OCI passport relief, but T visa niggle stays

RITU JHA

Indian Americans have welcomed the Indian government’s recent announcement on Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders not needing to carry their old passports while traveling to India.

On March 29, the Indian consulate in San Francisco circulated a press release that carried two announcements about the OCI card.

The timeline for re-issuance of OCI cards in respect of OCI card holders, who may be required to get their OCI card re-issued, has been extended till 31 December 2021,” read the first announcement.

Earlier it was until June 31, 2021.

The second announcement was: “Henceforth, the OCI card holders traveling on the strength of their existing OCI card bearing old passport number are not required to carry their old passport. However, carrying of the new passport is mandatory along with the OCI card.”

Prem Bhandari, Jaipur Foot USA chairman, an advocate and New York-based Indian-American community leader, told indica News that this was a long-required common-sense solution that he had been urging the Indian government to implement since 2005 when they first started issuing the OCI status.

It’s hard to understand why we need an old passport. If you have OCI you don’t need to carry your old passport!” Bhandari said.

He said there have been several cases when people have been sent back from the airport because they were not carrying their old passport.

For the OCI cardholders it is a huge sigh of relief,” Bhandari said, thanking Indian home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla for the new guidelines.

At the same time, Bhandari said he would keep advocating to remove the fee required for the “Entry Visa” that India is issuing at present.

It’s harassment,” said Bhandari.

At present, India has suspended T visas, which many people of Indian origin do have of five or 10 years. Such visa holders who need to visit India now have to reapply for a “single entry visa” and have to pay $103 if applied on weekdays and $203 if in emergency and applied on weekends.

It’s a mistake by the government to name it a T visa,” Bhandari told indica News. “T means tourism. Then why call it a multiple visa when they have to reapply for the visa?Why the government is giving T visa to a 90-year-old or a four-year-old? Does it make any sense? Can a 90 -year-old or a 4-year-old travel alone as a tourist?”

Bhandari asked why a person should have to pay again for single entry visa when they have already paid the fee for the multiple entry visa.

What they are doing is harassment. Why are they asking for the money again?” he said.

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