UPI: How foreign nationals and NRIs visiting India can make payments using Unified Payments Interface

The Reserve Bank of India had issued a circular in February this year, allowing access to Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and foreign nationals visiting India. The central bank has made changes to its Master Directions on Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPIs) accordingly. Dr Bhagwat Kisanrao Karad, Union Minister of State for Finance, explained the details in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on July 31.

UPI for foreign nationals, NRIs visiting India

The UPI facility has been extended to travellers from G-20 countries at the Mumbai, Bengaluru, Mumbai and New Delhi international airports for merchant payments. Later, it will be extended across all entry points in India.

The RBI has made a provision to provide UPI access to NRIs who have international mobile numbers linked to their non-resident ordinary (NRO) or non-resident external (NRE) accounts. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the agency that manages the UPI system, has stated that the facility is available for 10 regions- Australia, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Qatar, Oman, United States, the UAE and the United Kingdom. Earlier, the facility was available only to foreign travellers or NRIs who had Indian mobile numbers.

How foreign nationals, NRIs can use UPI

The users should link their mobile number with an NRO/NRE account. The member bank whose account will be linked by the customer must keep in mind that the required Know Your Customer process (KYC) is done as per Indian laws, including the Foreign Exchange Management (FEMA) Act.

The Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPIs) guidelines by the RBI state that the PPIs can be issued in co-branding arrangement with entities/institutions which are authorised to deal in foreign exchange under FEMA. The PPIs can be used for merchant transactions only. Loading or reloading of such payment instruments will be against receipt of foreign exchange by any payment instrument or cash. The unutilised balances can be transferred “back to source” or encashed in foreign currency.

What the RBI has said on UPI transactions

The Reserve Bank of India has allowed UPI transactions for travellers from G20 countries. The G20 or Group of 20 comprises Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Germany, China, France, India, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Italy, the US, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UK, South Africa, Turkey, and the European Union (EU). The move to enable UPI transactions for G20 tourists has been taken during India’s presidency in the group.

Volume of UPI transactions over the years

UPI transactions in India have seen an exponential rise in value, from 5.86 lakh crore in 2018 to 125.94 lakh crore in 2022. From January to June 2023, the value of the transactions was Rs 83.20 lakh crore. Other countries have started accepting UPI payments since last year.

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