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Undue Hardship: New Visa Rules
New Indian government rules regarding the surrender of Indian passports upon acquisition of U.S. citizenship impose undue and unnecessary burdens on the Indian American community, writes Inder Singh.
The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin strongly objects to the new rules imposed by the Government of India regarding the surrender of Indian passports upon acquisition of U.S. citizenship because those new rules impose undue and unnecessary burdens on the Indian American community.
The most recent notice posted on the Web site of Consul Generals of India, San Francisco and New York stipulates that Persons of Indian Origin in the United States of America who have acquired U.S citizenship, are required to surrender their Indian passports to the nearest Indian Consulate within 90 days of their naturalization as U.S. citizens. The surrender certificate is free if the Indian passport expired before January 1, 2005. However, if the Indian passport expired after January 1, 2005 and were not surrendered within three years of obtaining U.S. citizenship, a service fee of $175 will be charged, provided the Indian passport was not used for travel in which case a penalty would also apply. The Government of India requires completion of a form and payment of fee and penalty, if applicable, for obtaining the surrender certificate. A U.S. citizen of Indian origin applying for an Indian visa, OCI/PIO cards or wanting other consular services may not be able to get any such service without complying with the new rules.
Per Section 8 of the Citizenship Act 1955, “any citizen of India of full age and capacity, who is also a citizen or national of another country, makes in the prescribed manner a declaration renouncing his Indian citizenship, the declaration shall be registered by the prescribed authority; and, upon such registration, that person shall cease to be a citizen of India.” However, Section 9 of the same Act states that, “Any citizen of India who by naturalization, registration or otherwise voluntarily acquires, or has at any time between the 26th January, 1950 and the commencement of this Act voluntarily acquired, the citizenship of another country shall, upon such acquisition or, as the case may be, such commencement, cease to be a citizen of India.”
The provisions for making a declaration of renunciation are separate and distinct from the provisions of termination of citizenship. While renunciation of citizenship is covered in Section 8 of the Citizenship Act 1955 and has to be applied on a prescribed form, automatic termination of citizenship is covered under Section 9 and requires no formal application to the Indian government. Indians in the U.S. who have acquired American citizenship are covered under Section 9 and not under Section 8. But the new rules posted on the consular Web site postings require that the “Indian passport must be surrendered within 90 days of U.S. naturalization” and “Surrender Certificate” should be obtained from the nearest Consul General of India. This rule will be enforced by refusal to grant consular services, such as visa to India, grant of OCI/PIO card, etc.
There are several thousands of people who have obtained U.S. citizenship over the last sixty years and they have been travelling to India on American passports with Indian visas granted by the same consulates whose Web sites now have new rules which are applicable retroactively. If the law did exist in the past, Indian consulates in the U.S. should have asked for the surrender of Indian passports before granting Indian visas to U.S citizens of Indian origin. Requiring Americans of Indian Origin to surrender their Indian passports after the lapse of many years of their naturalization as U.S. citizens would cause undue hardship and delay in getting consular services. In case an applicant has lost, damaged or surrendered his Indian passport to a foreign government, he/she is required to furnish certified copies of following documents, as per notice on Indian Consulate Web site postings:
- (a) Details of last held Indian passport (Passport no., date of issue & place of issue). The onus of providing details rest on the applicant.
- (b) Official documents submitted to U.S. authority at the time of obtaining U.S. citizenship/naturalization & I -130.
- (c) Notarized letter explaining reasons for loss.
- (d) Police report.
A large majority of the new citizens have no use for their old Indian passports and may have lost, misplaced or never kept in their possession after naturalization as U.S. citizens. The production of items (a) and (b) above, in particular, will not be easy and could take months to obtain from the U.S government and elsewhere.
GOPIO urges the Government of India to reconsider the retroactive enforcement of the new rules as many thousands of people who have acquired citizenship of the United States could suffer undue and unnecessary hardship for no fault of their own.
GOPIO urges Indian community groups, organizations and individuals to join in protesting the new rules imposed by the Government of India by writing to the Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org and Secretary Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs at email@example.com with a copy to GOPIO at GOPIO-Intl@sbcglobal.net.
Inder Singh is chairman of GOPIO International, a non-partisan, non-sectarian global organization, promoting the interests of people of Indian origin worldwide by enhancing cooperation and communication between groups of Indians living in various countries.