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OCI mayhem’: Is carrying your old Australian passport the answer?

October 25, 2019 no comment kartik

As OCI holders continue to be stopped at Australian airports, unable to board flights they were booked for, the Indian High Commission in Australia tells, “There have been no changes in the existing OCI rules or regulations in recent times.”

 

More and more Australians bound for India with their Overseas Citizen of India card are being impacted by ‘OCI mayhem’ at international airports. Many have been off-loaded by various airline carriers, incurring heavy financial losses amounting to thousands of dollars.

Meanwhile, in response to specific questions raised by people, the Indian High Commission has pointed to it’s advisory and said, “The objective behind issuing the Advisory is to dispel the notion among all concerned regarding any changes in the OCI regulations. In fact there have been no changes in the existing OCI rules or regulations in the recent times.”

“Any passenger otherwise carrying valid documents but facing any problem at the Airlines counter could request them to refer to the High Commission of India website/Advisory regarding the OCI regulations.”

Many families have faced chaotic and stressful scenes at Australian airports in recent days, when they or their family members were denied boarding on flights bound to India, during the Diwali rush.

 

SBS News has reported how an elderly couple whose OCI card was first issued after they turned 50  were ‘harassed’ at the airport, and also the case of a 9-year-old child, whose father had to stay back in Australia with his son to arrange an eVisa, even though the child’s passport hadn’t been changed recently and the exact same travel documents had been used for entry into India on four previous occasions.

Here are some scenarios to which the Indian High Commission has responded:

(i) If OCI is first issued to a person after they have turned 50, does it still need to be renewed?

Response: If the first OCI card is issued at the age of 50 years or later, there is no need for renewal of the OCI Card.

(ii) If a person has recently turned 50, passport is still valid and has not been recently renewed, will they be ok to travel with existing documents?

Response: OCI card is required to be re-issued only once on the renewal of passport after completing 50 years of age. Therefore, if the passport is still valid and the holder has recently turned 50, it is permitted to travel with existing documents.

(iii) If a person’s passport number doesn’t match with what’s recorded on the OCI, but in the past they have travelled using current passport and OCI, should they be concerned and get eVisa to be safe?

(iv) Will carrying old Australian passport (of which number is endorsed on OCI) solve the issue?

Response for (iii) & (iv): May please refer to the advisory issued by the Mission on the subject matter. The advisory is available at the link: https://www.hcicanberra.gov.in/docs/1571709840Advisory_on_OCI%20Card.pdf

Airline issue or a matter for the Indian government?

Dozens of passengers have reported that despite the “rules” as explained in the Ministry of External Affairs  website and communications, airline check-in staff are not allowing them to board. After reading recent articles published by SBS  about this issue, R Kaur says she called her airline since she was meant to travel in three days’ time.

“I called Thai Airways and asked about what was going on and the lady replied ‘we are having a meeting with Indian officals’ and will update me as to what will happen. Upon asking why the airlines are introducing this new strict rule, she said that it was not the airlines but ‘Indian embassy which directed us to do this’.”

Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways have told they are merely ensuring that “passengers meet the requirements of Indian authorities.”

When the Indian High Commission in Canberra was asked about the communication it has sent to various airlines about this matter, it said, “The communication sent by the High Commission to the Malaysian Airlines was on the similar lines as the advisory issued by the Mission which is available on the link above,” adding “regarding actions taken by some of the airlines on the issue, we reckon it is for them to provide a clarification.”

Confusion prevails

The scenario as described in (iv) has occurred with many passengers, who have continued to carry the old passport along, even after a new one is issued, so the check-in staff can cross-reference it with the OCI. But as in the case reported by SBS Punjabi earlier, and has transpired with many other passengers, carrying the old passport does not necessarily help. Passengers were refused boarding and one family had to shell out $2,300 to purchase new flight tickets after getting an eVisa.

The Ministry of External Affairs’ own website says that the old passport is not required at the time of check-in.

Adding to the confusion is the contrary advice received from VFS Global, the service provider for Indian visa, passport and OCI services.  Whilst the Indian High Commission has clearly said in response to question (ii) above, that “OCI card is required to be re-issued only once on the renewal of passport after completing 50 years of age”, but VFS has offered contradictory advice to a passenger, telling them OCI needs to be renewed each time a passport is renewed after turning 50 as well.

Given the continuing uncertainty, We suggest to travellers with OCI cards to consider their own personal circumstances and making their own enquiries before flying. For further information on OCI rules, please visit these websites:

OCI Related Matters, Ministry of External Affairs

https://www.mea.gov.in/oci-related-matters.htm?fbclid=IwAR14-SCAChCRrXTjVYkQgg8VYfL3mLs3DQpolrE2peqqwo8bzjw2MgOLJKc

OCI Miscellaneous services guidelines

https://mha.gov.in/PDF_Other/GuidelinesOCIMiscservices_31102018.pdf

VFS Global portal for OCI services   https://www.vfsglobal.com/india/australia/oci_pio_service/OCI_miscellaneous_service.html

Advisory issued by Indian High Commission Canberra, about OCI card issues

https://www.hcicanberra.gov.in/docs/1571709840Advisory_on_OCI%20Card.pdf

 


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