All passengers entering or leaving India by international flights pass through Customs whose basic role is to ensure that any passenger is not carrying on his person/handbag or accompanied baggage, high valued dutiable goods more than the permissible quantity/value which is not declared for duty payment or he does not try to smuggle any prohibited or banned or sensitive goods which may adversely affect interests of the society/economy. The passengers, specially the residents on return from a county abroad generally pick up certain items for personal use or use by his family and they all expect quick customs clearance. The businessmen, trade delegations & professionals frequently travel on international flights expecting speedy clearance through customs in minimum time. Similarly, tourists arriving through international flights also expect fast and green channel customs clearance facilities in tune with the international practices and any delays could cause damage to our tourism promotion efforts.

2. On the other hand, there are also passengers trying to abuse the air route for smuggling, carrying high valued and even sensitive goods-including narcotics and other sensitive drugs, gold or other high valued low bulk items bearing substantial duties, which they may like to evade by non-declaration/concealment in baggage or on person, for earning high profit by sale in the market. The Customs posted at the Airports have, therefore, a difficult role of ensuring quick clearance and maximum passenger facilitation, as well as enforcing the Customs Act and various allied laws to protect the interests of the society/economy/revenue.

3. With the growth of international passenger traffic Indian Customs have changed its procedures in tune with international practices. Over the years the Government has also – considering the demands of general public & trade & industry and recommendations of various committees substantially liberalized the duty free baggage allowances and other facilities and procedures so that minimum genuine needs of passengers can be met and they could get reasonable quantity/value of items customs cleared without charging duties. Steps have also been taken to educate general public and the incoming and outgoing passengers of the extant Customs rules and regulations and the various facilities available to different kinds of passengers and the items which are not permitted for import or permitted on payment of duty etc. Even in regard to outgoing passengers the nature of items which attract prohibitions like endangered species or articles made from flora and fauna such as Ivory, Musk, Reptile skins, Furs, Shahtoosh or antiques etc., are publicized so that there are no attempts made to smuggle them by mis-declaration/concealment and the passengers are aware of the severe penalties which are otherwise attracted.

4. Customs also prominently display these provisions/baggage allowances and the prohibited items etc., at all international airports, with the ‘dos and don’ts’ for benefit of passengers. The information in the form of “Customs guide to Travellers” is also taken out periodically and circulated and made available at all airports as well as to our embassies/consulates abroad. The passenger related customs information is also made available on the CBEC’s web-site It is expected that if the travelling passengers cooperate and comply with the legal provisions the passenger clearance system in India can become faster and least intrusive from Customs angle.

5. The following paragraphs briefly explain the passenger clearance system presently followed and the various allowances and entitlements with respect to goods/currency/jewellery etc., available to passengers including tourists through accompanied or unaccompanied baggage, as well as benefits that are admissible on transfer of residence etc.

6. The airlines generally provide the Disembarkation Card to the passengers in the aircraft itself. Every passenger must fill up the Disembarkation Card clearly mentioning the quantity and value of goods that he has brought. On his arrival the passenger is first cleared by immigration, who retain the Immigration portion of the Disembarkation Card. Thereafter passenger takes the delivery of his baggage from the conveyer belts & passes through Customs. At all international Airports in the Customs Areas in our country the passenger has the option of seeking clearance through the Green Channel or through the Red Channel – a practice/facility available at most other major international airports in the world.

7. The Green Channel or Walk through Channel – without any question being asked by Customs is meant for passengers who have nothing to declare and are carrying dutiable goods within the prescribed free allowance (Details are given later). The passengers can simply walk through the Green Channel with their baggage on the basis of their Oral declaration/Declaration on their Disembarkation Card.

8. 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 the Customs portion of the Disembarkation Card to the officer on duty at the channel. In case the card is incomplete the Customs officer helps record the Oral declaration (O.D) of the passenger and thereafter he countersigns/stamps the same, after taking the passenger’s signature. In order to identify the frequent short visit passengers the Customs officer also generally scrutinizes the passport and other travel documents of the passengers. The declaration of goods and their values is generally accepted and duty assessed. On payment of this duty the passenger is allowed clearance.

