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I left India to take up a job in Australia in 2019. Since I did not know about different bank account and the need to designate my existing bank account as NRO account, I continued to operate my Indian bank account. I have remitted money into this account and have used these funds to invest in the Indian secondary equity markets. Now I have realized my mistake. Can I convert my existing Indian bank account into an NRE / NRO account and repatriate the funds back sent earlier to India? 

A person becomes a non-resident under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) as soon as he leaves India to take up an employment outside India whereas a person generally becomes a non-resident under the income tax laws based on his physical stay in India. Strictly speaking a person has to intimate his banker about change in his residential status under FEMA as soon as his flight takes off. However, in practice this is not done and out of ignorance many people fail to do so. You can intimate your banker about change in your residential status now and the bank will designate your existing bank account as NRO account.

If you had opened an NRE account which can only be opened after one becomes a non resident under FEMA, you could have remitted the money in that account. Money lying in NRE account can be repatriated back without any limit. You could also have invested in India through that NRE account and remit back the full money realized on sale of such investments.

Since the money was remitted to your regular bank account, you cannot fully remit back the money realized on sale of your investments in India. However, a non-resident is allowed to remit upto 10 lakh USD every year from his NRO account every year. So you can remit back upto this limit every year in case the aggregate value of your investments exceeds 10 lakh USD. 

Balwant Jain is a tax and investment expert and can be reached on jainbalwant@gmail and @jainbalwant on Twitter

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