Procuring an Overseas Citizenship of India Card has become more difficult and expensive for non-resident Indians thanks to new rules introduced by the government.
The new rule makes it compulsory to surrender the Indian passports (valid/expired) and get a surrender certificate after paying $175, in addition to the $275 charged for the OCI Card.
Anyone acquiring foreign citizenship has to surrender his/her Indian passport within three months. 'Penalties will be charged from those passport holders who do not surrender their passports within three months of their acquiring foreign citizenships,' the rule says.
The rule follows the earlier one stipulating that foreigners on a tourist visa cannot return to India within two months after a visit, without permission. Many Indian Americans, who had applied for tourist visas, found that rule problematic as they could not go back to India within two months of their visit without additional permission, even in case of family emergencies.
The OCI card seemed to be a better option and more Indian Americans started to apply for it.
The Indian embassy in US and its consulates receive a large number of applications for OCI and it takes several weeks to process them. The new rule will mean more work and confusion for the missions too.
The new rule puts some Indian Americans in a quandary as they had discarded their passports years ago, and it is mandatory to surrender even expired passports to be granted an OCI.
The new rule is applicable to all OCI/PIO applications (including those whose applications are under process or whose OCI documents have not yet been delivered.)
In case the Indian passport at the time of their acquiring of US (foreign) citizenship is not available with them now, an affidavit/proof explaining the circumstances of the loss/damage, along with the passport number and date of issue/expiry is to be provided.
"This new law is not in the interest of people. This seems like a plan to grab money from NRIs. This will discourage people from getting OCI and PIO cards. We need to react to this in whichever way possible. The government of India needs to listen to us in this regard, "said Shahi Prabhakaran, general secretary of the Federation of Kerala Associations in North America.
Rajiv Prasad, Councilman at Large at Franklin Township in New Jersey, is bitter at the sudden change of rules for the OCI Card and has written to the consulate, asking it to return the $275 he paid for OCI Card for breach of contract.
He sent the letter to the Consul General in India and copied it to his nephew Jitin Prasad, minister of state for Petroleum and others leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's children and Rediff-ndia Abroad.
He said he decided to apply for the OCI card after facing problems while re-visiting India within two months while on tourist visa.
"In February this year, I happened to be transiting through New Delhi on my way to Singapore for a business meeting. I was told I could not come back in two days after my meetings to transit through on my way back to New York," he said.
"This is because of (terror suspect) Richard Headley who traveled from Chicago to Mumbai often. It was the Federal Bureau of Investigation that caught him and informed the Research and Analysis Wing and the Central Bureau of Investigation of his existence. So the government of India in their infinite wisdom decided to ban all Americans from re-visiting India in less than two months," he commented sarcastically.
To circumvent this rule, he applied for the OCI Card. His documents were cleared in India and it was sent to the consulate general in New York for issuance. Then he got an email informing him that the government has changed the rules, which he considers a breach of contract.
"You do not change the rules because the CBI and RAW bureaucrats are incompetent. We are not all terrorists and should not be treated so," he said, reminding the Indian government of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's words, 'Welcome the foreign visitor to India and send back a friend for life.'