The government of India on Friday provided relief to certain categories of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders by permitting their travel back to India. These include minor children born to Indian nationals abroad who hold OCI cards; those who want to visit India on account of family emergencies and students studying abroad who are OCI cardholders but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.
The development came after the Ministry of Home Affairs passed an order, facilitating the repatriation of certain groups of OCI card bearers. The decision to allow particular categories of OCI cardholders came amidst the third phase of the country’s Vande Bharat mission, an extraction programme meant for rescuing stranded Indians across the world amidst the raging coronavirus pandemic. In the second phase of the Vande Bharat Mission, India was able to extricate 32,000 Indian on more than 160 flights from 47 countries.
According to the Home Ministry order, categories of OCI cardholders permitted to visit India are as follows:
- Minor children holding born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards
- OCI cardholders who want to come to India for family emergencies like a death in the family
- Couples, where one partner holds an OCI card and the other is an Indian national and they have a permanent residence in India
- University students studying abroad who have OCI cards and whose parents are Indian citizens living in India
Following this action, the multiple-entry-life-long visas granted to the OCI card bearers have also been restored which was temporarily suspended due to the travel restrictions imposed in the view of the coronavirus outbreak.
OCI cardholders were among the groups of stranded Indians eagerly waiting for the government to lift restrictions for their travel back to India. The government earlier this month stated that their urgent priority was to first meet the minimum expectations of the Indians stranded abroad before facilitating the repatriation of OCI cardholders. In conformity to this thinking, the government has allowed only select categories of OCI cardholders with an immediate need to visit India.
As per government data, about 200,000 Indians have registered with the foreign affairs ministry for their return back to India and the government is prioritising the return of those with compelling reasons such as people with medical emergencies, students, jobless Indians stranded abroad, pregnant women among others.