During a recent trip to Bengaluru, India’s Silicon valley, I came across a car with an interesting license place that proudly indicated that the occupant was a “Honorary Consul of the Republic of Djibouti.”
I was intrigued and was reminded of Graham Greene’s bestseller. What was a Honorary Consul of the tiny African nation doing in Bengaluru, I wondered.
It’s an elite clique: Their swanky cars bear black number plates encrypted with white letters, sport flags of a foreign country, they are guests at all the governor’s events, and have special entry to the seat of power – Vidhana Soudha and Vikas Soudha. They are Honorary Consuls — the creme of society who represent different countries but live right here in Bangalore.
The perks come with great responsibility, though; they are local guardians of the nationals of their respective countries who drop into Bangalore, either on a personal or business trip. Should they run into trouble in the city over issues related to passports, commute, money, they can turn to the Consul for help and guidance.
Consuls are also brand ambassadors of their host country, promoting its political trade and culture in India, particularly Bangalore.
Many Indian-Citizen NRIs participate indirectly in Indian politics by the use of social media. Some NRIs actively participate on overseas chapters of political organizations like Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS),? Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and others.
Some NRIs are eagerly awaiting the opportunity for clarity on regulations around proxy voting for elections in India (link). Now comes an interesting news about an NRI billionaire living in Saudi Arabia planning to contest elections in Himachal Pradesh.
Prakash Rana, a billionaire living in Saudi Arabia, has filed his nomination as an independent candidate for the upcoming Himachal Pradesh elections. Rana is so certain of his ‘win’ that he sees no competitor against him. Rana will be contesting in the Vidhan Sabha polls from Joginder Nagar constituency in Mandi district, according to ANI.
Is this yet another Return To India trend we are likely to see? More NRIs returning to contest in Indian Elections.
Do US consular officers in India take bribe to offer visas to big Indian companies?
This was an interesting question that came from an online forum recently. The person adds: “The reason for question is that I have seen some third party individuals claiming that “their” company has setting with the consular officers and hence higher acceptance rate etc.”
With this backdrop, here is the fact: These cases of corruption are too few and far between to be statistically relevant. The U.S immigration system and State Department have sufficient checks-and-balances to quickly identify bad-apples and make sure justice prevails.
Think; if there were allegations of ‘big Indian companies’ bribing US consular officers, Wouldn’t Mr. Trump have already tweeted about it?
These companies have extremely strong ‘visa departments’ with efficient processes and people. The visa department representatives work with line managers and applicants to ensure the right paperwork is submitted accurately, with the right references, supporting letters, credentials etc.
The visa-departments and their consultants continually seek the latest updates on visa processing from embassies and consulates, and are quick to update their processes when new requirements are identified.
Visa departments also have a closed-loop with candidates to ensure they learn from success, and a few rejections.
Visa departments also work with line managers to plan ‘demand’ for resources, especially timed around the ‘H1 Visa’ lottery filing deadlines. These steps ensure an extremely low rate of rejection of visas (compared to rest of the applicant pool).
Hard, grunt work at a large scale is the secret of success, and not ‘corruption’ or ‘bribery’
How do I know? I experienced the efficiencies of Visa Department @Infosys many years ago.
Cutting corners while applying for naturalization is risky and the penalty for doing so is harsh and the US government is very unforgiving as Balbir Singh alias Ranjit Singh discovered.
US citizenship is a privilege that many legal immigrants aspire to. It takes a lot of persistence and effort to be granted this right by the US government. Of-course the benefits of a US citizenship are many and well documented (link USCIS). Cutting corners while applying for naturalization is risky and the penalty for doing so is harsh and the US government is very unforgiving as Balbir Singh alias Ranjit Singh discovered.
A person of Indian origin, Balbir Singh was recently convicted by US government for using fake identity to get US citizenship. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison, a maximum USD 250,000 possible fine, revocation of his citizenship and enforcement of his outstanding deportation order.
Here is the sequence of events as appearing in the media.
A few years ago, Mr. Singh was ordered deported but lied about it to seek citizenship.
Acting US Attorney Abe Martinez said Mr. Singh had previously attempted to obtain asylum under false pretenses.
