Q.1.  Who can purchase immovable property in India?

Ans. Under the general permission available, the following categories can purchase immovable property in India:

i) Non-Resident Indian (NRI)
ii)  Person of Indian Origin (PIO)

The general permission, however, covers only purchase of residential and commercial property and is not available for purchase of agricultural land / plantation property / farm house in India.

Q.2.  Can NRI/PIO acquire agricultural land/ plantation property / farm house in India?

Ans. No.

Q.3.  Are any documents required to be filed with the Reserve Bank after the purchase?

Ans. No.  An NRI / PIO who has purchased residential / commercial property under general permission, is not required to file any documents/reports with the Reserve Bank.

Q.4. How many residential / commercial properties can NRI / PIO purchase under the general permission?

Ans. There are no restrictions on the number of residential / commercial properties that can be purchased.

Q.5. Can a foreign national of non-Indian origin be a second holder to immovable property purchased by NRI / PIO?

Ans. No.

Q.6. Can a foreign national of non-Indian origin resident outside India purchase immovable property in India?

Ans. No. A foreign national of non-Indian origin, resident outside India cannot purchase any immovable property in India unless such property is acquired by way of inheritance from a person who was resident in India. However, he / she can acquire or transfer immovable property in India, on lease, not exceeding five years. In such cases, there is no requirement of taking any permission of /or reporting to the Reserve Bank.

Q.7. Can a foreign national who is a person resident in India purchase immovable property in India?

Ans.  Yes, a foreign national who is a ‘person resident in India’ within the meaning of Section 2(v) of FEMA, 1999 can purchase immovable property in India,but the person concerned would have to obtain the approvals and fulfil the requirements, if any, prescribed by other authorities, such as, the State Government concerned, etc. The onus to prove his/her residential status is on the individual as per the extant FEMA provisions, if required by any authority. However, a foreign national resident in India who is a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan would require prior approval of the Reserve Bank.

Q.8. Can a NRI/PIO acquire immovable property in India by way of gift? Can a foreign national acquire immovable property in India by way of gift?

Ans. (a)  Yes, NRIs and  PIOs can freely acquire immovable property by way of gift either from

i) a person resident in India; or
ii) an NRI;  or
iii) a PIO.

However, the property can only be commercial or residential in nature. Agricultural land / plantation property / farm house in India cannot be acquired by way of gift.

(b) A foreign national of non-Indian origin resident outside India cannot acquire any immovable property in India by way of gift.

Q.9. Can a non-resident inherit immovable property in India?

Ans. Yes, a person resident outside India i.e. i) an NRI; ii) a PIO;  and iii) a foreign national of non-Indian origin can inherit and hold immovable property in India from a person who was resident in India. However, a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan should seek prior approval of the Reserve Bank for inheriting immovable property in India.

Q.10. From whom can a non-resident person inherit immovable property?

Ans.  A person resident outside India (i.e. NRI or PIO or foreign national of non-Indian origin) can inherit immovable property from

(a) a person resident in India
(b) a person resident outside India

However, the person from whom the property is inherited should have acquired the same in accordance with the foreign exchange law in force or FEMA regulations, applicable at the time of acquisition of the property.

(i) Transfer by way of sale

Q.12. Can an NRI/ PIO/foreign national sell his residential / commercial property?

Ans. (a)  NRI can sell property in India to

i)   a person resident in India; or
ii)  an NRI; or
iii) a PIO.

(b) PIO can sell property in India to

i)   a person resident in India; or
ii)   an NRI; or
iii)  a PIO –  with the  prior approval of the Reserve Bank

(c) Foreign national of non-Indian origin including a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or Afghanistan or China or Iran or Nepal or Bhutan can sell property in India with prior approval of the Reserve Bank to

i)  a person resident in India
ii) an NRI
iii) a PIO

Q.13. Can a non-resident owning / holding an agricultural land / a plantation property / a farm house in India sell the said property?

Ans. (a) NRI / PIO may sell agricultural land /plantation property/farm house to a person resident in India who is a citizen of India.

(b)  Foreign national of non-Indian origin resident outside India would need prior approval of the Reserve Bank to sell agricultural land/plantation property/ farm house in India.

(ii) Transfer by way of gift

Q.14. Can a non-resident gift his residential / commercial property?

Ans.  Yes.
(a) NRI / PIO may gift residential / commercial property to –
(i) person resident in India or
(ii) an NRI or
(iii) PIO.

(b)  A foreign national of non-Indian origin requires the prior approval of the Reserve Bank for gifting the residential / commercial property.

Q.15. Can an NRI / PIO / foreign national holding an agricultural land / a plantation property / a farm house in India, gift the same?

Ans.  (a) NRI / PIO can gift an agricultural land / a plantation property / a farm house in India only to a person resident in India who is a citizen of India.

(b) A foreign national of non-Indian origin would require the prior approval of the Reserve Bank to gift an agricultural land / a plantation property / a farm house in India.

(iii) Transfer through mortgage

Q.16. Can residential / commercial property be mortgaged by NRI/ PIO?

