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Passport, Visa Processes Being Eased for Diaspora Indians

Modi called this year's PBD the "most successful" event saying the people of Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency, have taken ownership of the three-day jamboree

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Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday told overseas Indians that his government is making efforts to ease the processes concerning their social security, passport, visa and PIO and OCI cards and that work is on to issue chip-based e-passports.

Inaugurating this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the Indian diaspora conclave, he said that the government’s endeavour was that overseas Indians should stay “happy and safe wherever they are”.

“The government is trying to ease the entire processes concerning your social security, passport, visa, Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Cards. We have taken a new step a few months back concerning overseas Indians. Our embassies and consulates are being connected to the Passport Seva Project worldwide,” he said.

This, he said, will prepare a centralized system connected to the passport service for all of them. “Going one step ahead, work is on for issuing of the chip-based e-passport.”

The Prime Minister said that along with passport, the rules related to visa were being simplified.

“With the convenience of e-visa, you are also saving time and problems are also getting reduced.

“Many of you will also be familiar with the fact that our government has made the process of converting PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cards into OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) cards.”

Modi also urged Indians or people of Indian living abroad to contribute to the building of a new India and said that the changes that were coming in India were becoming new opportunities.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

“In this changing India, you can a big role in research and development and innovation.

“The government is also trying to bring Indian start-ups and NRI mentors together on one platform. Defence manufacturing can also be an important sector for you.”

Modi urged Indians living abroad to motivate at least five families around them to come to India. “Your efforts will play an important role in enhancing tourism in the country.”

He said that in the last four years, India had taken a major step towards achieving its natural position in the world.

“People used to say that India cannot change,” he said. “We have changed this thinking. We have made changes.”

Stating that today India led the world in many fields, he said the International Solar Alliance was one such example.

“It is also part of our goal of preparing solutions to India’s problems, that can also solve the problems of other countries. We are working with the application of local solution, global application.”

Modi added: “In the last four-and-a-half years, more than two lakh Indians stranded in crisis situations abroad have been helped by the government and its efforts.”

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Passport (Representational image).

Ahead of this year’s general elections, Modi also launched an attack on the Congress over the issue of corruption citing a quote by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

“He said that only 15 percent of the money that the central government sends from Delhi reach the people.”

Modi said no attempt was made by the Congress to stop this loot. “The country’s middle class continued to pay taxes honestly, and 85 per cent of this loot continued.”

But his government was using technology to eliminate this loot.

Modi’s Mauritius counterpart Pravind Jugnauth, the chief guest at the event, commended India’s efforts in reaching out to the diaspora.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj welcomed the gathering.

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Organised by the External Affairs Ministry and the Uttar Pradesh government, the Indian diaspora conclave this year has over 5,000 delegates registered.

This year’s theme of the convention is “Role of Indian diaspora in building a new India”.

Modi called this year’s PBD the “most successful” event saying the people of Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency, have taken ownership of the three-day jamboree. (IANS)

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U.S. Now Seeking Social Media Details from Most Visa Applicants

The department has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms

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U.S., Social Media, Visa, Applicants
A man has his fingerprints electronically taken while taking part in a visa application demonstration. VOA

The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers. It’s a vast expansion of the Trump administration’s enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

In a move that’s just taken effect after approval of the revised application forms, the department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request the additional information, including “social media identifiers,” from almost all U.S. applicants.

The change, which was proposed in March 2018, is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year.

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the department said. “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

Extra scrutiny expanded

Social media, email and phone number histories had only been sought in the past from applicants who were identified for extra scrutiny, such as people who’d traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. An estimated 65,000 applicants per year had fallen into that category.

U.S., Social Media, Visa, Applicants

The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames. Pixabay

The department says collecting the additional information from more applicants “will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”

The new rules apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. When it filed its initial notice to make the change, the department estimated it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education.

Platforms listed

The new visa application forms list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. They also give applicants the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed on the form.

In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

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Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from the requirements. (VOA)