- 16 American citizens of Indian origin were briefly stranded at New York’s JFK airport for not carrying old canceled passports, PTI reported.
- Over the past few months, many OCI cardholders have faced similar issues and have had to cancel their trips to India. Some have had to return midway from connecting airports such as Dubai and Singapore.
- After receiving a flood of complaints from the Indian origin community, the Ministry of External Affairs had announced a relaxation in the rules earlier this month.
What are the rules about carrying old passports with OCI cards, and what did the MEA announce?
- According to the MEA website, an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) is a person of Indian origin who is a foreign national and gets registered as an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder under Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- As per the MEA rules, an OCI card needs to be re-issued every time a passport is renewed by cardholders below the age of 20 years and those who have completed the age of 50 years. Cardholders between 21 and 50 years of age who acquire a new passport do not need to get their OCI card re-issued.
- The guidelines have been in force since 2005, as per the MEA.
- In the past several months, many OCI holders complained of being subjected to harassment by immigration authorities as well as airline officials over the rule, which had not been enforced so far. Several OCI holders, including many Indian Americans, complained to Indian diplomatic missions.
- Subsequently, the MEA announced a relaxation of the rule in a press release on December 18. It allowed OCI cardholders, either below 20 years or above 50 years of age and who had renewed their passports, to continue their travel to India till June 30, subject to them carrying both the old and new passports along with the OCI card. After June 30, they will have to get new OCI cards.
- The 16 Indian Americans on Sunday who were almost stranded for not carrying their old passports could board after top officials, including Indian Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Consul General New York Sandeep Chakravorty and Air India (North America) head Kamal Roul intervened.
- Previously, OCI holders also had to get a ‘U’ visa sticker on their passports, but the MEA later dispensed with the requirement. According to the website of the Bureau of Immigration, OCI cardholders are now given immigration clearance on the strength of their valid foreign passport and OCI card.