When the new rules regarding the surrender of Indian passports upon acquisition
of US citizenship were introduced by the Government of India Ministry of
External Affairs in May 2010, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin
(GOPIO International) expressed strong objections. GOPIO also objected to Indian
Consulates charging $175 USD fee for surrender of old Indian passports and
additional penalties for various "violations". GOPIO collected over 30,000
petitions and sent its objections along with the petitions to the Prime Minister
of India. Based on the persistence and objections raised by GOPIO and other
community organizations, on June 1, 2010, a partial relaxation of the rules was
achieved and the fee reduced to USD $20.
Nevertheless, the removal of burdensome procedures and fees on Indians who
became citizens of other countries was not addressed in a coherent, consistent
and equitable way. As a result, during the last one year alone, there have been
demonstrations, hunger strikes and thousands of emails to the Indian consulates,
GOPIO and the government of India, yet the issue never got the full attention of
the Government of India for a comprehensive solution as promised.
In January, 2011, a GOPIO delegation comprising of GOPIO 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 as 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 Ministry of
External Affairs (MEA) Additional Secretary B.K. Gutpa attended this meeting and
interacrted with GOPIO delegates and MEA became more aware of the continuing
problem (see GOPIO News March
25, 2011, or clickhttp://www.piotv.com/content-inner.php?content_id=68&id=46&p=d&category_id=117&category_name=9th%20Pravasi%20Bhartiya%20Divas, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh-lM2FHW1I&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwamdKF6klw&feature=related).
In May 2011, a high level delegation from the Ministry of External Affairs
(MEA)headed by MEA Secretary Dr. Ajai Choudhry along with
Additional Secretary B.K. Gupta and Under Secretary Cherian Thomas visited the
USA to look into complaints of the people regarding visa issue (see GOPIO News June
1, 2011). GOPIO met the delegation in New York, Houston and San
Francisco and presented another memorandum including several demands to simplify
these problems. some of these were included in the GOPIO's January 6, 2011
memorandum to the Minsitry of External Affairs.
It is heartening to know that two of the demands in the GOPIO memorandum have
been accepted and have been implemented by the Ministry of External Affairs
Indian with directives to all Indian High Commissions and Consulates. That is,
(1) Elimination of surrender certificate from those who became naturalized
citizens more than 10 years ago, and (2) An OCI application need not be
accompanied by an original US passport.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued a circular to all Indian
Missions/Posts 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."
The Indian missions are currently working out the details of implementation with
their own offices and through Travisa.
"We compliment the MEA high level delegation in accepting some GOPIO's
recommendations and MEA issuing the directives accordingly. The elimination of
surrender certificate requirement from people who have obtained foreign
citizenship more than ten years ago, will not only stop the decline of goodwill
in the Indian community for the Government of India but can also reduce
workload at the consulates," said Inder Singh, GOPIO Int'l Chairman.
"Now that the work load will be less, Indian missions in western countries and
Travisa should finish off all the backlogs soon and make the process of getting
an OCI card and entry visa to India easier
for the Indian community," said Dr. Thomas Abraham, former Chairman of GOPIO
International, who has been involved in this issue from the beginning.
"Finally, MEA has taken some steps to remove the difficulties faced by many who
became citizens of other countries and desirous of visiting India or applying
for OCI cards. This is a welcome action that removes an undue burden on former
citizens of India and improves goodwill towards India", said Ashook Ramsaran,
Executive Vice President of GOPIO International.
For more information on the new rules, visit the websites of the Indian
GOPIO International can be contacted at +1-818-708-3885, Email: GOPIO-Intl@sbcglobal.net.