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OCI card holders in US voice frustration over India’s travel restrictions

Washington: Indian-Americans holding OCI cards, mostly their parents, have voiced frustration over the Indian government’s recent decision to temporarily put in abeyance their long term visa amidst the coronavirus-linked global travel restrictions.

The OCI (Overseas Citizens of India) card is issued to the people of Indian-origin, allowing them a visa-free travel in most of the cases. It also gives them certain privileges like that of an Indian citizen except for buying agricultural land, voting, running for election and working in government.

Of all the countries, the Indian diplomatic missions in the US issues the largest number of OCI cards. For instance, in 2019, Indian diplomatic missions in the US issued 90,000 OCI cards. Globally there are six million OCI card holders.

According to the regulations issued by the Indian government last month and updated last week, visas of foreign nationals and OCI cards, that provide visa-free travel privileges to the people of Indian-origin, have been suspended as part of the new international travel restrictions following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In many cases, in particular, the minors having OCI cards is creating a difficult situation for their parents who are still Indian citizens.

“Please allow Infants (with OCI cards) to travel with their parents (INDIANS) to India from the USA. Indian parents’ visas in the USA are going to expire, but due to the kid’s USA citizenship with OCI card we are not able to utilise flights scheduled by the government of India. Kindly allow minors to travel,” one Fazale Sattar wrote on Twitter.

Anitha Vankayala said that her daughter with an OCI card is waiting to come back home.

“We never thought this kind of discrimination from government because of our OCI status. Please help us to get back our daughter,” she said.

“Modiji, this is definitely not what we looked at when we came back to your call of Reversal of brain drain.. We loved your spirits and came back 9yrs ago.. Please treat OCI’s with aadhar card same as Indians,” T R Sreelakshmi tweeted.

“Many OCI holders, all over the world are having a tough time. Forced to close their restaurants & other business. Economic loss is huge,” wrote Constant Gardner.

“Please help our kids who are OCI card holders and stranded as students in the UK, US,” tweeted Madhavi Srihari.

“For no fault of mine I am stuck outside the country separated from my family for two months now- is there any sense in this madness? What exactly will you achieve by banning OCI card holders from entering India? Absolutely barn door ridiculous,” rued Binayak Chanda on twitter.

Preethi Gorjala sought help for her son. “Please Help. My son, an OCI card holder who grew up in India and presently studying in the US is stranded and not able to get back home due to the ban. Please allow OCI card holders also to get back home,” she pleaded.

Ravi Puvvala said that he is an OCI card holder and currently stuck in Paris on the employment front and waiting to travel India in priority. “I am desperate to join my family (newborn) in India, They are struggling back home in India without me in this pandemic situation,” he said.

However, Indian American activist Sunanda Vashisht defended the Indian government.

“OCI card holders are not Indian citizens. They are of Indian-origin and OCI is a long term visa. GOI is rightly prioritising Indian citizens. If there are few urgent cases, embassies can look into that but OCI card holders en masse cannot and must not be included in evacuations,” she said on Twitter.

“Sir we are residents of India with Indian passports please help us get back our stranded son in America who holds an OCI card,” pleaded Srithi Reddy.

One Simpi argued on Twitter that OCI is permanent residency. “No country has betrayed its permanent resident. Not even Indians who have Permanent residency of the USA (Green Card). We are only being made fools by our own Indian govt,” she said.

Balakrishnan Shanmugam said that current restrictions for OCI card holders to travel to India is impacting parents whose kids are OCI card holders. Mahendran Mahesh wrote on twitter that his wife and six months old baby are stuck in Chennai.

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