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 Travel Tips - Transferring Residence from US to India

Here we have put together some information regarding the procedures involved while transferring residence from the US to India. We hope that this information will be useful to many folks who consider the TR option and will be better prepared for what to expect.

Please note: This information is not meant to be an authoritative guide to the procedures and is being provided here only for information purposes and is (mostly based on some of our personal experiences). The reader is advised to use his/her discretion in interpreting the information, and also consulting the appropriate authorities, institutions or organizations to verify/validate any information provided herein.

 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about shipments and TR

Q. What are the pre-requisites for obtaining a Transfer of Residence (TR)?
A. The pre-requisites for obtaining a TR are:
  • Passenger should have a minimum stay of two years abroad immediately preceding the date of his/her arrival on transfer of residence
  • The passenger's total stay in India on short visits during the preceding two years should not exceed 6 months
  • The passenger should not have availed this concession in the preceding three years
  • TR concessions are available to a family as a whole i.e. Individual members of the family may not claim seperate concessions

You may find more detailed information in this regard at the following sites too:

There are many websites out there that offer a ton of information on this, so we only list a few of them here. However, please note, that we are not responsible for the accuracy or validity of the information provided by these parties, and the reader is advised to always check with the appropriate authorities for the latest information and data.

Q. Are there any other conditions regarding TR that I should know of?
A. In brief, under typical circumstances:
  • The unaccompanied baggage should have been dispatched within one month of the passenger's arrival in India
  • The unaccompanied baggage may land in India upto two months before the passenger's arrival...

For more information regarding these rules relating to Import of Unaccompanied Baggage, please visit Central Board of Excise and Customs (India) - Import of Unaccompanied Baggage

See Also:
Q.What are the pre-requisites for obtaining a Transfer of Residence (TR)?
Q. What are the baggage rules and allowances when claiming a TR?

There are many websites out there that offer a ton of information on this, so we only list a few of them here. However, please note, that we are not responsible for the accuracy or validity of the information provided by these parties, and the reader is advised to always check with the appropriate authorities for the latest information and data.

Q. What are the baggage rules and allowances when claiming a TR?
A. For a brief information on the pre-requisites for obtaining a TR, please see the Q. What are the pre-requisites for obtaining a Transfer of Residence (TR)?

As the baggage rules and allowances are governed by specific policies, we suggest that you please refer to the following site/s for detailed information:
Central Board of Exise and Customs (India) - Baggage Rules

Q. What happens once I ship my goods (from the US)?
A. Once you decide on a suitable shipping agent (you can find some useful information about such service providers from and decide to ship your goods, you should receive the following documents:
  • An invoice for your shipping costs (this will usually have to paid-off once the goods have been picked up from your residence [or departure origin point]) Depending on the provider, they may offer options of paying the invoice in advance, or on your arrival in India. Please check with your provider for exact details.
  • A Bill of Lading (BL a.k.a B/L). This document holds all the details about your shipment viz. the Consignee, the number of packages, the weight/volume of the packages, the carrier details - ship name, vessel No., etc., the date the goods left
    the port of departure, the receiver's contact information, the receiving agent's details, etc.
    This is a very important document - and is required for making any enquiries or claims for your shipment. Under ideal conditions, this document should be sent to you by your shiping agent within about 10 days of the shipment departing from the port of departure. [However, in reality, depending again on many factors, this may take upto a month to get to you. You can also have this mailed by your agent to your address in India, but that may add a few more days before you receive it]
  • A copy of your letter for insurance, in case you choose to insure your goods.
  • Depending on the shipment, source and destination, and whatever other factors influence the shipping carrier, the goods should reach India in about 45-60 days (ideally). However, in reality, be prepared for longer arrival times, typically in the range of 75-120 days. (See also Useful Tips below)
Q. What should I do once the goods have shipped and I've received my Bill of Lading [and, also arrived in India]?
A. Hopefully, you have arrived safely in India. You may have received your B/L by now, or maybe you'll get it in a few days. Do follow up with your agent if you haven't heard back from him in about 3 weeks. As calling via phone will not only be an expensive proposition, but also [a little] inconvenient, due to the time difference, email may be your best option as a medium for following-up.

