MHA allows OCI cardholders in certain categories to come back to India
The Central government on Friday relaxed visa and travel restrictions for holders of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards stranded abroad since March due to the Covid-19 lockdown, allowing certain categories to come to India.
The categories include minor children born to Indian nationals abroad who hold OCI cards, those wishing to travel for family emergencies, and university students who are OCI card holders but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.
The OCI card holders are likely to be included in the third phase of the government’s massive repatriation operation called Vande Bharat Mission, as there is no word yet on when the government will allow international flights.
Officials familiar with developments said OCI card holders could also be accommodated in vacant seats in flights during the second phase of Vande Bharat Mission, which will continue till June 13.
In the second phase, which started on May 16, India is bringing back around 32,000 citizens on more than 160 flights from 47 countries.
The home ministry’s order on Friday partially resolves issues raised by hundreds of thousands of people whose visas were suspended following the imposition of restrictions on international travel because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
The categories of OCI card holders allowed by the government include minor children born to Indian nationals abroad holding OCI cards, OCI card holders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies such as a death in the family, couples where one spouse is an OCI card holder and the other is an Indian national and they have permanent residence in India, and university students who are OCI card holders (not legally minors) but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India, according to the home ministry’s order seen by HT.
With this move, the multiple-entry lifelong visas given to OCI card holder have also been restored after they were temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19-related restrictions.
OCI card holders were among several categories of people who have been eagerly awaiting permission to travel to India. Government officials had indicated earlier this month that their first priority is meeting the minimum expectations of Indian nationals stranded abroad before requests from OCI card holders could be entertained.
In line with this thinking, only those categories with an immediate need to travel have been picked now from among OCI card holders.
According to government data, nearly 260,000 Indian nationals in 98 countries have registered with the external affairs ministry to return to the country, and the government is prioritising travel of those with compelling reasons, such as people who have lost their jobs, pregnant women and people with medical emergencies.
“The travel restrictions, imposed earlier by MHA on May 7 would not apply to any aircraft, ship, train or any other vehicle deployed for bringing back the above mentioned categories of OCI card holders who are stranded abroad,” said a statement from the government.