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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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Travel, Tourism and Visa Questions Answered Here!

Know more about the post-lockdown travel questions and scenario

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Travel
Know more about changed travel norms and traveller behaviour post COVID-19. Pixabay

The travel and tourism industry, unarguably, is one of the most affected sectors since the onset of COVID-19. With country borders sealed, cities brought to a standstill and all transportation stationary, it is difficult to imagine the recovery trajectory of travel. Industry experts suggest that while travel will eventually recover in stages, we should expect a shift in both travel norms and traveller behaviour. Travel news is on hold but your plans can still be made for later.

VFS Global addresses some common questions on every traveller’s mind and sharing guidelines to assuage their concerns and help navigate their holiday plans once international borders open again.

What happens to passports submitted before services were suspended?

Following the national lockdown in India, Visa Application Centres had to shut down operations in adherence to directives from central and local authorities and diplomatic missions. When the Visa Application Centres are allowed to re-open, VFS Global will be able to evaluate at which stage of assessment each application is and resume the applicant return process accordingly.

Will Visa Application Centres open for appointments once the national lockdown lifts?

Visa Application Centres in any city/country operate according to the directives of the central and local authorities and the diplomatic mission/the country being applied to. In some cases, even if central/local authorities lift the lockdown, the country you are applying to may not be accepting visa applications. In this scenario, an open Visa Application Centre might not serve your purpose. Make sure you’re checking regulations by not only your government, but also that of the country you plan to visit.

Travel
Travel trajectory will change in the new world post-lockdown. Pixabay

What are health and safety precautions implemented at the centres?

As per guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organization, as well as local authorities, both customers and employees at Visa Application Centres will be subject to body temperature checks, face masks and gloves — for their own protection and that of others. Centres are also maintaining preventive measures such as disinfecting high-contact surfaces, use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing practices.

When services resume, can one avoid visiting a Visa Application Centre as a social distancing precaution?

Once services resume, customers who wish to avoid visiting public places can also use optional services, such as the Visa At Your Doorstep service for application submission — with this service, trained VFS Global staff will visit the customer’s location of choice (home, office, etc.) to complete the visa application submission process and/or biometric enrolment if needed, while maintaining necessary health precautions. In India, this service is available for select destination countries only, and will resume after lockdown subject to approvals from the concerned embassy/consulate.

Customers using regular services as well are encouraged to opt for courier services to get their passports back (once the centres re-open), to avoid crowding as a precautionary measure.

Would we be required to submit medical history for visa applications?

Medical reports are usually a part of required documentation in some visa applications, though they may or may not be related to COVID-19. However, as governments may beef up health screening measures going forward, make sure you’ve carefully been through the updated document checklist requirements for the country you’re visiting, in case of any medical and vaccination histories are required as part of your visa application.

What about work and residency permits?

Although most governments have currently suspended travel visa services, customers may still be able to apply for other categories such as long-stay visas or residence permits. However, this remains limited to only a few countries. Several countries have put in place border control measures, temporarily disallowing certain non-essential travelers to submit visa applications. Nevertheless, if you already hold a valid work or residence permit, you may still be able to enter some countries, despite entry restrictions.

Travel
Travel and tourist change as a concept post-COVID Here’s how!. Pixabay

What happens to a valid visa, if the country in question has restricted/banned travel?

Advisories for various countries differ with regards to who can enter, irrespective of whether they hold a valid visa or not. Some countries have imposed border control measures that only allow citizens, residents, or specific permit holders to enter the country, and disallow other non-essential travellers even if they hold a valid visa.

Citizens who are yet to travel and whose existing visa has expired or is expiring soon can re-apply for a fresh visa when operations resume. Those who had already travelled before lockdown to a foreign country and whose visas are due to expire soon, are urged to reach out to the concerned embassy/consulate for assistance.

