NRO and NRE account: How to open it when you’re abroad

NRE (Non Resident External) and NRO (Non Resident Ordinary) are two types of accounts that NRIs (Non Resident Indians) can open if they need a way to transfer money, open a fixed deposit, or buy mutual funds, and stocks in India.

What follows is a sequence of events that will take place, and some pointers that you might find useful while getting a NRE or NRO account.

How to open a NRE or NRO Account?

1. Contact the Bank

There are usually two ways of getting in touch with a bank: either have them call you, or you call their helpline.

Banks like HDFC and HSBC have this option where you can fill up a contact form and then their representative calls you. Whereas SBI lists out its call center numbers for various countries and you can call them to discuss opening an NRE / NRO account.

The first step is to talk to a bank representative because once you talk to the rep – he will inquire which account you need to open, whether it’s joint or single account, and accordingly tell you what documents you need to open the account, and email you the forms as well.

2. Book an appointment to fill the form

Don’t be daunted if you see a big 10 page attachment in your email. The paperwork is not as intimidating as it looks. It will take about 20 minutes to fill up, and can’t be done on your own, but it’s not all that bad.

Because you need help to fill up the form – the bank rep will book an appointment with you (usually telephonic) to go over the forms and walk you through them.

You will have to print them ahead of time and you can fill the easier sections yourself. Leave anything you’re not sure of because there are a lot of things there that aren’t very intuitive. For instance at one point you will encounter a question asking you if you’re politically exposed, and you’ll be tempted to say hell yeah – I’ve been  exposed so bad I’m radioactive. While that may be true, it’s not what they’re asking. So, don’t try to fill the entire form without their help.

Oh, and keep a black pen handy; filling up tons of information while on the phone is a pain in itself – you don’t want to make it worse by having to hunt for black pens!

There are a lot of parts that they will just ask you to skip over or leave empty, so it’s really not as bad as it looks.

3. Get the documents ready

They will ask for documents based on your country of residence and what type of account you’re opening but here are some common ones that you should be ready with.

  • Copy of first and last page of passport
  • Copy of the visa page on your passport
  • Two residence proofs – this can be things like your driver’s license, phone or utility bills, bank statements, pay – stubs etc.
  • The filled up account opening forms.
  • Passport photograph.

On their website – some banks have asked for these to be notarized, but in reality they don’t always need that. Self – attested documents also do, which is nothing more than signing on every document yourself.

4. Write  a check in USD or your currency

You will need to write a check in order to open the account, and this can be done in USD or a few other foreign currencies. They will tell you if you can give the check in the currency of your country, or the alternative if that’s not possible.

5. Mail it to the PO Box or India Address

In some cases the banks will have a PO Box in your country of residence where you can send the documents instead of sending it to India.

However, before you decide to mail the documents to the PO Box check with them to see if there is a difference in processing time if the documents are sent to a PO Box instead of the India address.

These documents are generally processed in India, and sending your documents to a PO box may add to a delay of as much as 15 – 20 days, so before you decide where to send the documents it’s better to check with them on what they advise, and what the difference in cost is.

The bank rep will follow up with you and its a good idea to email him letting him know that you’ve mailed the documents so they can keep a track of when they receive it, and help in processing.

The one thing that’s missing from this post is recommendation on where to open an account, and that’s because I have no answer to that and nor do I have a reasonable way to compare one bank with another. You can choose one with which you’ve had good experience in the past and I’m afraid I don’t have much more input on that.

I’m really keen to hear on your experience with opening an NRE or NRO account so please do share that in comments, and of course all questions and other observations are welcome.


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