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What is the Customs Limit on Cash When Traveling from the USA to India?

Updated on June 24, 2022 10:14 am
a passport, airplane, and Indian flag

Although it is safer to carry money in the form of a credit or debit card if you are traveling to India from the United States, bringing some currency notes with you for your day-to-day costs is convenient. However, you must adhere to certain government requirements when it comes to carrying Indian or foreign currency.

Customs Duties 

As you may be aware, each country has its own set of rules for visitors entering the country.

Custom duties are imposed on goods imported or exported by countries all over the world. Customs duty is a type of indirect tax levied on goods imported and exported. Import tariffs are imposed on items that are brought into the country, and export duties are imposed on commodities that are exported.

This duty is used by the government to increase revenue, protect home industries from predatory or efficient foreign competitors, and regulate the movement of goods across international borders.

Indian Customs Rules 

Every traveler entering India must go through a Customs check after being cleared by an Immigration officer. Travelers with prohibited or dutiable goods must complete a Customs Declaration Form (CDF). Dutiable goods are those that must be taxed when they are imported into a country. 

The Indian government imposes a customs levy on all imports into the country, as well as some exports.

Travelers can choose between two-channel for customs clearance:

  • Green Channel: For travelers that do not have any dutiable or forbidden products
  • Red Channel: For travelers with dutiable or prohibited products should use the red channel.

Travelers should report to the proper Customs Clearance channel. Travelers carrying dutiable/prohibited goods over the Green Channel face prosecution, fines, and confiscation of goods.

India Customs Cash Limit

Cash/foreign currency must be declared before customs officers, according to the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Customs traveler's rules.

Breaking Indian customs rules might result in your money being confiscated, a fine, or, in serious circumstances, arrest and prosecution.

The Reserve Bank of India has strict limits regarding the maximum amount of currency that residents, non-resident Indians (NRIs), and international visitors can carry through Indian airports.

This article discusses the Indian Customs rules for carrying cash, as well as the India customs cash limit (in Indian rupees and foreign currency) allowed at Indian airports when traveling to and from India.

What Qualifies As Cash?

Coins, currency notes, funds on deposit with a bank, cheques, and money orders are examples of cash. Traveler's cheques can count as cash equivalents toward your cash total.

India Customs Limit on Indian Currency at Indian Airports

When Traveling to India from the US (or Abroad):

Indian Residents

According to the RBI's Foreign Exchange Management (Export and Import of Currency) Regulations, 2015, any Indian resident who has gone out of India on a temporary visit from any place outside India (other than Nepal and Bhutan) can bring currency notes of the Government of India and RBI notes into India at the time of his or her return, up to a total value of Rs. 25,000 per person.

Non-Indian Residents/ Foreigners

When visiting India, non-Indian residents, including foreign nationals (excluding citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh), are allowed to bring up to Rs 25,000 in Government of India and RBI currency notes.

When Traveling from India to the US (or Abroad):

Indian Residents

  • Any Indian resident can carry up to Rs 25,000 worth of Government of India and RBI currency notes outside of India (excluding Nepal and Bhutan).
  • No more than two commemorative coins may be taken outside of India (except to Nepal and Bhutan). Coins minted by the Government of India Mint to commemorate a certain date or event and expressed in Indian currency are known as commemorative coins.

Non-Indian Residents/ Foreigners

NRIs and international visitors (excluding citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh) are allowed to take Government of India and RBI currency notes outside India up to a limit of Rs. 25,000 per person.

Cash Limit on Foreign Currency at Indian Airports

When Traveling to India from the US (or Abroad):

Any person (resident, NRI, or tourist) can bring  foreign currencies without any limit into India from a place outside India,

However, under the following circumstances, you must declare to the Customs Authorities at the airport using the prescribed Currency Declaration Form (CDF):

  • If the total amount of the foreign currency notes exceeds $5,000 or its equivalent in another currency,
  • If the value of the foreign currency (in the form of currency notes, bank notes, or traveler's cheques) exceeds $10,000 or its equivalent,

When Traveling from India to the US (or Abroad):  

Indian Residents

Indian residents going abroad are permitted to take with them foreign currency without any limit as long as the same has been purchased or issued by RBI approved/authorized foreign exchange dealer as per the norms.

Non-Indian Residents/ Foreigners

NRIs or foreign nationals departing India may take only the amount of foreign currency they brought in with them, i.e., any unspent foreign cash remaining after the amount indicated in the Currency Declaration Form has been deducted (CDF).

How to Declare to the Indians Customs Authorities at Arrival

Customs offices at international airports and seaports can provide Indian Customs Declaration Forms. Before you arrive in India, they may be distributed on airlines or cruise ships. If not, you can be picked up at the airport as you go through customs.

You can also download the form and fill it out in advance.

Or use the ATITHI App to file a declaration in advance. The ATITHI app is a simple mobile application that allows overseas travelers to complete customs declarations for dutiable goods and currencies with Indian customs even before boarding a flight to India. 

Does Every Passenger Traveling to India Need to Fill Out a Customs Declaration Form?

The answer is no. Only passengers carrying dutiable or prohibited goods must fill out a Customs Declaration Form or use the ATITHI app to complete a customs declaration.

In conclusion, it's crucial to keep in mind that the country you're visiting may have restrictions on how much cash you can bring with you. Make sure you do your research for the country you're visiting.

If you want to skip the trouble of carrying huge amounts of cash and instead send money online internationally, there are plenty of options. To send money online to India from the U.S., compare money transfer options on real-time comparison sites like CompareRemit, where you can get the best USD to INR exchange rates and low transfer fees.

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