Monday, June 29, 2020

Allow foreign passport holding PIOs to travel to India for medical emergencies: Activist

New York: A prominent social activist here has requested Indian authorities to initiate a faster process to allow Indian-origin people with US passports and no OCI card to visit India for medical emergencies faced by their families back home.

Jaipur Foot USA Chairman Prem Bhandari, who has helped several Indians stranded in the US to return to their homeland amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has written a letter to Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla.

He requested Bhalla that rapid travel be facilitated for Indian-origin passengers who have foreign passports but may not have visa or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards to travel to India during the pandemic.

In May, the Indian government suspended all existing visas granted to foreign nationals, barring a few categories, till international air travel to and from India remains shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has, however, allowed certain categories of OCI card holders, who are stranded abroad, to travel to the country.

Bhandari said that he is aware of several instances where Indian-origin persons, having a foreign passport with visa but no OCI card, are unable to travel to India in emergency cases such as death of a parent or immediate family member, or other medical emergencies such as hospitalisation faced by family members back in India.
'As you are aware, there are scores of such Indian origin persons who may have a foreign passport with no visa or OCI. Though they must travel almost immediately, they are unable to do so given the requirements of visa/OCI which is a significantly long process,' Bhandari said in the letter.

He requested that a faster process be facilitated such that cases of bereavement of immediate family members of Indian-origin persons are prioritised in visa process and airlines' seat allocation as well as faster verification of appropriate documentations.

Bhandari suggested that ways to achieve this expediently could be through an online portal that issues requisite visas and necessary travel documentation in the shortest possible time; visa/travel permission is issued on arrival at port of entry in India; authorisation is delegated to local consulates to ensure each case is not adjudicated at higher levels and enabling concerned Indian ministries and departments to support and execute this process.

'In the interest of serving the multitude of stranded needy Indian-origin diaspora, I look forward to a quick and favourable disposition of this request,' Bhandari said in the letter, a copy of which will also be sent to Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
29/06/20 New Indian Express
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