India Loosens Travel Restrictions for OCI Cardholders

On Friday, May 22, 2020, the Indian government loosened its coronavirus restrictions to allow certain categories of OCI (Overseas Citizens of India) cardholders entry into the country. Previously, in response to the ongoing pandemic, the government had instituted an effective nationwide lockdown suspending all foreign and tourist visas into the country. The move has since left many Indian citizens and residents stranded around the globe; many who lost their jobs found themselves unable to fulfill the obligations required to legally remain in their current location but also unable to return home.

However, the new policy allows the following four categories of OCI cardholders to travel to India:

  • • Minor children born abroad to Indian nationals and who have valid OCI cards;
  • • OCI cardholders who need to return home for a family emergency;
  • • Couples in which one spouse has an OCI card, the other is an Indian national, and they both have permanent residence in India;
  • • OCI card-holding university students who were studying abroad (such as in the U.S.) but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.

According to the Indian government, the above four categories are immediately eligible to return to India via special “Vande Bharat” flights and ships. If they so choose, they may also make their own travel arrangements when international commercial flights resume. The government is also using Indian Navy warships and Air India passenger jets to bring citizens stranded in Europe, the U.S., Australia, and other countries back home, and OCI holders can travel under that arrangement provided they meet the criteria listed above.

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