The Price of An Indian PassportBy Lavina Melwani • Jun 3rd, 2010 • Category: The Buzz
Indian Passport Blues
Breaking News: The petitioners score big! The Indian Government has relented on the surrender fees after the massive outpouring of protest from NRIs across the diaspora. Below are the details.
Fees for Obtaining Surrender / Renunciation Certificate Waived
In view of a large number of representations received from Persons of Indian Origin, it has been decided that the fees for obtaining Renunciation/Surrender Certificate from applicants who have acquired US citizenship before June 1, 2010 will be waived. However, a miscellaneous service fee of US$ 20/- will be charged for surrender of passport for cancellation. No penalties will be charged. Already decided cases will, however, not be reopened.
Indian passport holders who acquire US/foreign citizenship on or after June 1, 2010 will, however, be required to pay the fees of US$ 175/- for obtaining Renunciation/Surrender certificate.
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Planning to visit India this summer? If you’re not an Indian citizen, be prepared for some mighty long lines at the Indian Consulate. If you gave up your Indian citizenship, the pigeons are coming home to roost – you now have penalties to pay. According to new rules, persons of Indian origin who acquired foreign citizenship, must surrender their Indian passports immediately after the acquisition of foreign citizenship and also obtain a Surrender Certificate – and pay a price.
Else, no visa and no travel to India!
There’s a $175 fee for the surrender of the passport for each member of the family and that’s on top of the regular visa fees, and the $275 for the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card.
The Indian Citizenship Act of 1955 does not allow dual citizenship, but there was no enforcement of the rule that the Indian passport must be surrendered before a travel visa to India could be given. Now strict new rules have been posted on the websites of Indian consulates worldwide, a surrender certificate must be acquired, and this has got the NRI community quite worked up.
Penalties are being levied by Mother India, instead of the tantalizing Dual Citizenship that had earlier been dangled before NRIs as a future reward for all the good work these ‘ambassadors’ had done on behalf of India.
According to the consulate website: “Holding Indian passport/acquiring an Indian passport/traveling on Indian passport after acquisition of foreign citizenship constitutes an offense under the Indian Passport Act, 1967, and attracts penalties.
The Government of India has prescribed imposition of penalty on a graded scale, depending on number of trips made on Indian passport after acquiring foreign nationality, for the violation of Passport Rules and retention of Indian Passport for more than 3 years after acquiring of foreign nationality.”
You can read the full document here
Overseas Indians have created a big brouhaha and launched a very vocal petition drive protesting these new penalties. These measures might well be the government’s effort to curb terrorism but NRIs feel these will be a financial burden on many struggling immigrant families, and certainly confusing and unfair to all of them.
“Indian passport must be surrendered within 90 days of US naturalization even if the US passport is obtained later. It is illegal to travel on Indian passport after obtaining US naturalization. Penalties apply,” warn the new regulations.
Indians who left their homeland 40 years back are now feverishly searching for their old passports so that they can hand them over to the Consulate and get the all-important Surrender Certificate. Otherwise, they can’t go home. Talk about procrastination on the part of the government! The penalties for retaining and reusing the Indian passport after obtaining a foreign passport are retroactive and can go up to $2000. I do think it should be a flat fee, and maybe waived in hardship cases.
NRIs, Pay Up and Smile
Almost every NRI has an opinion on the matter. While most are busy petitioning or holding protest rallies outside the Consulate – here’s a dissenting view from a reader.
“If we have to pay a price for our return to the land of our birth, we should not complain about the price demanded.”
- Mukul Advani, Houston, Texas:
“These fees charged by the Indian Government are really nothing – very small in the grand scheme of things. No one ‘loses’ their Indian nationality – we came to this country willingly, gave up our Indian nationality willingly when we took the oath to the American flag and also promised to bear arms if necessary. No one forced us to come here or do it – so why cry now? Why this hypocrisy?
India does not allow dual citizenship. I made my choice and I am happy with it. With 10 year Indian visas I can come and go as I please.
Like all good capitalists, the Indian Government’s bureaucrats have finally woken up to the fact that there is this huge market for PIO cards or OCI cards, and they want to make hay while the sun shines – and charge as much as they possibly can, before the desire to have such cards dies down – and who can blame them?
I for one applaud them for their trying to squeeze as much money out of a situation as they possibly can. This is commerce, plain and simple. Considering how few Indians actually pay their taxes in India, the Government has to find ways to raise money – how else can they conduct their business? This is brilliant….
So Indians should think long and hard about this – they came overseas to better themselves. Now they want it both ways. Not cricket.
On the one hand, we claim we love India – then we gripe and moan and complain loud and hard and send out signed petitions, for the costs of the OCI or PIO cards (which are small potatoes compared to what we make) – and which will get us exactly nowhere.
We think nothing of plunking down $500 for a nice meal, on an evening out on the town, but will crib and cry about the $150 for a 10 year visa to the India we love, or corresponding amounts whatever they may be, for the OCI/PIO cards.
It is very natural to love the land of our birth, and we all do so in our own ways, but we all left it for reasons that made sense to us then. Our adopted lands offered a lot more, so we made our respective choices. We should stay the course and if we have to pay a price for our return to the land of our birth, we should not complain about the price demanded. After all, if we wish India well, how can we begrudge her a few measly dollars which are sorely needed back there, particularly when we have, for the most part, prospered in our adopted lands and made a lot more?
And whenever we have the chance at our local gatherings, we proclaim loud and hard that we want to do something for India, the land of our birth, still stricken by poverty, disease and a poor infrastructure. Hence the “Prathams” and such noble organizations working to eradicate illiteracy and the many fine doctors who take time out of their lucrative practices here to donate freely of their time and expertise to the less fortunate Indians back home.
But these are few and far between. The rest of us are content to live within our double standards and hypocrisy. When the Motherland needs our dollars, we fight back, spewing venom, instead of love.
If we wanted, we could very well live here, without giving up our citizenship….with our green cards. But we chose not to.
India has some strong reasons for reconsidering the dual citizenship matter – terrorists could make use of this and create havoc within India. Some already have, which has reportedly been well documented. There are other reasons also, as we all know, so the debates for and against will continue. The security of the homeland is of primary concern, and that will always be the overriding issue.
In any event, how can dual citizenship be of any use? If we swear allegiance to the American Flag, when we could have very well stayed here with our green cards, how can we then reverse our footsteps and also swear allegiance to the Tiranga? What kind of logic is that? Where does our loyalty lie with dual citizenship, if we swear allegiance to both flags? How mixed up and convoluted are we anyway? It appears that our loyalty is to the Almighty Dollar, nothing else.
The defense rests. ”
- ( by Mukul Advani)
So there you have it – yet another way to look at this volatile issue!
What do you think? Where do you stand on this issue? We’d love your feedback.
(Photos: Lavina Melwani)
Related article: OCI Camp for Indian-Americans