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A Nasty Scam

Non resident Indians Beware! Be Careful at the airport Please take note of this - it could very well happen to you. My suggestion is that you take a photocopy of the visa and keep it in safe place.Source: "The Hindu"

This is a well-organised conspiracy by Indian Immigration, Police, Customs and Air India staff with networking at all the Indian International Airports. Be watchful when ever you give your passport to Immigration/Customs/Air India staff. The passport can be easily tampered with and can create trouble to you. Our officials have found easy way of making money from NRIs (Non Resident Indians). This is the way it works. " At the time of the passenger's departure, if the passenger is not looking at the officer while he is stamping the exit, the officer very cleverly cuts away one of the pages from the passport. When the passenger leaves the immigration counter, the case is reported on his computer terminal with full details. Now all over India they have got full details of the passenger with Red Flag flashing on the Pass port number entered by the departure immigration officer. They make their money by doing this.

On arrival next time, the unsuspecting passenger is interrogated. Depending on the passenger's period of stay abroad, his income and standing etc., the price to "get rid of the problem" is settled by the Police and Immigration people. If someone argues, his future is in peril, because there are always still some naive people who think that honesty is the basis of getting justice in India. All passengers should be careful at the airport. Whenever they hand over the passport to the counters of Air India, or immigration or the Customs, they must be vigilant, should not remove eyes from the passport even if the officer in front tries to divert their attention. Also those of you with contacts, please pass this information to all media men and important Govt. authorities and politicians. 

Every month 20-30 cases happen all over India to rob NRIs the minute he lands. Similar case happened with Aramco's Arifuddin. He was travelling with his family of six. They got their US visa and decided to go via Hyderabad from Jeddah. They reached Hyderabad, stayed for about a month and left for the US When they reached US the page of the American visa on his wife's passport was missing. At the time of departure from Hyderabad It was obviously there since without the Visa neither the airline nor the immigration officials would allow them to leave. The whole family had to return to Hyderabad helplessly. On return to Bombay, the police caught them and now for over 2 months, they are running after the Police, Immigration officers and the Courts. One cannot either imagine or believe that the Indian Immigration dept can play such a nasty trick to harass innocent passengers to extort money from them and in the bargain probably "sell" the Visas as well to unscrupulous persons. All the passengers travelling to and from India via Bombay, Hyderabad and Cochin must especially be aware of this conspiracy. Every month 15 to 20 cases take place, at each mentioned airport, of implicating the passengers in the crime of tearing away the passport pages.

On interviewing some of them, none of them was aware of what had happened. They don't know who, when and why tore away the page from the middle of the passport. One can imagine the sufferings of such people at the hands of the immigration, police and the court procedures in India after that. The number of cases is increasing in the past 2-3 years. People who arrive at the immigration, are questioned and their passports are held and they are subjected to interrogation. Obviously, the conspiracy started about 2 to 3 years ago and now the reports are coming in. An official source who did not want to disclose his name & identity told to me that this is a well planned conspiracy in which the Immigration dept. and the Police dept. are hand in glove. Some of the Air India counter staff are also involved in this conspiracy. -- Margaretta.

More Advice for Non-Resident Indians

IMPORTANT !MY RECENT EXPERIENCE WITH THE IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT AT THE KOLKATA AIRPORT AND THE LESSONS I LEARNT

My advice to all my friends who hold an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) Card and those who aspire to get one.

I am an American citizen. I also carry an OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India) since 2007.

On Saturday, June 20, 2009 , I arrived at the Kolkata Netaji Subhas Airport from Detroit via Singapore , by Singapore Airlines (SQ 516) at 10:30 P.M.

I presented myself to an Immigration Officer ( Mr. Anon ) for immigration clearance. I gave him my American passport and my OCI card. He demanded to see my visa from the Indian consular office. Unfortunately, that visa was attached to my old passport and I did not bring it with me.

I explained to him that I am sorry I forgot to bring my old passport but since I do possess a valid OCI Card that would automatically mean that I do also possess a permanent (life long) visa for India and there are proofs that I have traveled multiple times to India after I had received my OCI card.

Mr. Anon detained me for two hours inside the airport and then he told me that he is going to allow me to stay in India for 72 hours and asked me to report to the Foreign Relations Regional Officer (FRRO) in the city within 72 hours.. He kept my passport.. During all that time I had no opportunity either to approach his OC (Officer in Charge) although I asked for it, or to contact my relatives who came to the airport to receive me and were waiting outside and had no idea why I was being held back or if I have even arrived.

Forgetting to bring my old passport was my own fault but I 'forgot' to bring it partly because I knew I have my OCI Card with me and I thought, that means something, I really believed that I am a citizen of India too. Why would a citizen also need a visa to enter his own country? I thought I have a dual citizenship for both the USA and India . Other wise, what is the difference between an ordinary foreigner and the OCI Card holder?

Next day was a Sunday, I called a friend in Ann Arbor who went into my house, got my old passport and sent me the scanned copy of my old passport and a copy of my permanent visa by e-mail.

So, on Monday I went to see Mr.. Bibhas Anon2 , the FRRO. He hardly looked at the documents (the scanned visa) that I had with me he simply asked me to get my old passport by courier mail within another seven days. He appeared gleeful telling me that it is only out of "pity" that he is allowing me to stay in India for seven more days. He was totally unimpressed by either my status as a Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan or my age (70+)

I called my friend in Ann Arbor again who then sent my old passport by FedEx. Three days later the passport arrived. Since I had to leave Kolkata for prescheduled visit to Bangalore , my niece took it to Mr. Anon2 . But due to lack of communication between the FRRO office and the airport immigration department my passport had not arrived at the city office even after 9 days. My niece had to go to the FRRO's office three times once waiting until 6 P.M. still they did not have my passport. They only promised: "it will come soon".. At last, 12 days after my arrival, my niece got my passport.

From this painful and anxiety provoking experience I have learned a few valuable lessons:

1. The loud talk about "Dual Citizenship" for Indian Americans is just a political hoax.

2. The OCI card just does not have any value. It is just a piece of expensive junk. You still need a visa every time you travel to India whether or not you possess an OCI card. Only difference is that for the high price of getting an OCI card you will get a "life long " visa. A 10-year visa is much cheaper.

3. When coming to India always consider yourself a foreigner and bring your visa with you, there will be no exceptions. Your OCI card is not a visa substitute.

4. In fact, you will probably be treated worse than an ordinary foreigner arriving without a valid visa. Because a foreigner especially a white Caucasian will at least be treated with courtesy and probably offered a temporary visa if there is no reason to deny it, but not you.

Please feel free to forward this mail to any of your friends who may benefit from my experience. Especially feel free to forward this to any influential politician or civil servant in India that you may know..

Anon Professor Emeritus, Department of Anesthesiology USA

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