9. Any passenger found walking through the Green Channel with dutiable/prohibited goods or found misdeclaring the quantity, description or value of dutiable goods at the “Red Channel” (the baggage is examined where misdeclaration suspect), 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 which are essentially for commerce & 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 freely. In case of frequent short visit passengers and repeat offenders, instructions exist to the Customs officers to impose higher levels of fines and penalties and even consider prosecution action in the court of law so that there is a deterrent effect & the facilities provided to expedite Customs clearances are not abused.

Duty Free Allowances and Entitlements for Indian Residents and Foreigner Residing in India

10. The duty free entitlement of passengers includes his used personal effects (excluding jewellery) that are required for satisfying the daily necessities of life. In addition articles upto Rs. 12000/-in value is allowed free of duty if this is carried as accompanied baggage of the passenger. This amount is proportionately reduced to Rs. 6000/- (if stay abroad is of three days or less). For children below 12 year the free allowance is only Rs. 3000/- (Rs1500/- if stay is 3 days or less). However, if the passenger is coming from Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar or China, by routes other than by Land route, the free allowance is Rs. 3000/-. For passengers coming from Pakistan by land route the free allowance is Rs. 3000/- only.

11. In addition, to the above the following quantities of Tobacco products and Alcohols are also allowed within the aforesaid duty free allowances viz :

(1) 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 gms tobacco.

(2) Alcoholic liquor & wines upto 1 litre each.

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 state (other than ornaments) except as provided in the paragraph below.

12. 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 of approximately 61%, except for items like Liquor, cigarette etc that are charged to a higher rate of duty.

Professional returning after 3 months

13. In the case of professionals who are returning to India after atleast 3 months stay abroad the person is eligible for additional free allowance over and above mentioned above, for used household articles such as utensils, linen, kitchen appliances, iron etc (upto Rs 6000) and professional equipment( Upto Rs 10,000). The allowance is proportionately higher if passenger is returning after 6 months stay or 1-year stay abroad.

Import of Jewelry /Gold/Silver

14. a) Jewellers: An Indian passenger who has been residing abroad for over one year is allowed to bring jewelry, free of duty in his bonafide baggage upto an aggregate value of Rs. 10,000/- (in the case of a male passenger) or Rs.20, 000/- (in the case of a lady passenger)

b) Gold: Any passenger of Indian origin (even if a foreign national) or a passenger holding a valid passport issued under the Passport Act, 1967. is allowed to import upto 10 kg of gold as baggage if the passenger is coming to India after a period of not less than six months of stay abroad. The duty at the rate of Rs.250 per 10 gms has to be paid by the passenger in foreign currency.

The passenger can also obtain the permitted quantity of gold from the authorized Banks such as SBI, Bank of Nova Scotia etc.

c) Silver: Any passenger of Indian origin (even if a foreign national). Or a passenger holding a valid passport issued under the Passport Act, 1967 are allowed to import silver not exceeding 100 kgs. per passenger, if the passenger is coming to India after a period of not less than six months of stay abroad. Like in the case of gold the passenger can also obtain the permitted quantity of silver from an authorized Bank. The duty is payable by the passenger at the rate of Rs.500 per kg. in foreign currency.

Duty free allowances and entitlements for tourists

15. A tourist is a passenger who is not normally resident in India or who enters India for a stay of not more than six months in the course of any twelve months period for legitimate non-immigrant purposes, such as : touring, recreation, sports, health, family reasons, study, religious pilgrimage, or business. The duty free allowances and entitlements for tourists of Indian origin coming to India (other than those coming from Pakistan by land route) are similar to what has been mentioned above for Indian passengers or foreigners residing in India.. The foreign tourists are however allowed articles upto a value of Rs,. 4000/-. except the tourists of Nepalese & Bhutanese origin who are not allowed any free allowance and tourists of Pakistani origin who are allowed free allowance of Rs 3000 only.

Allowances and Entitlements on Transfer of Residence (T.R.)

16. In the case of a person transferring his residence to India there are certain additional benefits that the passenger is allowed subject to certain conditions. There should be minimum stay of two years abroad, immediately preceding the date of his arrival on transfer of residence . However short visits are permitted but total stay in India on short visits during the 2 preceding years should not exceed 6 months. [A shortfall in period of stay abroad can be relaxed upto 2 months by the Asstt/Deputy Commissioner. The Commissioner of Customs in deserving and exceptional cases can relax visits to India, exceeding 6 months].

