New OCI, visa rules ‘clarification’ for Indian Americans

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU

At an Indian community representative meeting called by the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) on March 11, India’s consul general in New York claimed that no major changes that have been announced for Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders.

India has recently specified that an OCI cardholder shall require a special permit for various activities, including journalistic activities or to visit any place which falls within the Protected or Restricted or prohibited areas as notified by the Indian government.

None of the elements in the proclamation is new. All past notifications are put together,” said Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal at the March 11 event at the Indian consulate in New York.

The only new phenomenon is that buying and selling of farmhouses have been added to the list because of its misuse, he pointed out.

For OCI cardholders, entry fees to be charged for visiting national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, national monuments, historical sites and museums in India and tariffs in airfares in domestic sectors in the country shall be at par with the Indian nationals, the Ministry ordered.

OCI cardholders will also have parity with Non-Resident Indians in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children subject to the compliance of the procedure as laid down by the competent authority for such adoption.

Other such matters where OCI cardholders will have parity with Non-Resident Indians include appearing for the all India entrance tests such as National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) (Mains), JEE (Advanced) or such other tests to make them eligible for admission only against any Non-Resident Indian seat or any supernumerary seat; and purchase or sale of immovable properties other than agricultural land or farm house or plantation property.

Dr Thomas Abraham, chairman of GOPIO International, pointed out that many OCI card holders who have established successful business India are concerned about the notification of OCI card holders as foreign nationals.

Abraham said that he had received hundreds of responses from OCI card holders and those who have taken citizenship in other countries about the hassle of buying and selling their properties in India.

India has gained from NRIs and PIO and therefore the government of India must remove that confusion of OCI card holders being termed as foreign nationals and that all those who moved out of India for employment and settled in foreign countries and taken citizenship in other countries must be treated at par with NRIs,” Abraham said.

He referred to the new directives for OCI holders, asking companies doing technology and other research to take special permission from the government, which has led to worries that their business ideas will get divulged to their competitors.

I have received several telephone calls and e-mail communications from large number of businessmen that many government agencies are already requiring them to follow the rules as a foreign national, which never happened before,” Abraham said.

This will have a large adverse effect on investments from OCI and those who have taken foreign citizenship,” he added.

On India describing OCI card holders as “foreign nationals,” Jaiswal said: “You will be treated as NRIs. The new laws do not change your status. If there is any particular concern, please contact us and we will address your concerns.”

On consular services, Consul General Jaiswal said that as of now, the business visas and the employment visas have been restored by India.

However, at this time, tourist visas stand suspended.

Stating that emergency visas are being issued, Jaiswal cautioned that there are some changes being made to the program.

Pre-approval has been done away with,” he said. “Apply for emergency visa with the documents sent in by mail. For [visas required for relatives’] death-related reasons, we want you to come straight to the consulate and it will be addressed with the shortest duration.”

He expressed confidence that with covid pandemic declining, travel or tourism visas were expected to be made available soon.

To another question, Jaiswal said, “Rules for foreign nationals will apply to all naturalized citizens in the US.”

He reiterated the govern position that RBI permission is needed to buy and sell properties in India. On dual citizenship, he said, “OCI card stays as a connection. No further plan at this time regarding dual citizenship for people of Indian origin.”

GOPIO was represented by its chapters of New York, Manhattan, Central New York, Central Jersey, Connecticut, South Jersey and Cleveland. The Indian community groups represented at the interactive meeting included the National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), Federation of Indian Associations of Columbus (Ohio), India Association of Greater Boston, Indian Diamond and Color Stone Association, Indian American Forum for Political Education, South Asian Council for Social Services, Saheli of Boston, Gurpur of Boston, Federation of Malayalee Associations of America (FOMA), Society of Indian American Engineers and Architects, National Indian American Association for Senior Citizens and Education Initiative in India.

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