Indian Consulate in New York addresses community concerns over recent Overseas Citizenship of India regulations

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Indian Consulate officials interacting with GOPIO and other community organizations in a March 11, 2021 meeting; from l. to r. Deputy Consul General Shatrugna Sinha, Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal and Consul for Visa and Passport Murugesan Ramaswamy. Photo courtesy GOPIO

Indian government officials dismissed concerns expressed and shared on various media platforms in the United States, about  the recent changes to rules relating to Overseas Citizenship of India card-holders.

In a March 11, 2021, online meeting, India’s Consul General in New York Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, assured leaders of various Indian-American organizations that there were no major changes announced during the most recent OCI proclamation by the Government of India.

On the much-discussed OCIs, Ambassador Jaiswal insisted that “None of the elements in the proclamation is new. All past notifications are put together.” The only new phenomenon is that buying and selling of farmhouses have been added to the list because of its misuse, he pointed out.

On the most contentious issue of the government of India describing OCIs as “foreign nationals” Ambassador Jaiswal said, “You will be treated as NRIs. The new laws do not change your status. If there is any particular concern, please contact us and we will address your concerns.”

Dr. Abraham pointed out that many OCI businesspeople who have established successful business India are concerned about the GOI notification of OCI card holders as foreign nationals. He referred to the new directives for OCIs, asking companies doing technology and other research needing special permission from the government, which in the process, their ideas will get divulged to their competitors.

To another question, the Ambassador Jaiswal said, “Rules for foreign nationals will apply to all naturalized citizens in the US.” He reiterated the govern position that RBI permission is needed to buy and sell properties in India. On dual citizenship, he said, “OCI card stays as a connection. No further plan at this time regarding dual citizenship for people of Indian origin.”

For OCI cardholders, entry fees to be charged for visiting national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, national monuments, historical sites and museums in India and tariffs in airfares in domestic sectors in the country shall be at par with the Indian nationals, the Ministry ordered.

Also, OCI cardholders will have parity with Non-Resident Indians in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children subject to the compliance of the procedure as laid
down by the competent authority for such adoption.

Other such matters where OCI cardholders will have parity with Non-Resident Indians include appearing for the all India entrance tests such as National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) (Mains), JEE (Advanced) or such other tests to make them eligible for admission only against any Non-Resident Indian seat or any supernumerary seat; and purchase or sale of immovable properties other than agricultural land or farm house or plantation property.

The ministry further said that the OCI cardholders can pursue the professions in India as per the provisions contained in the applicable relevant statutes or Acts as the case maybe, which includes doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists, advocates, architects, chartered accountants.

India has specified that an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholder shall require a special permit for various activities which includes missionary, journalistic activities or to visit any place which falls within the Protected or Restricted or prohibited areas as notified by the Central Government.

Participants at the March 11, 2021 Interactive Session of community organizations with the Indian Consulate, New York. Photo courtesy GOPIO.

Organized by the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, the meeting was attended by various chapters of GOPIO as well as the national Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), Federation of Indian Associations of Columbus (Ohio), India Association of Greater Boston, Indian Diamond and Color Stone Association, Indian American Forum for Political Education, South Asian Council for Social Services, Saheli of Boston, Gurpur of Boston, Federation of Malayalee Associations of America (FOMA), Society of Indian American Engineers and Architects, National Indian American Association for Senior Citizens and Education Initiative in India.

Ambassador Jaiswal was joined by Deputy Consul General Shatrugna Sinha and other top ranking officials from the Consulate in New York and responded to several concerns expressed by the Indian American community leaders.

Among other issues discussed at the meeting, were U.S.-India bilateral relations by Thomas Abraham, PhD, chairman of GOPIO International; the impact of the pandemic on the Indian-origin community in tri-state by Sudha Acharya, executive director of South Asian Council for Social Services.

Neelam Wali at SAHELI called for helping the community, members of which “Need help with legal issues. Financial help, especially when mothers are sent back home and children stranded here.”

Patsy Leopold, representing the Guyana community in the US, said, “We have immigrated from India to Guyana. Now, we have 300,000 of us in the New York region,” and need support and help to support the community in these days of Covid.

Other speakers included Shivender Sofat, president of GOPIO Manhattan; Lal Motwani, international coordinator of GOPIO, who invited all participants to attend the Holi celebration by artists from around the world on March 28th.

Ambassador Jaiswal focused on several other issues at the meeting apart from OCI concerns.

“We have bipartisan support in the Congress. Our relationship continues to flourish and prosper, when either Party in the US is in power,” Jaiswal said about bilateral U.S.-India relations, ,3. education and knowledge sharing,renewal of climate sustainability; and defense collaboration.

On Consular services, the Indian envoy said, as of now, the business visas and the employment visas by India have been restored. However, at this time, Tourist visa stands suspended.

Stating that Emergency Visas are being issued, he cautioned that there are some changes being made to the program. “Pre-approval has been done away with,” he said. “Apply for Emergency visa with the documents sent in by mail. For death related reasons, we want you to come straight to the Consulate and will be addressed with the shortest duration with efficient ways emergency visas issued.” He expressed confidence that with covid pandemic declining, travel or tourism visas are expected to be made available soon.

The Ambassador also assured the community that when the pandemic subsides, the Consulate will organize Visa Camps, allowing people to obtain visas from their hometowns.

Deputy Consul General Sinha, while praising the Indian-American community said, “The Indian Diaspora is the strongest pillar of India’s outreach to the world. OCIs are in par with Indian citizens. Rules remain the same and not much has changed. Don’t go by the media, and many voice concerns due to misconceived notions (sic).” On the question of visa issues, he assured that “The process has been streamlined with new guidelines. While the Tourist visa is under suspension, Emergency visas are being issued.”

 

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