Ans. i) NRI / PIO can mortgage a residential / commercial property to:

(a) an Authorised Dealer / the housing finance institution in India without the approval of Reserve Bank

(b) a bank abroad, with the prior approval of the Reserve Bank.

ii) A foreign national of non-Indian origin can mortgage a residential / commercial property only with prior approval of the Reserve Bank.

iii) A foreign company which has established a Branch Office or other place of business in accordance with FERA/FEMA regulations has general permission to mortgage the property with an Authorised Dealer in India.

 Mode of payment

Q.17. How can an NRI / PIO make payment for purchase of residential / commercial property in India?

Ans.  Payment can be made by NRI / PIO out of:

(a) funds remitted to India through normal banking channels or
(b) funds held in NRE / FCNR (B) / NRO account  maintained in India

No payment can be made either by traveller’s cheque or by foreign currency notes or by other mode except those specifically mentioned above.

Q.18 Is repatriation of application money for booking of flat / payment made to the builder by NRI/ PIO allowed when the flat or plot is not allotted or the booking / contract is cancelled?

Ans. The Authorised Dealers can allow NRIs / PIOs to creditrefund of application/ earnest money/ purchase consideration made by the house building agencies/ seller on account of non-allotment of flat/ plot/ cancellation of bookings/ deals for purchase of residential, commercial property, together with interest, if any, net of income tax payable thereon, to NRE/FCNR account, provided, the original payment was made out of NRE/FCNR account of the account holder or remittance from outside India through normal banking channels and the Authorised Dealer is satisfied about the genuineness of the transaction.

Q.19.  Can NRI / PIO avail of loan from an authorised dealer for acquiring flat / house in India for his own residential use against the security of funds held in his NRE Fixed Deposit account / FCNR (B) account? How the loan can be repaid?

Ans. Yes, such loans are permitted subject to the terms and conditions laid down in Schedules 1 and 2 to the Notification No. FEMA 5/2000-RB dated May 3, 2000 viz. Foreign Exchange Management (Deposit) Regulations, 2000, as amended from time to time. Banks cannot grant fresh loans or renew existing loans in excess of Rs. 100 lakhs against NRE and FCNR (B) deposits, either to the depositors or to third parties. The banks should also not undertake artificial slicing of the loan amount to circumvent the ceiling of Rs. 100 lakh.

Q.20. Can NRI / PIO, avail of housing loan in Rupees from an Authorised Dealer or a Housing Finance Institution in India approved by the National Housing Bank for purchase of residential accommodation or for the purpose of repairs / renovation / improvement of residential accommodation ? How can such loan be repaid?

Ans. Yes, NRI/PIO can avail of housing loan in Rupees from an Authorised Dealer or a Housing Finance Institution subject to certain terms and conditions laid down in Regulation 8 of Notification No. FEMA 4/2000-RB dated May 3, 2000 viz. Foreign Exchange Management (Borrowing and lending in rupees) Regulations, 2000, as amended from time to time. Authorised Dealers/ Housing Finance Institutions can also lend to the NRIs/ PIOs for the purpose of repairs/renovation/ improvement of residential accommodation owned by them in India. Such a loan can be repaid (a) by way of inward remittance through normal banking channel or (b) by debit to the NRE / FCNR (B) / NRO account of the NRI / PIO or (c) out of rental income from such property; or (d) by the borrower’s close relatives, as defined in section 6 of the Companies Act, 1956, through their account in India by crediting the borrower’s loan account.

Other Aspects

Q.28. Can NRI / PIO rent out the residential / commercial property purchased out of foreign exchange / rupee funds?

Ans. Yes, NRI/PIO can rent out the property without the approval of the Reserve Bank. The rent received can be credited to NRO / NRE account or remitted abroad. Powers have been delegated to the Authorised Dealers to allow repatriation of current income like rent, dividend, pension, interest, etc. of NRIs/PIO who do not maintain an NRO account in India based on an appropriate certification by a Chartered Accountant, certifying that the amount proposed to be remitted is eligible for remittance and that applicable taxes have been paid/provided for.

Q.29. Can a person who had bought immovable property, when he was a resident, continue to hold such property even after becoming an NRI/PIO?

Ans. Yes, a person who had bought the residential / commercial property / agricultural land/ plantation property / farm house in India when he was a resident, continue to hold the immovable property without the approval of the Reserve Bank even after becoming an NRI/PIO.

Q. 30. In which account can the sale proceeds of such immovable property be credited ?

Ans. The sale proceeds may be credited to NRO account of the NRI /PIO.

Q.31. Can the sale proceeds of the immovable property referred to in Q.No. 29 be remitted abroad ?

Ans. Yes, From the balance in the NRO account, NRI/PIO may remit up to USD one million, per financial year, subject to the satisfaction of Authorised Dealer and payment of applicable taxes.

Q.32. Can foreign nationals of non-Indian origin resident in India or outside India who had earlier acquired immovable property under FERA with specific approval of the Reserve Bank continue to hold the same?  Can they transfer such property?

Ans. Yes, they may continue to hold the immovable property under holding license obtained from the Reserve Bank. However, they can transfer the property only with the prior approval of the Reserve Bank.