OCI cardholders require special permit if they want to undertake 'Tabligh', media activities: Govt

NEW DELHI: All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders will henceforth be required to take a special permission from the central government if they want to be involved in any missionary or ‘Tabligh’ or journalistic activities in the country.

However, the Union Home Ministry has given a major concession to OCI cardholders by allowing them parity with Indian nationals in the matter of tariffs in air fares in domestic sectors, entry fees for visiting national parks, national monuments and museums in India.

The ministry, in a notification, said the OCI cardholders will be entitled to get multiple entry lifelong visa for visiting India for any purpose but “required to obtain a special permission or a special permit from the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer or the Indian Mission to undertake research and to undertake any missionary or Tabligh or mountaineering or journalistic activities”.

The OCI cardholders will also have to take a special permit to undertake internship in any foreign diplomatic missions or foreign government organisations in India or to take up employment in any foreign diplomatic missions in India or to visit any place which falls within the protected or restricted or prohibited areas as notified by the central government or competent authority.

In March 2020, when the nationwide lockdown was in force following the coronavirus outbreak, over 2,500 Tablighi Jamaat members found to be residing at the organisation’s headquarters in Delhi despite guidelines and orders issued against large congregations of people.

As many as 233 foreign Tablighi workers were arrested for violations of visa rules and many of them were blacklisted, putting a ban on their future visit to India.

Tablighi Jamaat workers, both foreigners as well Indians, indulge in preaching tours across the country also known as ‘Chilla’ in which a volunteer of the organisation travels for 120 days to various parts of the country and stay in local mosques where they inform the neighbourhood people about their activities besides holding special prayers.

The Home Ministry said the OCI cardholders will now be exempted from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) for any length of stay in India, but they have to inform the FRRO or FRO concerned whenever there is a change in permanent residential address and in their occupation.

The OCI cardholders will now enjoy parity with Indian nationals in the matter of tariffs in air fares in domestic sectors in India, entry fees to be charged for visiting national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, the national monuments, historical sites and museums in India.

An OCI cardholder is a foreign national holding a passport of a foreign country and is not a citizen of India.

They will also get parity with Non-Resident Indians in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children subject to the compliance of the procedure as laid down by the competent authority, appearing for the all India entrance tests such as National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, Joint Entrance Examination (Mains), or other such tests to make them eligible for admission only against any Non-Resident Indian seat or any supernumerary seat, provided that the OCI cardholder shall not be eligible for admission against any seat reserved exclusively for Indian citizens, the notification read.

The OCI cardholders will get parity in purchase or sale of immovable properties other than agricultural land or farm house or plantation property and pursuing professions like doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists in India as per the provisions contained in the applicable relevant statutes or laws.