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1. Introduction:

1.1 Customs is mandated to ensure passengers entering or leaving India carry on person/handbag or accompanied baggage, goods in accordance with the permissible quantity/value and legal provisions and do not attempt to smuggle prohibited or banned or sensitive goods. Also, all passengers including businessmen, trade delegations, professionals expect speedy Customs clearance. Thus, Customs officials at the airports have a challenging role of ensuring quick clearance and passenger facilitation, as well as enforcing the Customs Act, 1962 and various allied laws that protect the interests of society/economy/revenue.

1.2 Over the time Indian Customs have aligned its procedures in tune with the best international practices in terms of duty free baggage allowances and other facilities and procedures. Steps have also been taken to educate general public and incoming and outgoing passengers of the extant Customs rules and regulations. In this direction Customs prominently display the relevant provisions/baggage allowances and list of prohibited/restricted items (endangered species or articles made from flora and fauna such as ivory, musk, reptile skins, furs, shahtoosh, antiques, satellite phones, etc.) at all international airport, with the “dos and don’ts” for benefit of passengers. A booklet on “Customs Guide to Travelers” is also brought out periodically and circulated at airports as well as to our Embassies/Consulates abroad. Passenger related Customs information is also made available on the CBIC’s web-site www.cbic.gov.in.

2. Clearance of arriving passengers:

2.1 Airlines generally provide the Customs Baggage Declaration Form to the passengers in the aircraft itself. All passengers who come to India and have anything to declare or are carrying dutiable or prohibited goods must fill up the same clearly mentioning the quantity and value of goods brought.

On landing, the passenger takes delivery of baggage, if any, from the conveyer belt and approaches the Customs where the passenger exercises the option of seeking clearance through the Green Channel or through the Red Channel.

2.2 The Green Channel or Walk Through Channel applies to passengers who have nothing to declare and are carrying dutiable goods within the prescribed free allowance. On the basis of their Oral Declaration/Declaration on Customs Baggage Declaration Form such passengers cross the Green Channel without any question being asked by Customs and exit the airport after handing over the Customs Baggage Declaration Form to the Customs Officer/Sepoy at the exit.

2.3 The Red Channel is meant for passengers who have something to declare or are carrying goods in excess of the duty free allowance. The passenger hands over Customs Baggage Declaration Form to the officer on duty at this Channel. In case the Form is incomplete the Customs Officer helps record the Oral Declaration (O.D) of the passenger and thereafter countersigns/stamps the same, after taking the passenger’s signature. In order to identify the frequent “short visit” passengers the Customs Officer also scrutinizes the passport/ other travel documents of the passengers. The declaration of goods and their values is generally accepted and duty assessed. On payment of applicable duty the passenger is allowed clearance.

2.4 Any passenger found walking through the Green Channel with dutiable/prohibited goods or found mis declaring the quantity, description or value of dutiable goods at the “Red Channel” (the baggage is examined where misdeclaration is suspected), is liable to strict penal action including arrest/prosecution apart from seizure/confiscation of the offending goods depending upon gravity of violation detected. In case the passenger brings any goods in baggage that are essentially for commerce and not for personal use, or imports goods in commercial quantity, these goods become liable to confiscation and the passenger liable to strict penal action. Only bonafide baggage items for personal use or use by members of his family are allowed to be imported as baggage. In case of frequent “short visit” passengers and repeat offenders, the Customs officers would impose higher levels of fines and penalties and for deterrent effect even consider prosecution in a Court of law.

[Refer Circular No. 08/2016-Customs dated 08.03.2018]

3. Duty free allowances and entitlements for Indian Residents and Foreigners Residing in

India:

3.1 The duty free entitlement of passengers “Indian resident or a foreigner residing in India or a tourist of Indian origin, not being an infant” includes articles in his bona fide baggage i.e. used personal effects (excluding required for satisfying the daily necessities of life, and travel souvenirs. In addition, articles other than those mentioned in Annexure I of the Baggage Rules, 2016 valued at up to Rs. 50,000/- are allowed free of duty if carried as accompanied baggage of such passenger. However, a tourist of foreign origin is allowed articles other than those mentioned in Annexure I valued at up to Rs. 15,000/- free of duty if carried as accompanied baggage.

Passengers i.e. an Indian resident or a foreigner residing in India or a tourist, not being an infant arriving from Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar, by routes other than by land, the free allowance for articles other than those mentioned in Annexure I is Rs. 15,000/- and for such passengers arriving by land, only used personal effects shall be allowed duty free. An infant passenger (child not more than two years of age) shall be allowed only personal effects duty free.

The free allowance of a passenger shall not be allowed to pool with the free allowance of any other passenger.

3.2 In addition to the above, such passengers are allowed the following quantities of tobacco products and alcohols within the aforesaid duty free allowances:

(i) 100 cigarettes sticks or 25 cigars or 125 gms tobacco.

(ii) Alcoholic liquor and wines upto 2 litres.

