Connecting over 25 millions NRIs worldwide
Most trusted Name in the NRI media
Inder Singh regularly writes and speaks on the Global Indian Diaspora.


High-Level EAM Team Visits San Francisco regarding Visa Issues
All the consulates in the United States should implement a uniform policy
regarding passport surrender and visa issuance


San Francisco, California, May 30, 2011

Mr. Ajai Choudhry, Secretary Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Mr. Basant K. Gupta, Additional Secretary and Mr. T. Cherian, Under Secretary  visited San Francisco Bay Area, on a 'fact finding mission' on current issues and hardships relating to the surrender certificate requirements, OCI, PIO cards and to learn the grievances of NRIs about the VISA issuance. Prior to visiting San Francisco, the MEA delegation had visited Houston Consulate.

GOPIO Freemont chapter with NFIA and  FIANC coordinated the Bay Area community meeting of MEA officials and community activists at the Sneha banquet hall on Thursday, May 26, 2011. Consul General of India, Sushmita Thomas and Consul, community affairs Ashok Sinha also attended the meeting. Several members from various organizations and community activists attended the meeting and provided valuable input on the related issues.

Haresh Panchal, GOPIO International treasurer opened the meeting by welcoming the guests while Inder Singh chairman of GOPIO International moderated the meeting. 

Shoba Vohra, President of Jain Temple asked about obtaining surrender certificate when the passport is lost or misplaced. "Once a person gets U.S citizenship, he/she finds no need to keep the Indian passport. Some of the people had their minor children as part of their passport but now the children can't obtain a visa because they don't have the Indian passport to prove their Indian background," Said Shoba Vohra. Raj Bhanot of Sunnyvale Hindu temple raised his concern about those who can't read English and don't have the ability to use a computer to access the consulate web site to comply with visa related issues. He also talked about cases where people had painful experience to obtain visit in an emergency situation.

Dr. Suresh Mahawar of FIANC felt that the consulates must not ask for too many documents to prove their Indian background and suggested relaxing the rules. Chandru Bhambra, President of overseas BJP, recommended adding more offices in Fremont and San Jose to process visa related documents.

Jeevan Zutshi, GOPIO San Francisco chapter President suggested that all the consulates in the United States should implement a uniform policy regarding passport surrender and visa issuance and have a common web site. He also complimented the San Francisco consulate staff for working very hard in handling large no. of visa, PIO and OCI card applications.

Mr. Basant K. Gupta, Additional Secretary MEA applauded GOPIO  for taking the lead in finding resolution to the problems related to issuance of visa. "The fees of $175 was reduced to $20 at the initiative of GOPIO under the leadership of Inder Singh, ” said Basant K. Gupta. Both Susmita Thomas and Basant Gupat responded to the questions from the audience and clarified many of the points raised by the attendees.

Mr. Chaudary, team leader heard complaints and took notes of input from the attendees. He promised to resolve several issues and streamline the visa process. 

GOPIO submitted a memorandum to the high level delegation offering suggestions based on community input:

1.     All consulates and embassies should implement uniform policies regarding passport surrender and visa issuance and this information should be identical on consular websites. In fact, it is preferable that the Indian embassy website should post the set of policies and fees regarding passport surrender and visa issuance and all consular websites should have link to the embassy website.

2.     Those who became naturalized citizen before 2001 need not obtain surrender certificates since their old passports are no longer valid documents.

3.     Reduce the passport surrender fee of $175 to $20 if the new naturalized citizen surrenders his/her passport within three (3) months from the date of becoming citizen of the adopted country. If not surrendered within three months, charge full fee of $175.

4.     Insert notation on each Indian passport that if the holder becomes citizen of another country, he/she must surrender the passport to the nearest Indian Mission abroad and obtain receipt for surrender.

5.     Eliminate penalty fee being charged currently from those who have become citizens of other countries after January 1, 2005.

6.     An applicant should not be required to send his original US passport with his/her OCI application. Since the OCI application has been taking longer than three months to process, the applicant should send his/her passport on receipt of approval letter of his/her OCI application from the Indian Consulate or High Commissioner’s Office.

7.     An applicant who previously had a long term visa should be given short term visa in emergency without completing the lengthy formalities for surrender certificate.

8.     Monthly visa camp in Los Angeles should be started again to reduce the number of people who have to travel to San Francisco for consular services.

9.     Travisa Outsourcing has so far proven to be a failure. It has added another layer of bureaucracy with inefficient and untrained staff. Neither Travisa office nor the Consulate takes responsibility of the status of the VISA applications. Each blames the other for delay at the cost of the applicants. Element of sensitivity is lacking by both agencies. If Travisa has to be retained as the outsourcing agency, their staff should be trained. The staff also needs to change their attitude and behavior in dealing with the applicants. 

Inder Singh, GOPIO International chairman concluded by stating "during the last several years, efforts have been made to develop goodwill between India and her Diaspora. Organization of annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Mini PBDs, grant of OCI Card and PIO card and establishment of a separate ministry for Overseas Indians are decisions in the right direction and are appreciated by the Indian Diaspora. However, the ambiguous rules of passport surrender are causing undue hardships and delays in obtaining visa for visiting India and consequently alienating NRI/PIO communities all over the world.  We urge you to resolve these issues immediately. In the coming months of June and July, many parents will be applying for visa to visit India as the schools are closed in Canada and America during July and August.  Prompt resolution will avoid crisis situation which might develop during the coming months."

Niraj Baxi, past Chairman of the National Federation of Indian Associations (NFIA) thanked everyone for giving input. He also thanked the Consul General of India and visiting high ranking officials from India for their presence and commitment to address community concerns.




More Articles