Also Read: Closing Red light areas Post Lockdown can reduce COVID cases in India: Research

Given the fluid ongoing scenarios and threads of misinformation, being armed with the correct data about your travel destination, as well your own country, are paramount before you set out on your next journey. In order to aid customer queries and concerns, VFS Global has set up a dedicated webpage for COVID-19 customer advisories that is updated daily and covers visa application processes for the 64 governments they serve worldwide. (IANS)

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UAE Suspends Foreign Visas Due to COVID-19

COVID-19: UAE suspends issuance of all visas

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UAE COVID-19
The UAE has suspended all visas to all foreigners, with the exception of diplomatic passport holders. Pixabay

The UAE has suspended all visas to all foreigners, with the exception of diplomatic passport holders on Saturday. The suspension will be effective from March 17. This is a breaking news.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Federal Authority for Identity And Citizenship (ICA) said: “The move comes as part of the precautionary measures taken by the UAE in response to the World Health Organisation’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, a development which reflects the high risks now associated with travel under the current circumstances,” Gulf media reported.

The decision does not apply to those who already have their visas issued prior to the aforementioned date.

UAE COVID-19
The move comes as part of the precautionary measures taken by the UAE in response to the World Health Organisation’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic. Pixabay

The ICA noted that the additional precautionary decision will be valid until a mechanism for medical examination has been established in the countries of departure as part of other global measures taken for the common good of all nations of the world to curb the proliferation of the novel virus.

Also Read- Tech Giants Amazon, Apple, Google Bat for Universal Smart Home Standard

“The ICA affirms that the decision stems from the UAE’s deep sense of responsibility and diligent efforts in collaboration with other countries of the world to fight the coronavirus pandemic and survive this ongoing crisis,” the statement concluded. (IANS)

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Visa Cancellation By India May Distinctively Hit International Travel, Says MakeMyTrip

"Continuing to extend complete support and comfort to our travellers amidst the scare, together with airline partners, we have been proactively offering full refunds to travellers in the impacted regions," MakeMyTrip added

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MakeMytrip
In a statement earlier this month, the company said there has been a slowdown in outbound travel bookings since the outbreak of coronavirus and travellers are being cautious in making their (outbound) travel plans. Wikimedia Commons

With India announcing to cancel all non-official visas till April 15, leading online travel aggregator MakeMyTrip on Thursday said the decision will have a distinct impact on inbound and outbound international travel.

Admitting that the government’s decision to cancel all visas, with a few exemptions, is timely at this point to control the spread of COVID-19 but the move is going to impact the travel industry.

“So far, there are no restrictions or advisories issued for domestic travel. The period between February till the end of March is typically a lean period because of exam season but we are seeing a demand slowdown for the upcoming summer holiday season especially for international travel,” Rajesh Magow, Group CEO, MakeMyTrip, said in a statement.

“The situation remains dynamic, making it hard to quantify the actual impact on our business and industry at large,” Magow added.

Total number of novel coronavirus cases reached 73 on Thursday in India. Of these, 56 are Indian nationals and 17 are foreigners.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 as global pandemic. The death toll of COVID-19 has crossed the 4,000 mark and confirmed cases globally have over 1 lakh.

“Given the rapidly changing scenario, we will continue to monitor the developments closely and share updates and forecast based on the advice of government and public health authorities during this difficult period for the travel industry,” said Magow.

In a statement earlier this month, the company said there has been a slowdown in outbound travel bookings since the outbreak of coronavirus and travellers are being cautious in making their (outbound) travel plans.

Map, Flight, Vacation, Luggage, Visa, Passport
With India announcing to cancel all non-official visas till April 15, leading online travel aggregator MakeMyTrip on Thursday said the decision will have a distinct impact on inbound and outbound international travel. Pixabay

“At MakeMyTrip, our outbound business stands at 20 per cent of the overall business and within this share – are the contributions from the southeast Asian countries that have got impacted. We do expect a potential impact on the overall business if the outbreak spreads westwards,” said the company.

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“Continuing to extend complete support and comfort to our travellers amidst the scare, together with airline partners, we have been proactively offering full refunds to travellers in the impacted regions,” MakeMyTrip added. (IANS)