Surrender Certificate: Gov't of India Eases Rules
A lower fees and less regulations, was the outcome of GOPIOs push for changes to the directives regarding the surrender certificate, writes Inder Singh.
When the new rules regarding the surrender of Indian passports upon acquisition of U.S. citizenship were introduced by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, in May 2010, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin expressed strong objections. GOPIO also objected to Indian Consulates charging U.S. $175 fee for surrender of old Indian passports and additional penalties for various “violations.” GOPIO collected over 30,000 petitions and sent its objections along with the petitions to the Prime Minister of India. Based on the persistence and objections raised by GOPIO, on June 1 a partial relaxation of the rules was achieved and the fee reduced to U.S. $20.
Nevertheless, the removal of burdensome procedures and fees on Indians who became citizens of other countries was not addressed in a coherent, consistent and equitable way. As a result, during the last year alone, there have been demonstrations and thousands of emails to the Indian consulates, GOPIO, and the Government of India, yet the issue never got the full attention of the Government of India for a comprehensive solution as promised.
In January, 2011, a GOPIO delegation comprising of Chairman Inder Singh, Executive Vice President Ashook Ramsaran and former chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, presented a memorandum to the Ministry of External Affairs and again explained the hardships and delays people have been experiencing in obtaining visa for visiting India and how such bureaucratic procedures are consequently alienating NRI/PIO communities.
In particular, GOPIO wanted that the surrender certificate requirement should not be enforced in case of people who had obtained foreign citizenship more than 10 years ago as the Indian passport loses its validity after 10 years anyway.
In May 2011, a high level delegation from the Ministry of External Affairs visited the U.S. to look into complaints of the people regarding visa issue. GOPIO met the delegation and presented another memorandum which included several demands included in GOPIO’s January 6, 2011 memorandum.
It is heartening to know that two of the demands in the GOPIO memorandum have been accepted and have been implemented by the Ministry of External Affairs Indian with directives to all Indian High Commissions and Consulates.
i. Elimination of surrender certificate from those who became naturalized citizens more than 10 years ago.
ii. An OCI application need not be accompanied by an original U.S. passport.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued a circular to all Indian Missions/Posts as follows:
“(i) Registration of surrender certificate: Since visa and other applicants (for consular services) of Indian origin are being put to discomfort by the request for surrender certificate every time they seek a service, all Missions/Posts have been advised to register the surrender certificate, electronically or otherwise, at the first occasion it is presented. Such a record will ensure that PIOs will no longer be required to produce the certificate on every occasion of approaching the Mission/Post for consular assistance.
(ii) ‘Deemed surrender’ cases: In order to deal with instances where a Person of Indian Origin was in possession of an Indian passport that expired more than 10 years ago, and where in the intervening period, he/she has acquired foreign citizenship, all Missions/Posts have been advised to treat such cases as ‘Deemed surrender.’ On the production of documents showing the acquisition of foreign nationality more than 10 years ago, such persons will be issued ‘deemed surrender’ certificates, without causing the additional burden of producing passports which may not be in the possession of the Person of Indian Origin.”