When you arrive in India, most likely via airplane (unless you are on a world cruise!), you will have to clear customs at your port of entry. You DO NOT need to file for TR here, as you can file for TR only once! Please check with the airport officials who will be able to guide you regarding the procedures. Based on your baggage, you may pass through the red or green channel.

After this time, once you start settling back in India, it is recommended to follow-up with your agent (or their counterpart in India) about the arrival of your goods - once you have an estimated arrival date, start the follow-up process about 2-4 weeks in advance. While we cannot generalize, the agents by themselves may not always be reliable enough to keep you up-to-date about the status of your shipment's arrival - it is your responsibility, and will tend to convey a slight sense of urgency and sincerity on your behalf to the agent, when it comes to clearing the shipment.

Q. Once I know my shipment arrival date, is there anything I can do to start getting prepared?
A. Sure you can.

Check with your agent what documents s/he will require for the clearing of the goods and start putting these together.
You will definitely need the following:

  • Get about 4-6 copies of all the pages of the passport of the person who is going to be claiming a TR
  • If you haven't done so yet, based on your detailed packing list, prepare a summarized packing list, listing the major items/categories of items (such as Kitchenware, Toiletries, etc)  in each box in your shipment. The summary list is useful for many reasons - for easier handling and overall processing. (See Packing Tips, Sample Packing List)
    Keep about 4 copies of the summarized list available, and 2 copies of the detailed list available with you. (Tip: When you go to collect your goods, leave one copy of the above safely at home - just in case!)
Q. What happens finally when the shipment arrives (in India)?
A. Please note, as this information is based more on personal experiences, we cannot be sure if all these procedures or facts will be existent at all ports of arrival. Also, each shipping agent/company may follow slightly different practices. Thus we only provide some guidelines here.
  • When the shipment arrives at your final, destination sea-port, your agent should inform you about this. If not, it doesn't hurt to keep checking with the agent every day from about a week before the estimated arrival date.
  • Once the ship carrying your goods arrives at the sea-port, the containers are unloaded. The containers are then de-stuffed of it's goods, and your consignment is located and collected together. Depending on the shipment, the goods may be distributed across multiple containers, or a multitude of possibilities, but they are finally consolidated. Usually, for personal goods, the packages are palletized (during shipment) so the shipment is not very split-up. Your agent and the Bill of Lading can help to clarify more details about this.
  • The destuffing is handled by the freight-carrier company, used by your shipping agent. The goods may take upto a week or so before they are destuffed from the containers.
  • Again, depending on which is the arrival port, and which is the destination port indicated by you when shipping the goods, the goods will have to be moved to the destination port. For instance, for Mumbai, the ship may dock at JNPT, Nava Sheva, while the final destination may have been Mumbai Port Trust, Mumbai. The movement, typically handled by the port authorities, may take a couple of days. Once the goods arrive at the destination port, they are then held at the UB Warehouse. (UB = Unaccompanied Baggage)
  • Until the goods arrive at the warehouse, your shipping agent will not be able to initiate further process for clearing the goods for you.
  • At each stage, your agent should be able to help you to get more information about the progress taking place, but be aware, that getting regular updates, may be a time-consuming activity, as regular follow-ups will be required.
  • Your agent would also be able to provide you more details about the shipment viz. the vessel on which it arrived, the Container No., the Location of the container, the IGM (Import Goods Memo) No. , Item no. (usually a UBxxxx kind of identifier, where UB indicates Unaccompanied Baggage).
    These details are important for the clearing of the goods and will be required at many stages.
  • See Also: Q. What are the next steps to clear the shipment?