When that asylum attempt failed, an immigration judge ordered his deportation from the United States, thus making him ineligible to ever become a naturalized US citizen.
Instead of leaving the country, Mr Singh changed his name, date of birth, the manner in which he entered the United States and his family history so that he could obtain lawful immigration status.
He later applied for Naturalization based on a marriage to a United States citizen. In his Naturalization application, Singh denied ever being ordered deported, seeking asylum or using a different identity.
After obtaining the citizenship, a fingerprint comparison established the man previously ordered deported from the United States (Balbir Singh) and the man who later became a naturalized citizen (Ranjit Singh) were one and the same.
US District Judge Ewing Werlein is scheduled to set sentencing for October 13.
Advice for NRIs and Indians abroad on returning to India
Here is a recent online query on Returning to India.
I am a software engineer from India and I have spent my last 15 years abroad in various countries. Which place in India is best for an NRI like me to settle down on returning to India with a decent job?
Response from our editor follows
This is a great question, but there is hardy any information on your interests, personal situation, career goals or intent.
If you were unconstrained and had the resources, wouldnt you want to settle in Andamans ?
or Himachal Pradesh?
India is a vast, ever-changing nation so it is really important to focus on these:
Interests and personal situation:
Are you extroverted and outgoing and want an urbane social circle?
Do you have an extended family living in a certain region? Do you plan to socialize frequently with your family?
Your interests and personal situation will guide you on the city/region where you want to ‘settle down.’ For example, if your extended family is in Imphal, Manipur, wouldn’t you be better off settling closer in Imphal, Assam or Kolkata? Same goes for your interests. If you love the ocean, wouldn’t you want to settle in Mumbai or Goa?
Do you specialize in a very niche area. E.g AI or Big-data tool?
Do you plan to enrich your career with a move to India?
I am not going to assume whether you are an AI, Big-data or HANA consultant since most metros will have opportunities for these. If you plan to settle in a major metro, this may be a non-issue. However, if you are looking at settling in tier-2 cities, you need to reflect on your career goals and re-skilling too.
Are you clear why you want to move back to India?
Are you prepared to accept the ways of life in a developing nation – traffic, pollution, regionalism etc?
Travel portal, TripAdvisor, polled more than 44,000 people across 25 countries during the survey conducted between January 16 and February 2. Of these, just over 32,158 were its own customers interviewed online. The others who participated in the survey were a mix of hoteliers and panellist from a market research company.
“Against the optimistic backdrop of the Indian economy, both travellers and hoteliers are expressing clear intentions that paint a positive picture for the Indian travel sector in 2015. Significantly, this optimism looks set to translate into a sharp spike in the number of Indians travelling abroad this year,” said Nikhil Ganju, country manager, TripAdvisor, India.
Of course, travel to foreign lands is fraught with uncertainty. Documentation and visa paperwork is just one factor to consider. However, having the right visas and travel permit is a major issue that Indians face while traveling overseas.
Take the example of the young lady from Mumbai, Khushbu Kaushal, who decided to visit and explore the East European country of Georgia (link) alone. Nothing wrong with that. Single women travelers are increasingly exploring the world alone. However, due to some paperwork issues, Ms. Kaushal was denied entry into Georgia and deported. It is unclear from her detailed facebook post what the issue was but what is appalling is her ordeal.
She begins herFacebook post with an appeal to the Georgian Ambassador to India.
Dear Mr. Archil Dzuliashvili (Georgian Ambassador to India) ,
I am a citizen of India, a single woman who earns her honest living working for an advertising agency. This year for my annual break I decided to visit your country Georgia. It rated pretty high for solo woman travellers and the general topography and the history of the country was attractive enough to seal my decision. My flight for Georgia took off from Mumbai on 29th June at 5am IST and I reached Tbilisi by 5pm Georgia time. I was carrying approved e-visa, letter from my employer stating I was on a holiday and will be joining back after my vacation, my bank statement to prove my financial stability, my hotel bookings to prove my stay in the country is legit and health and travel insurance in case anything happens to me while I am in your country.
The post went viral and was picked up my major Indian media outlets. From Indian media :