Update: In a welcome relief for holiday travelers holding OCI cards, the Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry has issued a memorandum allowing travelers to India, who may have recently renewed their passports to be able to travel with their current OCI cards until June 30, 2020. They have to be mindful of carrying both the older passport, new passport and the OCI card. After this time, any traveler under the age of 20 and over 50 years will also have to renew their OCI cards to match the details and photographs in their new passports.
Travelers to India Being Turned Away If OCI Not Renewed
Travelers under the age of 20 and over 50 traveling to India need to be prepared to have their Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards renewed if they have had their US passports renewed recently. Not having matching passport numbers on the OCI card and passports can be cause for refusal to board international flights or even to return mid-flight without being allowed to enter India. This is currently leading to distress and a lot of disappointment among OCI card holders flying to India over the holiday season.
Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is given to Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) who immigrated from India and subsequently acquired citizenship of a foreign country. An older missive had required all PIO card holders to convert their PIOs to OCI cards. The deadline has been recently extended to March 31st, 2020 after which the PIO will be deemed an invalid travel document.
Traveling to India with a PIO Card?
Here’s how you can convert your PIO to OCI
One of the critical requirements with the OCI card is that each time the passport is renewed, the OCI card should be renewed as well. This is normally done for travelers below the age of 20 and above the age of 50. The requirement that the OCI is renewed as well is so as to ensure that the changing facial features is captured with age and that it matches the photograph in the passport.
Getting a new Passport?
Know the photograph requirements for a US passport
Although this ruling has always been around, it was not strictly enforced and therefore, not many NRIs are aware of it. With majority of them being due for renewal now, a lot of Indian Americans travelers are facing the inconvenience of being held back at airports or forced to return mid-way after being refused boarding onto international flights. As the word spreads, many Indian travelers are also cancelling their impending travel plans to India. Some have opted to get a e-visa instead of taking the chance of being turned away at the port of entry in India. An Indian e-visa is quick enough and has a turn-around time of 72 hours.
As a remedial measure, Indian diplomatic missions in the US are making public announcements and launching awareness campaigns announcing the need for a renewed OCI card along with a renewed passport. The new passport number should match that of new OCI. The Indian Home Ministry is expected to intervene and resolve the issue shortly.
In the meantime, travelers to India holding an OCI card are advised to do the needful to ensure that the validity of the travel documents are maintained. They should also call their airline and the Indian Consulate in their local jurisdiction to ensure that what they have meets the requirements of international travel and port of entry norms at India.