Q. What are the next steps to clear the shipment?
A. Phew! Your "ordeal" is only about to begin - and you thought that after all this, it should be much easier, eh?!

Well, before we get into some details, just to let you know, there are of course, multiple choices of services, provided by various agents, who will offer to clear the goods on your behalf and have them delivered to your door - but of course, they will charge you for their services. While no doubt, this will save you a fair amount of hardship and time (involved with the cumbersome processes involved), in case you are, shall we say, more self-reliant, and cannot afford the premium services, it will help you to know what's in store for you. In all practicality, allow for at least 2-4 working days before you get delivery of your goods (from the port authorities), so if you are a working individual, plan accordingly.

Tip: Check with the concerned authorities about their working time/s and lunch hours, so you can plan your day accordingly. Beware, though, don't rely on the personnel to adhere to these timings too strictly!

If you opt to use the services of an agent to clear the goods on your behalf and relax in the comfort of your home, you will be much more at eaze. You may possibly only have to make a trip to the agent's once, to intiate the documentation, sign on the required forms, etc, and be present during Customs Inspection.

If, however, you opt to not use the services of an agent, you may have to be prepared to sweat it out a bit more :) The bureaucatic nature of such organizations in India makes it a tad hard for the common man to get through the levels hassle-free, so in many cases, it is advisable to utilize at least partial services of an agent.

  • Your shipping agent (from the US) first needs to issue a Delivery Order (DO or D/O) to the freight carrier company, for the shipped goods. You will need the Bill of Lading and Original Passport during this stage. This is because - and this is just a personal conclusion - your agent would in most cases utilize the services of some other freight-company for the shipment of the goods. The charges for this are as per receipt, but may be of the order of Rs. 3,500/- *
  • Given the above D/O, you would need to take this to the Liner [Company], and obtain a Liner Delivery Order. Again, to obtain this D/O, the liner company will charge you as per receipt. In addition to the B/L, and D/O, you will most likely need to submit a copy of your passport. These charges would be of the order of Rs. 6,500/- *
  • The Liner's D/O is then to be taken to the actual freight carrier - or equivalent, as applicable - where they issue a 'Customs Examination Order'. This is needed, so that the port authorities, in whose custody the shipment resides, may ask the Customs Officials to carry out an inspection of the shipped/imported goods, and assess the necessary customs duties and any other charges.

    At this stage, if filing for TR, you would need to fill in the TR-form <Include sample/link here> with necessary details, and submit the same along with your original passport, a copy of the passport and packing list. The TR-form is typically to be submitted in triplicate. You can hire a separate "forwarding/clearing agent" for helping you with this whole part of the process (As with most such situations, such agents are readily available at the port).

    In the TR-form, you would have to identify the list of items as per the packing list, and their approximate worth. (See also TR-exemptions) As an indicator, the agent's charges would be of the order of Rs. 4,000/- * EXCLUSIVE of all other charges (see below) and customs duties, which are on actuals.
  • Once the TR-form is prepared, it needs to be passed through various officials at the port trust, until it finally reaches the Customs Official, who initiates an inspection. During inspection of the goods, the Customs Official may request one or more packages to be opened before him/her. During inspection, the Official assesses the validity of the individual's application regarding the goods, for eligibility for TR/import and gathers details about the dutiable items, such as Model #, Year of Mfg & Purchase, etc. The opening - and re-packaging of the cartons is done by the workers at the port, but a charge of approx. Rs. 150 per labour* may apply. (This may be covered in the charges paid to the clearing-agent, please check)

