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Indians slam customs rules on carrying gold

Easing of restrictions on gold, cash and baggage allowance by India not enough, say expatriates

  • By Shveta Pathak, Staff Reporter, XPRESS
  • Published: 21:43 April 10, 2013

  • Image Credit: Gulf news archives
  • sold on gold: Indian expats argue that the limit should be based on quantity instead of value Gulf news archives

DUBAI: Indian expatriates have lambasted archaic rules that restrict the amount of gold, cash and baggage they can carry when flying home.

Non-resident Indian (NRI) travellers are subject to spot and random checks when they land at Indian airports. Anyone found carrying more than the prescribed limit is asked to pay duty.

Travellers arguing with custom officials is a common sight at most Indian airports.

While the gold limits were raised recently, many NRIs said it’s woefully insufficient as it doesn’t factor inflation.

They argue that limit should be based on quantity instead of value.

Indian Customs allows male passengers to carry gold worth up to Rs50,000 (Dh3,400). Female passengers are allowed twice as much. Until recently, the limit was Rs10,000 (Dh679) and Rs20,000 (Dh1,358) for male and female passengers.

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Now UAE-based welfare organisation Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust has petitioned the Indian Finance Minister in this regard. “The limit should be based on quantity instead of value, because rates keep changing. When the rule first came into practice, passengers could carry 250 grams, but those times were different. It should be at least 100 grams for men and 200 grams for female passengers,” said K.V. Shamsudheen, chairman of the trust.

“Even after limit was revised the quantity we can carry is only 34 grams. During my last visit to India, I was made to pay duty on the excess gold I was carrying,” said Dubai-based Indian housewife Shivani.

“An average Indian woman wears much more than the limit specified. And what does one do if one wants to buy gold from here and take it home? It seems we do not have that option,” she said.

Prerna Bali, another resident said: “I went to India to attend a wedding. So I was obviously carrying some jewellery. They stopped me at the airport and questioned me at length. The permissible limit is absurd in today’s time.”


Recently, Indians from the Gulf were advised by their embassies not to carry cash when travelling home. Only Indian citizens (not NRIs) coming back after travel can bring back up to Rs7,500 (Dh510).

NRIs and others can, however, take foreign exchange but they have to declare it if exceeds $5,000 or equivalent or where the aggregate value of foreign exchange (banknotes, travellers cheques) exceeds $10,000 or equivalent.

While authorities say screening is necessary to prevent the counterfeit currency, residents say the rule is illogical. “You need cash for emergency expenses (taxis etc). The rule is bizarre. At least some Indian cash should be permitted,” said Narendra, a Dubai-based Indian.

“There are other ways to prevent counterfeit currency coming in. Harassing NRIs is not the solution,” he added.


According to Baggage Rules 1998, the duty-free allowance is Rs35,000 (Dh2,378) apart from used personal items and also one laptop. “It is quite common for us to carry gifts for family and friends when we travel home. For Rs35,000 there is not much you can carry,” said an Indian resident in Dubai.

Passengers walking through the green channel with dutiable or prohibited goods risk prosecution or penalty and confiscation of goods as per customs rules.

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Comments (9)

Your comments
  1. Added 12:03 April 11, 2013

    It is regrettable that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs alongwith the Ministry of Finance, even after 45 years of Independence have not been able to figure out the difference between a PIO and a NRI. A PIO (Person of Indian Origin) is one who has irrevocably surrendered his/her passport to the new country and has acquired citizenship there. As such,apart from his roots, he has nothing to do with Indian citizenship. A NRI is one who has temporarily left his country for a number of reasons including, tourism, job , etc. The person, whatsoever be the length of his stay outside the country is, intends to returns to India and as such holds an Indian passport. In majority of the cases his family would be left behind in India, particularly in the case of unskilled/semiskilled workers. The Law Ministry in conjuction with other ministries must ensure that this difference in PIO and NRI is kept in mind while making any law. Time has come when we must realistically look into the old archiac laws and bring them up to date with current times.

    Baqar Buqqa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 11:47 April 11, 2013

    This is an excellent article offering analysis , covering all the facts and highlighting current situation.

    Milaan, New York, United States

  3. Added 11:40 April 11, 2013

    Such stringent rules and limits push people to opt for illegal ways and promote under-the-table system at airport. During my one visit I was asked to pay Rs500 to carry more than 2Lts of alcohol, when I insisted on paying duty rather than the bribe, the custom officer and police constable made fun of me and. It was a shameful incident for me. Further, the custom officers are good for nothing and they don't even bother to educate passengers on baggage rules. On one occasion, I asked a custom officer to educate me on custom duty on a 42" LED TV..He smiled coolly at me and said..when u come we will manage;. When I requested them again then to harass me they opened my luggage and checked each and every single item including my wallet etc. It was pathetic.

    Manish, Dubai, UAE, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 11:31 April 11, 2013

    The Indian government should increase the amount of gold to be carried by NRIs into India.When i came from Cochin airport on March 7th 2013 i asked the officer to take the information regarding the gold i was wearing. The lady officer told me there was no need of taking the information.Now they are making problem when we are traveling back to India .This is ridiculous .The Indian government has to do something in this matter.Atleast they have to think about us .Please India goverment don't sleep now as some of our lawmakers do in the Lok Sabha.

    Jasmine, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 11:06 April 11, 2013

    Last 32 years I am staying (and working) in the UAE with family. At the time of our daughters marriage, the old fashioned jewellery we changed and when the customes officials asked us about gold, we showed it to them. They told us to pay the customs duty even we showed them the proof about the ceremony. I took the old jewellery from the Bank locker and it is with us when I am coming from India, but nobody told us to enter it in our passport, and we changed it from the uae. We are living and working in the Gulf and purchasing everything from here only, and have no time for shopping and other stuff especially when we have just one month's leave or less. We are not using the jewellery for any commercial purpose (We are not smugglers). The people who carry gold or anything for commercial purpose, our govt. should charge them. Please spare us poor families who are collecting some gold same as an ant collects grains for a daughters or a sisters wedding.

    R, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 10:57 April 11, 2013

    It is difficult to satisfy Indian women's appetite for gold, Even if the Indian Govt grants relaxation nothing witll change until and unless women stop wearing gold. Only then will the rates come down.

    shaji, kerala, India

  7. Added 10:27 April 11, 2013

    India will be 10 times richer if we curb the blackmoney inside the country. It is unfair to place such regulations on poor workers who are called NRIs;. We should have advanced monitoring systems at customs gate to catch counterfiets and excess amount of Gold or narcotics. Let the customs officials spend their valuable time controlling the illict liqor lobby or other duty evaders.

    Babu Andrews, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 10:01 April 11, 2013

    Government of India did a good job by increasing the Duty of Gold the Obejctive is to discourage citizen to put their money in Gold and encourage them to invest in capital market which will create jobs esp we should promote Manufacturing jobs

    Suresh, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 23:40 April 10, 2013

    Maybe it is time for Indians to stop being so obsessed with Gold ! I think Govt should tax Gold heavily !

    Sam, Hyderabad, India