Old passports not required for OCI card holders

The government has extended time till Dec 31, 2021, to get the OCI cards re-issued for those below the age of 20 years and above 50 years, reports Asian Lite News.

People of Indian origin and Indian diaspora having overseas citizens of India (OCI) card are now not required to carry their old, expired passports for travel to India, as required earlier.

The Overseas Citizens of India or OCI card is issued to people of Indian origin globally which gives them almost all the privileges of an Indian national except for the right to vote, government service and buying agricultural land. The OCI card gives them a visa-free travel to India.

In a March 26 press release, the Indian missions in the US said that in order to ease the travel of OCI card holders, it has been decided that the “time line for re-issuance of OCI cards in r/o OCI card holders, who may be required to get their OCI card reissued has been extended until December 31, 2021.”

 “The requirement of carrying old and new passports, along with the OCI card, has been done away with,” the Indian embassy said on its website, referring to a notification issued in this regard by the Centre, addressing one of the major concerns of overseas Indians.

“Henceforth, an OCI cardholder travelling on the strength of an existing OCI card bearing old passport number is not required to carry the old passport. However, carrying the new (current) passport is mandatory,” the embassy said.

According to the embassy, the Indian government has also decided to grant further extension of time till December 31, 2021, to get the OCI cards re-issued for those below the age of 20 years and above 50 years.

As per the current OCI guidelines that have been in force since 2005, an OCI card is required to be re-issued each time a new passport is acquired by the cardholder up to the age of 20 years or after completing 50 years of age.

The Indian government has relaxed the second provisions since last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The timeline has been extended multiple times so far. However, this is for the first time that the guidelines has been relaxed for carrying old passports and the new passports along with the OCI cards for overseas Indians.

This has caused a lot of inconvenience among the Indian diaspora as normally the old passport is discarded after the issue of new ones. But the old OCI rules desired that the overseas Indians carry the old passport as well along with the new passports and the OCI card.

New York-based social activist Prem Bhandari, who has been taking up the cause of OCI card holders for the past several years, welcomed the announcement. He expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs and the Government of India for not only extending the renewal up to December 31 this year but also for relaxing the guidelines and not requiring OCI card holders to carry their old, expired foreign passports.

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“The OCI card holders can heave a sigh of relief worldwide,” with these new guidelines, he said. He expressed thanks to Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla for the new guidelines.

Bhandari said that he had seen first-hand the inconvenience caused to members of the Indian diaspora due to certain OCI card rules as they undertook travel to India during the pandemic.

The OCI card, among other benefits, allows multiple entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa to an Indian-origin foreign national to visit India. Under the provisions of the OCI card, which gives the cardholder lifelong visa to India, those below 20 and above 50 need to renew their OCI card every time they have their passport renewed.

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