I am an OCI card holder. Can I travel to India during the Coronavirus pandemic? Is India allowing OCI card holders to travel on inbound repatriation flights? Thousands of weary faces on OCI have been looking forward to the government of India with such queries since the restriction on their travel to India came into effect on March 13 in the aftermath of COVID19. Foreign citizens of Indian origin with or without OCI cards have been kept away from the currently operated emergency flights to India from USA, the UK, the UAE, Singapore, Australia and other countries.
With the mounting of pressure exerted by authorities representing the OCI community in different parts of the world, however, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has hinted at allowing OCI card holders on repatriation flights “at some stage” of the Vande Bharat Mission. The second phase of the operation of bringing distressed Indians back home will be initiated on May 16 and be continued till May 29. An MEA official said that an immediate change in the operation may not be possible on a short notice.
Reportedly, MEA has written to the home ministry seeking to lift travel restrictions for certain categories of OCI card holders, as distress calls, queries and requests have steadily been pouring in related to special flights to India. Earlier, Indian government justified the repeated suspension of OCI card holders’ travel to India on grounds of limited healthcare resources available for COVID19 patients in the country. It makes the global OCI community question the value of the lifelong visa-free travel facility granted to them.
MEA’s latest annual report indicates at the issuance of nearly 35 lakh OCI cards over the last decade.
Around 2 lakh Indians stuck or stranded abroad have registered for the Vande Bharat Mission flights via Indian consulates and embassies. Among them, students, senior citizens having medical emergency, laid-off professionals and those with “compelling cases” back home have been singled out for special Air India flights to India. In the first phase, some 15000 Indians repatriated to India. In the phase 2, nearly 30000 Indians from 31 countries have been scheduled on 149 special flights to India.
Just like overseas Indian nationals who are shortlisted for repatriation flights on the basis of “compelling cases”, OCI card holders and Indian parents of minor foreign citizens on OCI have compelling reasons to travel/return to India amid the pandemic. Some Indian citizens abroad registered for the Vande Bharat Mission flights and got confirmed, but they stepped back fearing separation from their children who are foreign-born OCI card holders. They have been pleading with GOI to let them travel with their OCI kids.
This is the problem everywhere. Please consider OCIs. I am also facing same issue in Canada. https://t.co/csq9Kzx0z2
— Giriraj Sahu (@BioGiriraj) May 15, 2020
Among the OCI card holders are students whose Indian parents live in India. Since foreign universities closed their campuses in late March, many students with OCI cards have been distressed and stranded the same way as thousands of Indian nationals abroad. Also, many OCI card holders want to catch up with their ailing parents in India or the bereaved family over the recent demise of a dear one.
As per MEA reports, the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ policy may be revised, by the end of the phase 2, to bring OCI card holders within the ambit of special flights. Currently, all the Air India flights scheduled for repatriation of Indian nationals are fully booked. Notably, Indian Consul General of Atlanta suggested early this month that OCI Card holders may be considered in the future phases of evacuation.
Travel Beats is a subsidiary of Indian Eagle, a leading travel booking partner of NRIs and OCIs. This story is part of our continued effort to report on the latest updates of air travel amid the COVID19 pandemic. Subscribe to Travel Beats’ free newsletter and like our Facebook page for latest OCI news and NRI community stories.