- Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian government has relaxed the second provision since last year.
- According to current OCI guidelines, an OCI card must be reissued each time the cardholder acquires a new passport before they reach the age of 20 or until they reach the age of 50.
- According to embassy, the old passport is not required for an OCI cardholder travelling on the strength of a current OCI card with an old passport number.
People of Indian descent with Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards are no longer needed to bear their old, expired passports for travel to India, as was previously required, according to the government. The members of the community have applauded the government’s announcement.
The Overseas Citizens of India, or OCI, card is given to people of Indian descent all over the world and grants them almost all of the rights and privileges of an Indian citizen, with the exception of the right to vote, government service, and the purchase of agricultural land. They can fly to India without a visa with the OCI card.
The Indian missions in the United States said in a March 26 press release that in order to make travel easier for OCI card holders, the “deadline for re-issuing OCI cards in r/o OCI card holders who may be eligible to do so has been extended until December 31, 2021.”
Also, “the need to keep both old and new passports, as well as the OCI card, has been eliminated.” OCI cardholders who fly on the basis of a current OCI card with an old passport number will no longer be allowed to carry their old passport. It is, however, necessary to have a new passport.”
Prem Bhandari, a New York-based social activist who has been working for OCI card holders for many years, applauded the announcement. He thanked the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs, and the Government of India for not only extending the renewal deadline until December 31, but also for easing the guidelines and allowing OCI cardholders to keep their old, expired foreign passports.
“With new guidelines, Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders around the world will breathe a sigh of relief,” he said. He thanked Ajay Kumar Bhalla, the Home Secretary, for the new guidelines.
Mr. Bhandari said that he had witnessed first-hand the hardships faced by members of the Indian community as a result of some OCI card rules when travelling to India during the pandemic.
He claimed that some passengers were denied boarding on flights to India and were sent back from airports because they did not have their old foreign passports, as required by government regulations.
The OCI card provides an Indian-origin foreign national with multiple entry, multi-purpose, life-long visa to visit India, among other benefits. Those under the age of 20 and those over the age of 50 must renew their OCI card every time their passport is renewed, according to the provisions of the OCI card, which grants the cardholder a lifetime visa to India.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian government has relaxed the provisions since last year. So far, the deadline has been changed many times. However, this is the first time that the rules for carrying old and new passports, as well as OCI cards for overseas Indians, have been relaxed.
In May of last year, the central government allowed certain categories of OCI cardholders who were stranded abroad to enter the country. Foreign nationals’ visas and OCI cards were previously suspended as part of the latest international travel restrictions implemented by the Indian government in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Indian government regulations.
To travel to India, OCI cardholders were required to bring their old passport. OCI cardholders are no longer allowed to carry their old passports, but they must also carry their new passports under the new provisions.
Mr Bhandari stated that the Ministry of Home Affairs had provided guidelines for OCI card holders to bear old expired foreign passports since 2005, but that they had not been thoroughly checked or implemented until 2019.
Mr. Bhandari had previously asked Indian authorities to take steps, such as issuing emergency visas on departure, to assist Indian-origin families travelling to their homeland for medical or other emergencies as a result of the COVID19 pandemic.
Bhandari, the Chairman of the Jaipur Foot USA, said he wrote to Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, and Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola late last year, outlining some of the difficulties faced by Indian-origin families travelling to India for emergency reasons and suggesting measures that could be taken to ensure smoother travel.
Bhandari proposed that Indian passport/PIO/OCI card holders be able to fly with their US-born minor children under the age of 14 on any unexpired visa obtained at any time without having to apply for an emergency visa at a consulate.
In the likelihood that enforcing these steps seems difficult, authorities can consider granting Emergency Visa on Departure (E-VoD) or restoring the immediate e-Visa process for online approval.
Last year, Bhandari requested that the deadline for renewing OCI cards be extended until December 31, 2020, giving the Non-Resident Indian/Person of Indian Origin community enough time to learn about the new requirements and renew their cards.
Bhandari expressed optimism that the issue of tourist visas will be resolved soon as well. The Indian government decided in October of last year to restore the validity of all existing visas, with the exception of electronic, tourist, and medical visas, with immediate effect.