Airlines refuse boarding as OCI Rules get rigid enforcement

Airlines refuse boarding as OCI Rules get rigid enforcement

OCI Cards must be updated in certain cases

Venkat Raman

Several passengers travelling to India from New Zealand during the past fortnight have found themselves unable to board their flight or stranded at a transiting international airport as the Indian government has begun stricter enforcement of the rules relating to the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI).

Indian Newslink has received no less than 15 phone calls from readers in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, saying that the airline on which they had reserved seats refused to board them since their OCI Card was not current.

“At the Singapore Airlines counter in Auckland International Airport, I was asked to sign an undertaking that I would return to Auckland at my cost if I am not allowed to board the onward flight to India,” one reader said.

“This is unfair. Air New Zealand refused to allow me travel,” said another.

Relaxation removed

On inquiry, an Indian High Commission official in Wellington confirmed that the Indian government has been enforcing the OCI rules with rigidity.

“These rules have always been there, since the OCI commenced (in 2006). Every person under the age of 20, holding an OCI Card must get a new Card issued every time a new passport issued (by another country). Similarly, every OCI holder should get a new Card issued when they complete 50 years of age. This is done only once,” the official said.

“This is because of the biological changes that occur on the face of the applicant. Those obtaining OCI after reaching 50 years need not have to get the Card reissued, “ he said.

A notification issued earlier this year by the Indian High Commission said that the above rules have never been strictly enforced and on one had been denied entry into India for not adhering the OCI rules.

“However, airlines are making stricter checks at the time of check-in.  In some cases, they have been contacting the immigration department at the destination airport in India before admitted into the aircraft,” the notification said.

Our advise is that passengers under the age of 20 and over the age of 50 should ensure that they have the appropriate OCI card before they undertake travel to India.

In Wellington, the processing time for OCI Cards is 30 working days but could be longer.

Benefits of OCI Card

OCI cards have become popular among both former citizens of India and those who were earlier and those holding Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) Card.

OCI Card holders are entitled to (1) Multiple-entry multi-purpose life-long visa to visit India (Special approval is required for research, mountaineering, missionary activities, journalism and to visit Restricted/Protected Areas) (2) Exemption from reporting to Police authorities/Foreigners Regional Registration Officer for any length of stay in India (3) equality with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in certain financial, economic and educational matters except for acquisition of agricultural or plantation land and in matters pertaining to inter-country adoption of Indian children (4) Equality with domestic Indians in entry to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and in matter of tariffs in air fares in domestic sectors in India.

Not Dual Citizenship

There is considerable confusion among people who hold OCI Cards.

We hereby clarify that India does not grant Dual Citizenship  and hence OCI should not confused as a form of citizenship. Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are citizens of India who live and/work abroad and hence are not ‘Ordinarily citizens of India.’ They hold Indian passports and hence are entitled to all the benefits of Indian citizenship, not available to OCI Card holders.

OCI Card holders do not have any voting rights and are not eligible for election to Union Parliament or State Legislatures or for holding Constitutional posts such as President, Vice President, Judges of Supreme Court, High Court and other public appointments. They cannot hold any Public Office under the Union or any of the State Governments.

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  1. Picture from Auckland Airport Facebook
  2. The OCI Card (Indian Newslink File Photo)
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