17. The person transferring his residence to India after 2 years stay abroad as mentioned above is eligible to clear free of duty, articles such as used personal and household articles for a value upto Rs 1.5 Lakhs.. The goods such as firearms, cartridges of firearms, cigarettes/ cigars/ tobacco or alcoholic liquor and wines that are in excess of what is allowed within the free allowance, gold or silver, in any state (other than ornaments) are not allowed to be imported. However the following goods are not eligible for a complete duty exemption and are charged to a lower concessional rate of duty of 31%. The items include T.V, VCR/VCP/VTR, Washing Machine, Air Conditioner, Microwave oven, personal computer, Dish washer, Music System, Electrical/LPG Cooking Range(Other than cooking range with not more than 2 burners and without any extra attachment), Refrigerator, Deep Freezer, Video Camera or a combination of Video camera and TV Receiver; Sound recording or reproducing apparatus; Video reproducing apparatus, Word Processing Machine, Fax machine, Vessels, Aircraft, Cinematographic films of 35 mm and above, Gold or Silver, in any form, other than ornaments.

18. TR concession is available provided the passenger has not availed this facility in the preceding 3 years. In other words there is no bar if the passenger who returns for stay in India on TR goes abroad but on his return again the TR concession is available for another 3 years.

Import of baggage of deceased person

19. 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.

Import of unaccompanied baggage

20. The provisions relating to clearance of unaccompanied baggage of a passenger are similar to that of accompanied Baggage; as long as the Unaccompanied baggage were in the possession abroad of the passenger and are dispatched within one month of his arrival in India or within such further period as the Assistant Commissioner of Customs may allow. However no free allowance is admissible in respect of unaccompanied Baggage. The unaccompanied baggage may arrive in India upto two months before of the passenger or within such period, not exceeding one year, as may be permitted by the Assistant Commissioner of Customs if he is satisfied that the passenger was prevented from arriving in India within the period of two months due to circumstances beyond his control.

Import of Foreign Exchange/Currency

21. 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

(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

Import of Indian currency as baggage

22. The import of Indian Currency is prohibited, however, in the case of passengers normally resident in India who are returning from a visit abroad, import of Indian Currency not exceeding Rs. 1000 is allowed

Import of fire arms as baggage

23. 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 one year, one firearm of permissible bore can be allowed to be imported subject to the conditions that:

  • the same was in possession and use abroad by the passenger for a minimum period of one year and also subject to the condition that such firearm, after clearance, shall not be sold, loaned, transferred or otherwise parted with, for consideration or otherwise, during the lifetime of such person
  • The firearms are allowed in such cases on payment of applicable duty provided the passenger has a valid arms licence from the local authorities.

Import of pet animals as baggage

24. Domestic pets like dogs, cats, birds etc. may be imported. Import of animals and birds is governed by strict health certificate regulations

Detained Baggage

25. There may be occasions when the passenger may not be in a position to clear his baggage for any reasons e.g. inability to pay up 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 full details are inventorised before being taken in the custody of customs.

Mishandled Baggage

26. There are numerous occasion when the 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. A simplified system of clearance of mishandled baggage, by the Airlines, has also been recently introduced at IGI Airport, Delhi.


27. 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. It is therefore important for the public to know their obligation & entitlements.

28. In order to facilitate the re-import of the high valued articles including jewelry, being carried out of the country, the departing passengers may request Customs for issue of a re-export certificate at the time of his/her departure from India.

Export of gold jewellery as baggage

29. 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

Export of Indian currency

30. Export of Indian Currency is strictly prohibited. However Indian residents when they go abroad are allowed to take with them Indian currency not exceeding Rs. 1000.

Export of foreign currency

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

32. Tourists while leaving India are allowed to take with them foreign currency not exceeding an amount brought in by them at the time of their arrival in India. As no declaration is required to be made for bringing in foreign exchange / currency not exceeding equivalent of U.S. $ 10000, generally tourists can take out of India with them at the time of their departure foreign exchange/currency not exceeding the above amount.