    Officially, the Customs Officer then consults the catalogues to assess the value of the dutiable goods, and may modify the TR-application accordingly. For eg. You may have quoted an electronic item to be worth Rs, 2000/-, but the catalogue-value of the same may be Rs. 5,000/-. Customs duty is levied on the total assessed value of the goods. (To save trouble, it may be worthwhile to hold proof of purchase/price for all major items, but you can discuss with the Official about the levied charges, if you are not in total agreement. However, the Officials have the last say)
  • Once the value of any dutiable goods is assessed, and the duty, as applicable, is calculated, the form again goes thrrough various rounds of verification by the many other officials, supervisors, auditors, superintendents, D.C (Deputy Commissioner) etc. Finally, after at least a few hours (if you are lucky),  you are called upon to pay the assessed customs duty.
  • At some stage during this process, your passport is stamped to indicate that you have availed of a TR.
  • After payment of the customs duty, the form then needs to be taken back to the frieght-carrier company, where on payment of stamp duty (of the order of Rs. 540/-**) , and any other applicable charges (~ Rs. 150/-*), a final D/O is issued in the name of the clearing agent and/or the individual taking delivery of the goods.
  • On receipt of the final D/O, you are then required to pay any applicable Octroi charges (~ 5.5% of assessed value of the goods, for Mumbai) and any applicable port charges (charged for holding your goods in their premises - these are very nominal, of the order of Rs. 100/-*)
  • This then brings you to the last stage of the clearance - after a few more rounds of signatures by other officials, you are required to get a "Gate-Pass', which will alow the goods to be taken out the warehouse door. At this time, you should arrange for transportation of goods (the clearing agent can help you with this too), so that once the goods are cleared, they can be loaded into the suitable truck (or carrier) and finally leave for their final destination - hopefully, your home!
  • Notes:
    * The charges provided here are only indicative, and may vary from agent/company, as also on the kind of shipment, etc. However, some of these charges are "standard', and independent of the size of the shipment, so at times, shipping just one small package may also cost you as much as clearing 20 packages! (Unfortunately, we do not have more details on the basis for all these charges, so we cannot say any more)
    ** Stamp Duty is @ 0.1% of Customs Duty paid for the goods (Mumbai)

  Useful Tips

  • Enquire with at least two or three shippers and ask for quotes for your shipment. You will be quite surprised at the difference. Start this process well in advance, even before you begin packing; you will need to estimate the volume and/or weight of your packages/goods while requesting a quote.
  • Given the time it may take for your shipment to reach its destination in India, as far as possible, try not to pack perishable goods/items, such as food stuff (chocolates, biscuits, etc) in your shipment. Besides risk of perishability, there is also a risk of damage by rodents, which abound in warehouses and ports, both in India and abroad. To minimize such damage, if you have to include such goods in your packages, it is advisable to keep the stuff in their original sealed packs, and at least double or triple pack them in the carton.
    For eg. First level: Original packing, Second Level: Pack the stuff in a smaller carton/box, like say, the carton you can get at wholesale retailers like Sam's Club, Walmart, etc or in boxes used for shipping books, Third Level: Your main carton which will contain this and other items. While such packing may add slightly to the weight/volume of your shipment, it is better than receiving damaged good!.
  • While you carry out the packing process, maintain a detailed list of each item you put in the carton. Believe us, by the time your shipment arrives, you won't recall what is where! (See Packing tips for useful packing tips)
  • Make sure you provide your correct contact information (address, email & telephone nos) to your agent, and also ensure you have multiple options of reaching your agent - via phone, fax, email, postal mail - both in India and abroad. This will give you some peace of mind when it comes to following up about the status of your shipment (especially from India).
  • To ensure safe arrival of your goods in undamaged form, please do not compromise on the quality of the cartons used - make sure they are strong, and capable of holding enough rough handling, besides the weight of the contained items. You may also choose to insure the goods, but good packing is more important than that. (See Packing tips for useful packing tips)
  • Usually, for used personal goods, there are two shipment options: Less-than-full or Full Container. A shipment of less-than-full container could take a little longer before it leaves the port of origin, as the freight carriers tend to consolidate such shipments into a full container for optimal benefits on their side, so at times, the shipment will be held waiting until additional less-than-full shipments arrive
  • See also, Packing Tips

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Last Updated: Mon Nov 24 03:30:00 EDT 2003