3.3 The items that are not allowed free of duty include firearms, cartridges of firearms, cigarettes/ cigars/ tobacco or alcoholic liquor and wines that is in excess of what is allowed within the free allowance, gold or silver, in any form(other than ornaments) unless specified otherwise.

3.4 The bonafide baggage items that are in excess of the duty free allowance can be cleared on payment of a uniform rate of Customs duty that is currently @35%+ Cess, as applicable, except for items like liquor, cigarette etc. that are charged to a higher rate of duty as applicable to imports other than as baggage.

3.5 Duty free baggage allowances and entitlements for Indian Residents and Foreigners Residing in India has been disallowed in respect of Flat Panel (LCD/LED/Plasma) Television. [Refer Notification No. 84/2013-Cus(N.T.), dated 19-8-2013]

4. Import of jewellery/gold/silver:

An Indian passenger who has been residing abroad for over 1 year is allowed to bring jewellery, free of duty, in bonafide baggage upto a weight of twenty grams with a value cap of Rs.50,000/- in the case of a male passenger or forty grams with a value cap of Rs.1 lakh in the case of a lady passenger.

5. Allowances and entitlements on Transfer of Residence (TR):

A person who is engaged in a profession abroad, or is transferring his residence to India shall, on return, be allowed clearance free of duty in addition to what he is allowed under Rule 3 or as the case may be, under Rule 4, articles in his bonafide baggage to the extent mentioned in column (2) subject to the conditions, if any, as mentioned in column (3) and the relaxation to the extent mentioned in column 4 of the given Appendix in Baggage Rules,2016 given as per Notification No. 30/2016-Customs (N.T.) dated 1.3.2016 as amended by Notification No. 43/2016-Customs (N.T) dated 31.3.2016 read with corrigendum dated. 1.4.2016.

6. Import of baggage of deceased person:

6.1 In terms of Notification No.21/2002-Cus, dated 1-3-2002 used, bonafide personal and household articles of a deceased person are allowed free of duty subject to the condition that a certificate from the concerned Indian Embassy / High Commission is produced regarding the ownership of the goods by the deceased person.

7. Import of unaccompanied baggage:

7.1 The unaccompanied baggage is required to have been in the possession abroad of the passenger and dispatched within 1 month of his/her arrival in India or within such further period as the Deputy/Assistant Commissioner of Customs may allow. The unaccompanied baggage may land in India upto 2 months before arrival of the passenger or within such period, not exceeding 1 year, as may be permitted by the Deputy/Assistant Commissioner of Customs by recording the reasons if he is satisfied that the passenger was prevented from arriving in India within the period of 2 months due to circumstances beyond his control which necessitated a change in the travel schedule of the passenger.

7.2 No free allowance is admissible in respect of unaccompanied baggage, which is charged the normal baggage rate of duty (35% ad valorem + GST+ Cess, at present).

8. Import of foreign exchange/currency:

8.1 Any person can bring into India foreign exchange without any limit. However, declaration of foreign exchange/currency is required to be made in the prescribed Currency Declaration Form in the following cases:

(a) Where the value of foreign currency notes exceeds US$ 5000/- or equivalent; and

(b) Where the aggregate value of foreign exchange (in the form of currency notes, bank notes, traveler cheques etc.) exceeds US$10,000/- or its equivalent.

9. Import of Indian currency:

9.1 The import of Indian currency is prohibited, however, passengers i.e. any person resident in India who are returning from a visit abroad (other than from Nepal and Bhutan) may bring Indian currency not exceeding Rs.25000/-.

9.2 A person resident outside India, not being a citizen of Pakistan and Bangladesh and also not a traveller coming from and going to Pakistan and Bangladesh, and visiting India, may bring notes of Government of India and Reserve Bank of India notes up to an 25,000 (Rupees twenty five thousand only) while entering only through an airport [Refer Circular No 3/2015- Customs, dated 16.01.2015]

10. Import of fire arms as baggage:

10.1 Import of firearms is strictly prohibited. Import of cartridges in excess of 50 is also prohibited. However, in the case of persons transferring their residence (as per conditions specified in the rules) to India for a minimum period of 1 year, one firearm of permissible bore can be allowed to be imported subject to the conditions that:

(i) The firearm was in possession and use abroad by the passenger for a minimum period of 1 year and also subject to the condition that such firearm, after clearance, shall not be sold, loaned, transferred or otherwise parted with before 10 years of import of such firearm;

(ii) The firearm is subjected to applicable duty; and

(iii) The passenger has a valid arms licence from the local authorities in India.

10.2 The facility is import of firearm through baggage route under transfer of residence shall be available only once in the lifetime.

10.3  Passengers importing a firearm as baggage on transfer of residence are permitted to dispose the same after 10 years of import. The disposal will be to persons legally entitled to possess the firearm. The condition that no disposal can take place till ten years of import may be endorsed on the arms licence of the passenger at the time of granting the facility under transfer of residence.

[Refer Circular No.4/2013-Cus, dated 15-1-2013]

11. Import of pet animals as baggage:

11.1 Import of domestic pets like dogs, cats, birds etc. (two numbers) is allowed as baggage only by persons transferring their residence to India after two years of continuous stay abroad subject to production of the required health certificate from the country of origin and examination of said pets by the concerned Quarantine Officer at this end.

