NRIs: Are you facing issues with making UPI payments in India? Here’s why


Dubai: If you are a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) travelling home, you would have often had times when you were needed to make use of apps such as Paytm, PhonePe or Google Pay to make instant payments using your mobile phones. But were you able to easily make such payments in India?

As this mode of instant payment became popular across India, sending money to a friend or making payments for purchases at retail outlets, has become easier. But if you have been residing abroad and travelled home for the holidays, using UPI (Unified Payment Interface) has been difficult.

For instance, while NRIs with non-resident bank accounts were permitted to make UPI payments, as the payments process was linked to an India-issued SIM card, they needed an Indian mobile phone number to set up a UPI ID for any of the above payment applications. This led to a few problems.

Problems NRIs faced with UPI payments

This meant the hassle to keep the mobile number alive, by paying phone bills or topping up the balance on the number, in case it is a pre-paid connection. Additionally, NRIs with an active Indian number couldn’t log in to UPI apps because the number was linked to a non-resident bank account.

That’s when the Indian government opened up cross-border transactions such as bill payments to NRIs with certain credit cards, and as a result, NPCI or National Payments Corporation of India recently eased its UPI payment restrictions to this segment of users.

The move eliminated the cost of maintaining an Indian mobile number and allowed NRIs to use UPI with their international numbers, and those with numbers from the UAE, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar, the US, Saudi Arabia, and the UK, could use UPI seamlessly.

There may be still some technical glitches while accessing the UPI app on international numbers but RBI [Reserve Bank of India] and NPCI [National Payments Corporation of India] is working to make it smoother

– Dixit Jain, managing director at The Tax Experts DMCC

Technical glitches accessing UPI for NRIs

While NRIs should be able to use their international numbers that are linked with their non-resident bank accounts to register on any UPI app with these new rules from NPCI, those who do so have frequently faced errors preventing them from making UPI payments. Let’s look at why that is.

NRI users have flagged on social media that payment portals are still mandatorily asking users to add a mobile number with India country code. Portals have reverted back to NRIs who have flagged the issue publicly, telling them that the issue can be resolved by personally contacting the bank.

“There may be still some technical glitches while accessing the UPI app on international numbers but RBI [Reserve Bank of India] and NPCI [National Payments Corporation of India] is working to make it smoother,” said Dixit Jain, managing director at The Tax Experts DMCC, a Dubai-based tax advisory.

Working to resolve NRI issues with UPI

NPCI announced that they are presently working with its member banks for the back-end integration including the validation processes and linking of numbers. This is because the level of compliance by banks has increased if the user migrates from an Indian mobile number to a foreign number.

“RBI and NPCI said they will launch AI-based conversational payments on UPI to simplify the process. For now, it may get resolved by logging out and logging in again, but I don’t think there is any other fix apart from writing to the customer care and waiting for them to revert,” added Jain.

NCPI also specifically instructed the member banks to ensure such accounts are allowed as per the regulations set by Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), which are integral to how NRI transactions are dealt with.

Are NRIs charged for making UPI payments?

“NRIs paying bills through Bharat Bill Pay System (BBPS), the payment portal of NPCI, is observed to be free of cost after Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that ‘it was not the right time to make digital payments like UPI chargeable’,” said India-based tax consultant Brijesh Meti.

“No charges were made aware of and the customer who is paying the money is anyway not charged even in the limited scenarios like a credit card or a high value prepaid card transactions when charges are incurred. So, I think at least to that extent, the customers will not have to bear charge.”

What to keep in mind when NRIs use UPI

Cross-border inward bill payments were earlier enabled for NRIs to simplify making payments, who were otherwise being faced with challenges in utility bill payments on behalf of their families in India, or paying at retail merchants when travelling to India.

“While initial hiccups in enabling international numbers of NRIs are being addressed, often times problems arise because a key point is overlooked, i.e. that there has to be a valid mobile number that is linked to your non-resident account in India,” added Meti.

“If the number isn’t valid, errors can arise. Also, another reason for delays is that banks need to make sure that there is a high level of safety in the linking process and nobody else can link or get access to transactions that are being done for this. So bear these in mind when facing delays.”

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