- OCI card is for Indians abroad, permitting them visa-free travel
- Minors born to Indians abroad and with OCI cards are eligible to return
- During family emergencies, OCI cardholders can return
Visa and travel restrictions imposed during the coronavirus lockdown have been relaxed for certain categories of Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) stranded abroad and wishing to return to India, the Home Ministry said on Friday afternoon.
In its notification the ministry said restrictions imposed via an earlier order "would not apply to any aircraft, ship, train or any other vehicle deployed to bring back OCI cardholders stranded abroad".
The categories of OCI cardholders now eligible to return to India are:
- Minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards
- OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies, such as a death in the family
- Couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national, and they have a permanent residence in India
- University students who are OCI cardholders (but are not minors) and whose parents are Indian citizens living in India
Earlier this week, Indian-Americans whose young children hold OCI cards voiced frustration over the temporary ban on long-term visas. Several pointed out that they had been unable to book tickets on flights offering repatriation services because their infant children would not be allowed.
The OCI card is issued to people of Indian origin, allowing them visa-free travel in most cases. It also confers certain privileges comparable to those given to citizens, except for buying agricultural land, voting, contesting elections and working in the government.
Over 23,000 Indians, who had been stranded abroad after the lockdown was imposed in March, have been repatriated from dozens of countries under the government's "Vande Bharat Mission".
The government has deployed Air India passenger jets and Indian Navy warships to the United States, Europe, the Gulf region, Australia and several countries in Southeast Asia, as well as neighbouring nations like Nepal and Bangladesh, to bring back Indian citizens.
On Thursday the government said the "Vande Bharat Mission", whose second phase was to end today, had been extended to June 13, with nearly 50 countries being covered.
Private airlines may be involved in this phase, the government added.