11.2 Re-import of pets as baggage is allowed subject to establishment of identity of pets by Customs authorities, production of the required health certificate from the country of export and examination of said pets by the concerned Quarantine Officer at this end.

[Refer Circular No.15/2013-Cus, dated 8-4-2013, Circular No. 25/2013-Cus dated 01.07.2013]

12. Detained baggage:

12.1 There may be occasions when the passenger is not in a position to clear his baggage for any reason e.g. inability to pay the Customs duty demanded. In such a situation, the passenger may request the Customs to detain his baggage either for re-export at the time of his departure from India or for clearance subsequently on payment of duty. The detained baggage would be examined and its full details inventoried before being taken in the custody of Customs.

13. Mishandled baggage:

13.1 There are numerous occasions when passenger baggage gets lost or mishandled by the Airlines. In all such cases the passenger is required to obtain a certificate to that effect from the airlines and get it countersigned by Customs indicating specifically the unutilized portion of the free allowance. This would enable the passenger to avail the unutilised portion of the duty free allowance when his baggage is delivered by the airlines.

14. Clearance of departing passengers:

14.1 On the departure side, the principal task of Customs is enforcement related. These include checks to prevent narcotic drug trafficking, smuggling of other sensitive items such as Indian including foreign currency, wild life products, antiques etc. Customs also plays an important role in facilitating the re-import of the high valued articles including jewelry, being carried out of the country by issuing to the departing passengers a re-export certificate.

15. Export of gold jewellery as baggage:

15.1 There is no value limit on the export of gold jewellery by a passenger through the medium of baggage so long as it constitutes the bonafide baggage of the passenger

16. Export of currency:

16.1 Export of Indian currency is strictly prohibited. However, Indian residents going abroad are allowed to carry Indian currency not exceeding Rs.25,000/-

16.2 Indians going abroad are permitted to take with them foreign currency without any limit so long as the same has been purchased from an authorized foreign exchange dealer

16.3 Tourists while leaving India are allowed to take with them foreign currency not exceeding the amount brought in by them at the time of their arrival in India.

16.4 A person resident outside India, not being a citizen of Pakistan and Bangladesh and also not traveller coming from and going to Pakistan and Bangladesh, and visiting India may take outside India notes of Government of India and Reserve Bank of India notes up to an amount not exceeding Rs. 25,000 (Rupees twenty five thousand only while exiting only through an airport.

[Refer Circular No 3/2015- Customs, dated 16.01.2015]

17. Customs Baggage Declaration Form:

17.1 The Customs Baggage Declaration Regulations, 2013 which is notified to be effective from 1-3­2014 prescribes a Baggage Declaration Form that will be required to be filled up by all incoming passengers. This new Form has been necessitated on account of the BOI/ MHA deciding to dispense with the common Immigration/Customs declaration form.

[Refer Notifications No. 90/2013-Cus(N.T.), dated 29-8-2013,No.133/2013-Cus(N.T.), dated 30-12-2013, No. 30/2016- Customs (N.T.), dated the 01.03.2016, No. 31/2016Customs dated 01-03-2016, No. 43/2016- Customs dated 31.03.2016 and Circular No. 5/2014- Cus., dated 27-2-2014 ]

18. Application of Baggage Rules to members of the crew.

(1) These rules shall also apply to the members of the crew engaged in a foreign going conveyance for importation of their baggage at the time of final pay off on termination of their engagement.

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (1), a member of crew of a vessel or an aircraft other than those referred to in sub-rule(1), shall be allowed to bring articles like chocolates, cheese, cosmetics and other petty gift items for their personal or family use which shall not exceed the value of one thousand and five hundred rupees.

19. Setting up of Help Desk:

19.1 For a renewed emphasis on improving the efficiency of Customs officers as well as their behaviour towards international passengers, it was decided that:

(i) The Chief Commissioners of Customs with international airports in their charge shall ensure that every Customs officer newly posted at the international airports mandatorily undergoes training in the relevant rules and regulations as well as in the manner of dealing with international passengers. The emphasis should be on sensitizing the Customs officers to deal with all arriving passengers and especially international passengers in a polite, professional and pro-active facilitative manner. These training programmes should be repeated on 6-monthly intervals. Since multiple agencies function at international airports, it would also be useful to coordinate interactive sessions involving officials of other agencies so that collectively a good impression is made on international passengers. The Chief Commissioner of Customs should coordinate these training programmes with NACEN, but should also take initiative to organize in-house programmes. ‘

(ii) Customs should set up a “Help Desk” in a prominent place immediately after immigration in the arrival hall and similarly in the departure hall of international airports. There should also be a signboard to guide the international passengers to the “Help Desk”. Further, the Customs officer(s) manning the “Help Desk” should be properly selected and must have in his/her possession required forms and information to guide international passengers.

[Refer Instruction dated 19-9-2014]

Source – Custom Duty Manual 2023

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