After allowing “calibrated” domestic air travel and evacuation of Indians stranded abroad, the Centre Friday allowed Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) to fly to India from abroad. This relaxation, however, is allowed only for a certain category of OCI card holders which includes students, minors, OCI spouses of Indian nationals and those who are travelling to meet family emergencies.
A day before the lockdown was announced March 24, all international flights were suspended. OCI card-holders were not allowed to come to India even after the government began an evacuation exercise for Indians stranded abroad.
An office memorandum issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs said that OCI card holders who will be allowed to come to India include: “Minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards; OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies like death in family; Couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national and they have a permanent residence in India; University students who are OCI cardholders (not legally minors) but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.”
According to a government reply to a question in Lok Sabha, there were 35.79 lakh OCI card holders as on March 12. Of these, most are residents of the US (13 lakh) followed by the UK (7.8 lakh), Australia (4 lakh), Canada (3 lakh) and Portugal (87,299).
The office memo went on to say that travel restrictions earlier imposed vide an order of May 7 “would not apply to any aircraft, ship, train or any other vehicle deployed for bringing back the above mentioned categories of OCI cardholders who are stranded abroad. All other terms and conditions laid down by MHA on 07.05.2020 would continue to remain in effect.”
The May 7 orders dealt with continuing restrictions on international travel barring for those Indians being evacuated from a foreign country or for foreigners stranded in India.
Earlier, the MHA had issued orders which said that “the right of multiple entry life-long visa facility for visiting India for any purpose granted to persons registered as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders would continue to be kept in abeyance till the prohibition on international air travel of passengers from/to India is lifted by the Government of India.
“Any foreign national holding an OCI card who intends to travel to India for compelling reasons during this period would have to contact the nearest Indian Mission. Further, in case of persons holding OCI card who are already in India, the OCI card shall remain valid for their stay in India for any length of time.” International flights continue to be suspended except those engaged in bringing stranded Indians back.
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