR), Singapore Dollar (SGD), Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), Canadian Dollar (CAD), Australian Dollar (AUD), Swiss Franc (CHF) and Japanese Yen (JPY).   The rate of interest is communicated at the time of deposit and does not fluctuate thereafter.

How is NRI account different from NRE and NRO accounts

Let us understand some of the major differences between these three accounts :   

Parameter NRE Account NRO Account FCNR Account
Account Purpose Can be opened by NRI for depositing earnings from his/her country of residence (in INR) Can be opened by NRI for Indian earnings (in INR) Can be opened by an NRI for depositing earnings from country of residence in one of RBI approved currencies 
Account Type Savings, Current and Fixed Deposit accounts can be opened  Savings, Current and Fixed Deposit accounts allowed  Only Fixed Deposit accounts allowed with min 1 year maturity 
Joint Account Joint Account holder should be NRI No restriction-joint account holder can be a resident Indian or NRI Can be opened with another NRI only
Taxation Interest earned is Tax exempt Income earned is taxed Interest earned is Tax exempt
Repatriation of funds Entire balance can be repatriated Interest amount can be repatriated fully. Principal can be repatriated to a maximum of $1 Million per year Entire amount can be fully repatriated on maturity. Penalty applicable if broken prematurely
Exchange rate Impact The amount is affected by exchange rate fluctuations as well as during conversion  Not affected by exchange rate fluctuations Affected if currency conversion is involved
Currency denomination allowed INR INR USD, EUR, JPY, GBP, AUD, HKD, SGD, CAD, CHF 
Fund Transfer Funds can be transferred to other NRE or NRO account Funds cannot be transferred to NRE account It is a time deposit and charges will apply for premature w/d. Funds can then be transferred to NRE account  

Advantages of NRI account

These are some of the advantages of NRI account :   

1. Taxation

Under the Income Tax Act 1961, NRE and FCNR accounts do not attract tax liability.

2. Good returns

NRE FDs or FCNR deposits present NRIs with an opportunity for earning good returns. The interest rates on offer are better than in most of the developed countries.  

3. Inward remittance

For people working/residing abroad and helping their family in India, NRI accounts play a vital role. 

4. Investment in India

NRI accounts also give an opportunity to NRIs for investing in various avenues in India and thus diversifying their portfolio. 

5. Low balance requirement

The balance requirement for maintaining most of these accounts is quite low.

Disadvantages of NRI account

Liquidity issues

FCNR deposit is used by NRIs for hedging against rate changes, however these deposits come with a minimum lock-in period of one year.

Risk

Foreign Currency Deposits carry the risk of loss during conversion into INR. The returns on these deposits might lose value due to change in exchange rates.  

Conclusion

With a number of Indians moving abroad for work and settling there for better opportunities, their Indian savings account cannot be used for banking transactions. NRI accounts, thus, provide the much needed access, ease and facility for making their financial lives better. To top it, these accounts come with a host of features and are quite user friendly.

FAQs

1. Who should open an NRO account?

A person who has moved abroad but still has a regular income generating source in India can open an NRO account for parking such funds.

2. What is the tax status for NRI accounts?

Interest on NRO accounts is taxable while that on NRE and FCNR accounts is tax-free in India. This is subject to his tax status in another country.

3. Can a person have NRI as well as a normal Indian savings account?

A person can have only one residential status. Thus, it is not possible to have both these accounts simultaneously. Any residential status change needs to be communicated to the bank.

4. Which banks offer NRI accounts?

Prominent Indian/Foreign banks like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, SBI, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank offer NRI Account services.

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Sidharth Sanjeev