Following dozens of Indian-Americans facing difficulties at airports while travelling from the US to India over provisions in the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), an eminent Indian-American activist has said that the card should not be considered as "a multi-purpose lifelong visa" and demanded the Indian government fix major loopholes in it.
Under the provisions of the OCI card, which gives the cardholder lifelong visa to India, those below 20 years and above 50 years need to renew their OCI card every time they have their passport renewed.
Though this provision had been there for the past several years, it's only now that at the instructions of the Indian home ministry that it was being strictly enforced by international airlines flying commercial flights to India.
Earlier this month, the provision has been relaxed till June 30, 2020, but the concerned OCI cardholders have been asked to carry their old passport with them to fly to India. However, not many OCI card holders are aware of these new rules.
“For all practical purposes, OCI card is not a multipurpose life-long visa, as it has been billed by the government. To clear the confusion, it is important that the government, immediately, say that it is not a multipurpose life-long visa and then take steps to fix the loopholes in this regard,” Prem Bhandari, a community activist and also the head of Jaipur Foot USA told PTI.
He pointed out that many OCI card holders are saying that if the OCI card is a life-long visa, then why is it necessary to renew it after renewal of the passports.
"The government has disseminated widely the regulations regarding the validity of OCI cards in the light of the guidelines,” he said.
Working for past several years on the issue of OCI card, Bhandari urged the Indian government to make certain changes in the OCI card, which brings at par the perception and reality about a facility offered to overseas Indians that for years was billed as a life-long visa.
Based on the feedback, he said Indian-Americans are now challenging that after the government recently started strictly enforcing the little-known regulation that those below 20 years and above 50 years need to renew their OCI card every time they renew their passport.
Bhandari said that it is felt that certain changes could be made in the instructions printed on the OCI card itself which will bring a lot of clarity to the OCI card holders.
“OCI card states that the visa type is life-long. The government may discontinue this in the OCI card as the card needs to be renewed in above-mentioned cases,” he said.
Referring to the large-scale confusion about various aspects of the card, Bhandari asserted that in many cases OCI is also not a “multipurpose life-long” visa.
“Certain uses are not allowed such as mountaineering, research, missionary work and journalism. This needs to be printed on the OCI card itself,” he said.
OCI card holders will require special permission from the government to undertake these activities.
Meanwhile, at least two dozen Indian-Americans have been reported to have faced difficulties at multiple airports in the US during the winter vacation as several airlines refused to issue boarding passes to passengers who were not carrying their old passport that matched the number mentioned in their OCI card, officials said here.
While in New York, Indian carrier Air India, based on high-level interventions from Indian diplomatic missions, allowed Indian-Americans to board the flight on December 24 and 25, officials said other airlines operating direct flights to India refused to do so asserting that they need to strictly follow a recent government of Indian regulation in this regard.