After receiving a series of complaints from Indian Americans traveling to India, the government of India’s Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry issued a memorandum on Tuesday, December 17 directing relevant government agencies and airlines that the holders of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards, who are either below 20 years or above 50 years of age and have renewed their passports, can continue their travel to India until June 30, 2020.
However, travelers must carrying both their old and new passports along with their OCI card.
The Indian consulate in San Francisco confirmed when indica asked about the new relaxation in OCI card rules.
Rajesh N. Naik, Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of India told indica, “We have been receiving many complaints since mid-November. We do not have a count as these complaints/queries were received through several means such as WhatsApp, phone calls, emails, and through community contacts.”
He said they have made a sincere effort to reach out to the aggrieved individuals and have assisted them in sorting out their issues by guiding them through the process of e-visa (which takes a minimum of 72 hours for confirmation) and if need be, giving them an emergency visa as per established procedures.
When asking Naik about what went wrong and whose fault is this that travelers have had to cancel or return halfway to India, he said that the OCI rules were announced earlier. However, the recent decision to enforce them has created unexpected confusion among the OCI card holders and the airlines.
“OCI cardholders did not anticipate the strict enforcement and hence, believably, led to the confusion,” said Naik.
The passport numbers on their OCI cards did not match with their current passport numbers, Naik said. All the OCI cards were issued against the valid passports at the time of submission of the OCI application. Therefore, the OCI cards will not reflect the number of the renewed passport.
However, Aniyan George, president of the Kerala Chamber of Commerce, USA, who started the petition and requested a temporary reprieve until 31st March 2020 regarding the travel restrictions faced by OCI Card holders, as per the new directives from the Consulate General of India stated, “Up to the age of 20,OCI cardholders must get the OCI Card reissued each time their passport is renewed.”
For people over 50 years of age, OCI cards are required to be reissued mandatorily only once and for people between 21-50 years– Reissuance of OCI Card is not required each time the US passport is renewed. However, it is advisable to carry the old passport along with the current passport and the OCI Card.
Welcoming the move by the Ministry of External Affairs, George said, “It’s a great news.”
He said the petition to “Remove the travel restrictions of OCI Cardholders (under 21 years and above 50 years old)” has received 23,000 signatures and thousands of phone calls concerning OCI issue.
“In last the 13 days I personally attended more than 1000 calls and I know 19 families that were sent back to the US,” George told indica.
“There was a panic because it’s a holiday time,” said George and added they asked for relief until March 2020. But government has extended this until June 30, 2020.
Most of Airline companies are barring the travel of OCI card holders with a renewed passport and not reissued OCI Cards (current OCI cards have the old passport number) from boarding the plane to India.
George said the challenge is under the recent policy that has been posted as a “Travel Advisory” on the Indian consulate websites. Under this policy the OCI card holders, which has a “Lifetime Validity” endorsed by the same (Indian) government, now requires reissuing every time a US passport is renewed.
When the OCI card holder’s US passport is renewed before 20 years of age and once after 50 years of age.
This means the OCI card holders are required to go through the entire process of applying for OCI card/visa all over again, every time when their foreign passport is renewed: This policy will create lot of burden mostly for children,” said George. “We need change in this.”