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Need to reform OCI scheme: S. Jaishankar

Emphasizing that India shares a unique relationship with its diaspora, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said efforts must be made to usher in reforms in the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme.

“We must make it easier for them (Indian Diaspora) to travel to India and it motivates us to reform our passports and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme,” Jaishankar said at an event organized on the occasion of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2020 in New Delhi.

The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated on January 9 every year to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.

Certain OCI guidelines were relaxed last year for reissue of passport for those below 20 years of age.

“In case an OCI cardholder below the age of 20 years has not got OCI card reissued on change of passport, he/she may travel on the strength of his/her existing OCI card bearing old passport number subject to the condition that along with the new passport, the OCI cardholder carries old passport mentioned in the OCI card,” a statement by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs read.

“In case an OCI cardholder who has attained the age of 50 years and got his/her passport renewed subsequently but has not got his/her OCI card reissued on renewal of passport, he/she may travel till June 30, 2020, on the strength of existing OCI card along with the new and old passports,” the statement added.

The OCI Card is a multiple entry life-long visa which enables the holder to have unlimited travel and stay in India. It was introduced by The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 in August 2005. It was launched during the 2005 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention.

Stressing that the government wants to build on its relationship with the Indians abroad, Jaishankar said India will stand by its diaspora in times of distress.

A day earlier, while interacting with NRIs in Australia, Surinam, the US, Singapore, Qatar Malaysia, the UK and Mauritius via video conferencing, the minister responded to the issue of workers being exploited in Qatar by saying that the matter was “very strongly on the government’s radar” and it will remain vigilant.

Indian Missions have been equipped to assist those more vulnerable and in need,” he said, adding that a number of initiatives have been taken by the government for migrant workers, which includes the Pre-Departure Training Programme and strengthening of the Grievance Redressal Mechanism.

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