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The Indian Passport Is Getting Weaker:
Could Spell Trouble for OCI Cardholders

In the latest Henley Passport Index, the strength of the Indian passport across the world continues to underwhelm, at least according to the 7th January report placing India at the joint 84th rank, as it enjoys visa-free access to only 58 nations.

Every rank can be held by various countries, and 147 nations did better than India, who is currently sharing the 84th rank with Mauritania and Tajikistan. While the current 84th rank is two spots higher than the August 2019 assessment, it is well below its 2014 mark of 76th. With the passport rank plateauing along with similar numbers, it dropped to 85th in 2016 and moved to 81st in 2018.

According to the information with the Ministry of External Affairs, 70% of Indian citizens who live abroad are currently residing in six West Asian countries. There are 12.6 million non-resident Indians (NRIs), holding Indian passports but living outside the country, spread across more than 200 nations, with 8.9 million of them living in just six countries. Among them, the highest number of Indians, 3.4 million, live in the United Arab Emirates, which is approximately 27% of all NRIs around the world. There are another 2.6 million in Saudi Arabia while Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain house another 2.9 million NRIs.

With such a large number of Indian overseas citizens abroad, the Indian Government came up with the OCI card, which allows people of Indian-origin, lifelong visa-free travel to India from multiple foreign nations. The OCI card was suspended by the Indian government on April 11th amidst a lockdown and travel restrictions due to the pandemic. This decision created chaos and anxiety among the hundreds and thousands of Indian-origin people across the world. India has started relaxing these restrictions and also made arrangements to assist people who needed to travel in such situations.

India put OCI cards on hold, preventing people from travelling back and forth between countries in light of the Coronavirus. However, they recently lifted their ban with the Indian-Americans welcomed the decision to restore the Overseas Citizens of India card benefits, including the visa-free travel to the country.

What are the rules about renewing OCI cards?

OCI cardholders under 20 years have to get their cards reissued each time their passport is reissued, according to the Consulate General of India. However, those above 20 years are exempted from ensuring this criterion of validity.

Reissue of the OCI card is not mandatory when reissuing of the passport for those in the age bracket of 21 to 50 years. However, they have to carry their old passport, which has their OCI card, to prove the card validity. They also have to carry the current passport which is the valid one.

Those above 50 years have to get their OCI cards reissued once after renewing their passport, post turning 50. It is also recommended in the Consulate General of India’s press release that the Overseas Citizen of India cardholders must always carry the expired passport along with the current or new passport, and the OCI card while travelling to India. To make changes to any of these processes, or even renew the OCI card, all applicants have to do is fill out an OCI application and submit it with the documentation needed.

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