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Embassy denies relaxation in passport surrender rules

Last updated on: July 07, 2011 04:01 IST

The Indian Embassy in Washington DC has denied any release from the Ministry of External Affairs regarding passport surrender certificate. Last week, the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin had welcomed a press release announcing that it was not required to give up a 10-year-old passport to obtain a surrender certificate anymore.

But the Indian Embassy has a different version.

"We have been informed that an Indian passport is to be presented for cancellation and issue of a surrender certificate (Renunciation of India citizenship) irrespective of the time frame of naturalisation," said Nikhilesh M Dhirar,second secretary, Press, Information and Culture, Washington DC to India Abroad in an email.

The e-mail also said  details of applicable penalty for misuse of Indian Passport after acquisition of foreign citizenship, which is available on the embassy's  website.

"We had received the information from the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. The letter was addressed to the embassy and consulates. So, we tried to get the paragraph that particularly concerns us, and quoted it verbatim," said GOPIO chairman, Inder Singh to India Abroad over phone.

We only quoted the instructions that they had mentioned. We do a service for the community, and have no intention to mislead the community," said Singh.

He said the letter was obtained by one Ashook Ramsaran, who is executive vice president of GOPIO International. "He passed it on to me, and that is what we have quoted in our press release," said Singh.

He alleged that the Indian Embassy and consulates were afraid to be quoted, but hoped they would release their version soon.

In January, 2011, a GOPIO delegation comprising of its Chairman Inder Singh, Executive Vice President Ashook Ramsaran and former chairman Dr Thomas Abraham, presented a memorandum to the Ministry of External Affairs and again explained the hardships and delays people have been experiencing in obtaining visa for visiting India and how such bureaucratic procedures are consequently alienating NRI/PIO communities.

In particular, GOPIO wanted that the surrender certificate requirement should not be enforced in case of people who had obtained foreign citizenship more than 10 years ago, since the Indian passports loses its validity after 10

years anyway.

On January 6, 2011, GOPIO held a conference session on this subject at its annual convention in New Delhi. A high ranking representative of the MEA attended the conference, and was made aware of the problem.

In May 2011, a high level delegation from the MEA visited the United States to look into complaints of the people regarding the visa issue. GOPIO met the delegation and presented another memorandum which included several demands included in the organisation's January 6, 2011 memorandum.

Singh said that the GOPIO members on May 26 met the three-member delegation from New Delhi, community leaders and Consul General Susmita G Thomas,  to solve the ongoing visa issues and among the Asian Indian community.

The delegates members comprised of Ajai Choudhry, secretary, MEA, Basant K Gupta, additional secretary, and T Cherian, under secretary.

These members were on a 'fact finding mission' on current issues and hardships relating to the surrender certificate requirements, Overseas Citizen of India, Person of Indian Origin cards and to learn the grievances of Non-resident Indians about visa issuance.

The letter published by GOPIO:

The MEA has issued a circular to all Indian Missions/Posts, which is as follows:

(i) Registration of surrender certificate: Since visa and other applicants (for consular services) of Indian origin are being put to discomfort by the request for surrender certificate every time they seek a service, all Missions/Posts have been advised to register the surrender certificate, electronically or otherwise, at the first occasion it is presented. Such a record will ensure that PIOs will no longer be required to produce the certificate on every occasion of approaching the Mission/Post for consular assistance.

 (ii) 'Deemed surrender' cases: In order to deal with instances where a Person of Indian Origin was in possession of an Indian passport that expired more than 10 years ago, and where in the intervening period, he/she has acquired foreign citizenship, all Missions/Posts have been advised to treat such cases as 'Deemed surrender.' On the production of documents showing the acquisition of foreign nationality more than 10 years ago, such persons will be issued 'deemed surrender' certificates, without causing the additional burden of producing passports which may not be in the possession of the Person of Indian Origin."

Ritu Jha