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I’m an NRI. How should I Invest in Indian Stocks?

Arjun Kulkarni-Team MoneyWorks4me

Over the past few months, the interest in the Indian stock market, especially among NRI’s, has picked up. After all, rupee has depreciated against all the major currencies in 2013. To attract foreign currency, RBI has deregulated interest rates on NRI deposits. In response to which, banks have raised NRI deposit rates. So, if you’re an NRI investor looking to invest in Indian stocks , having no clue about where to start, read on.

But, before we proceed further, let’s have a clear understanding as to who is considered an NRI, according to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999.

An individual is treated as a Resident in India in any previous year, if he/she was in India:

  • for at least 182 days in that year or
  • for at least 365 days during a period of 4 years, preceding that year and at least 60 days in that year.

Any individual, who does not satisfy the both above mentioned conditions, will be treated as ‘non-resident’ in that previous year.

Here is a quick procedural guide on the steps NRI’s need to follow for investing in stocks.

Step #1: Open an NRE Account

An NRI can open an NRE (Non-Resident External) account, which enables you to invest in Indian stocks in the secondary market . An NRI also needs approval under the PIS (Portfolio Investment Scheme) by the RBI, which allows one to invest in the Indian stock market. A sizeable benefit that an NRE account offers is the allowance to repatriate their earnings to their country of residence.

In case, if one has already invested in the stocks prior to moving abroad, they need to notify the bank to change the status of their account, after which their stock holdings get transferred to their NRE Account.

Step #2: Open a Demat Account

In case, you are a first time investor, an additional Demat account needs to be opened with a registered investment broker. A Demat (Dematerialized) account enables you to hold and trade in shares in electronic form.

And voila! You are good to go.

The opening of an account is a procedural aspect of investing in Indian stocks. To do so profitably, it is important to keep a track of the Indian markets well and have an information source that enables one to take profitable investment decisions. And this applies to all the investors including NRIs. More so to the NRIs, as they might not be actively tracking the Indian markets.

Additional Details:

As per RBI mandates, there are certain restrictions on NRI investments in India. Here are some additional details that you will need to be on top of:

  • An NRI cannot hold more than 10% of the total holdings in an Indian listed company (20%, in case of public banks).
  • NRIs cannot trade shares in India on a non-delivery basis, which means they cannot do day trading or short-selling . If they buy a stock today, they can sell it only after two days.
  • An NRI cannot hold more than one PIS account, each for repatriable and non-repatriable shares.
  • On a change of status, it is important to update the KYC details with your banks.
  •  A Power of Attorney to an individual in India needs to be assigned to manage the assets. Power of Attorney can be assigned generally (all powers with one individual) or specific to particular asset class (property, bank accounts etc.).

Last but not the least, the tax liabilities arising out of the stock investments should not be ignored. Although, tax liabilities of an NRI investing in India are the same as that of a resident investor, tax is deducted at source in case of the former. This leads to a question that, ‘Are NRIs subjected to double taxation once in India and again in the country of their residence?’ Well, it depends on the country of residence. If the Indian government has an avoidance of double taxation treaty with that country, NRI will be saved from double taxation.

Thus, you can see, the process for NRIs to directly invest in Indian equities is quite straightforward. Being well informed, a few simple steps to follow and you’re ready to reap the benefits in terms of solid returns from the Indian markets!

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