Common questions on how foreign exchange rules affect movement of money

Tonga’s National Reserve Bank has issued a set of commonly asked questions regarding the new Foreign Exchange Control Act.

This is an edited summary of the main points.

What is exchange control and how does it affect me?

Exchange control involves measures to control or influence the movement of foreign exchange over Tonga’s borders. The FEC Act controls the purchase and sale of foreign currency. These rules apply when travelling, giving cash as a gift to someone outside of Tonga, paying for goods ordered from outside of Tonga, or investing offshore.

Why are exchange controls necessary?

Exchange controls are used to manage the national demand for foreign currency in order to protect the country’s foreign exchange reserves and allocate available foreign currency in the best interest of the country.

What are these key aspects of the old Act and regulations that are incorporated into the new FEC Act?

  1. Acquiring property overseas – Under the regulations of the old Act, anybody who wants to acquire property outside Tonga requires the consent of the NRBT.
  2. Returning proceeds of export to Tonga – Under the regulations of the old Act, a person in Tonga was required to return to Tonga through an authorised bank, foreign exchange dealer or money changer. 

Who are the authorised banks or dealers Person in Exchange in Tonga?

Banks

  • Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd
    • Bank of South Pacific Limited
    • MBf Bank Ltd
    • Tonga Development Bank

Foreign Exchange Dealers – Type A (outward/payment & inward/receipts)

  • Fexco (Tonga) Ltd
    • Klickex Ltd
    • Rowena Finance Services
    • SAV Money Transfer
    • T&T Money Transfer

Foreign Exchange Dealers – Type B (inward/receipts only)

  • Digicel Mobile Money
    • Frank Money Transfer
    • Tonga Post Ltd
    • Manatu ‘Ofa Money Transfer
    • Fietokoni Financial Services
    • Island Flexi Tonga

Money Changers – Type C

  • Jones Travel Ltd

If I have investments offshore that were acquired prior to the new FEC Act (1 November 2018), am I affected by the new FEC Act?

No. Any offshore investments made prior to November1,  2018 are not affected by the new Act.

Are residents allowed to invest offshore?

Yes, up to a limit of TP$100,000. Investments over this limit  must be approved by the Reserve Bank.

How much travel allowance can I take when travelling overseas?

Maximum of TP$20K per person per travel. 

What is the permissible cash that each traveller is allowed to hand carry when travelling overseas?

A traveller can hand carry or take a total amount in foreign currency or Tongan paánga notes or coins equivalent to up to TP$10K. If more than TP$10K the traveller must seek the approval of the NRBT three business days prior to the anticipated departure date.

How much foreign currency in cash or otherwise are people allowed to bring into Tonga?

There is no limit on foreign currency, but travellers must declare the money in their possession at the point of entry into or exit from Tonga if the total amount of cash is equivalent to TP$10,000 or more. 

How much foreign currency in cash can I hold?

Tongan residents can hold up to TP$20K equivalent  in foreign currency.

What must I do with any surplus foreign currency?

You are required to sell such currency above TP$20K. 

Can I hold a foreign currency account overseas?

Yes. Payments from Tonga to foreign currency accounts must be approved by the NRBT.

Can I hold a foreign currency account in Tonga?

Yes, subject to the approval of the NRBT.

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