Honorary Consuls in India

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.” 

HonoraryCouncil (1)

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.

Of course, this is not yet another vanity plate: The title is conferred after a lot of vetting, verfification and approvals by the host nation and the home country.  Ref: Honorary Consular Corps Diplomatique-India (HCCD-India) was formed in 1995. This website also has a directory of Honorary Consuls representing foreign governments in various parts of India.

Modern day Honorary Consuls are a part of the city’s elite (ref TOI)

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.

 

– Mohan, Editor, GaramChai.com

Advertisements

Singapore’s Passport is the most powerful in the world

Middle class Indians, especially educated younger class aspire to migrate west for work and to live. The eventual goal is to acquire a foreign citizenship and an Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status. For middle class Indians, a foreign citizenship, like American Naturalization is not only a status symbol but a sense of having arrived!

flikr_GoodbyeOldPassport
Image: flickr.com/photos/ikkoskinen

This trend is not restricted to Indians alone. Rich and famous people from around the world aspire to get a second passport or citizenship to enable them Visa free travel as and when they please.

Companies like advisory firm Arton Capital frequently track and rank passports that can enable one to travel ‘visa free’ around the world. This year’s 2017 Global Passport Power Rank (link) lists Singaporean passport with a score of 159 as the highest, followed by Germany at 158 and Sweden and South Korea tied at 157.

Arton Capital’s Passport Index is the world’s most popular online interactive tool, which collects, displays and ranks the passports of the world. The real time global ranking of the world’s passports are updated as frequently as new visa waivers and changes are announced. Passports of 193 United Nations member countries and 6 territories (ROC Taiwan, Macao (SAR China), Hong Kong (SAR China), Kosovo, Palestinian Territory and the Vatican) for a total of 199 are considered.

Arton’s report ranked all of the passports of the world for their “total visa-free score,” where a point is given for each country that their holders can visit without a visa, with a visa on arrival, or using electronic travel authorization.  What this means is simple: Singaporean Passport holders can travel to 159 countries visa free or requesting a visa on arrival.

 

Afghanistan ranks at the bottom with a rank of 22 preceded by Pakistan and Iraq tied at 26.  The Indian Passport’s Visa Free score is 51.

In case you plan to rush to acquire a Singaporean Passport, keep in mind it is not going to be easy. According to Wikipedia

Singaporean nationality law is derived from the Constitution of Singapore and is based on jus sanguinis and a modified form of jus soli. There are three ways of acquiring Singaporean citizenship: by birth, by descent, or by registration. Citizenship by naturalisation is no longer granted.

A person can apply for registration as a Singaporean citizen if he or she has been a Permanent Resident for at least two years and is gainfully employed or married to a Singaporean citizen.

Do US consular officers in India take bribe to offer visas to big Indian companies?

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.”

Here is the response from our editor, Mohan

Are US State department and embassy officials corruptible? Sadly, yes they too are humans as these news articles indicate [USA Today: State Department official indicted on bribery charge | ABC News: Embassy Officer Admits Taking $3M in Bribes for Visas ]

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?

Here is how the process works at top companies that apply for H1 visas – e.g Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Accenture, IBM etc

  • 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.


Last week we also blogged about “Immigration Fraud: Indian to lose US citizenship after being convicted”

Indian Passport holders aren’t globally welcome?

Indians and Indian passport holders have been traveling overseas in large numbers. An increasing number of them also travel to Europe to tour and explore new lands. As per a recent survey, Indians to spend more on holidays abroad this year:

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.

Kaushal
From Ms. Kaushal’s Facebook

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 :


I’m a multi millionaire and I want to move to the USA, will I be granted a permanent visa?

Here is a recent query from an online forum. The questioner adds

“I have no plans to work, or claim welfare of any kind. Simply buy a property and spend my days relaxing, shopping and so on.”

Our editor responds: Merely the intent to move to the US will not get you a visa.  However, since you are a multi-millionaire, and have a million dollars to invest, you may be eligible for certain categories of immigrant visas. As a high-net-worth individual/entrepreneur, you qualify for several types of visas. You could apply for the following:

  • E-2 Treaty Investor (nonimmigrant visa) – According to the USCIS, one is eligible for an E-2 visa if you invest a substantial amount of money in a new or existing U.S. business. This is applicable for individuals from countries that have a treaty of commerce with the United States. This visa isn’t an immigrant visa, so it has an initial period of stay of 2 years. You can extend the visa in two-year increments.
  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program (immigrant visa and green card) – Check out the detailed Q&A: What is Eb5 visa?  EB5 is a popular program that some wealthy Chinese and Indians have been availing. After your attorney files the green card application, one should be prepared to do an interview and wait about six months before being granted the Visa

 

Q&A: What would be the impact under Indian laws for Indians, either residents or non-residents, getting citizenship in other countries?

Indian law does not prevent an individual from acquiring a foreign citizenship. However, after acquiring a foreign citizenship, an individual has to Renounce their Indian Citizenship (ref link: Consulate General of India )

“It is mandatory for all persons of Indian origin, who had ever held an Indian passport, to renounce their Indian citizenship upon acquiring any foreign nationality. This is a prerequisite to obtain Visas or OCI cards from the Consulate.”

Over 30,000 Indians overstayed in U.S. in 2016: US Government

This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay Report. 

Last week we heard of a “58-Year-Old Indian Man Detained At Atlanta Airport By US Immigration” who died in custody. The question of illegal and overstay of visas is extremely nebulous. The other question still remains unanswered: In an age of additional scrutiny by Trump government, Indians and others still have an urge to overstay the duration of their approved visas.

One of the tables from the report highlighting overstays.

DHSOverstay

A few facts about Indians highlighted in the report:

  • Of the 30,000, a little over 6,000 Indian nationals left the U.S. after the expiry of their visas, the report said.
  • In 2016, more than one million Indians who came to the U.S. on business, tourist or pleasure were expected to leave the country. Of these, 17,763 have overstayed in the country, it said.
  • Among the overstayed are 2,040 Indians who departed the U.S. only after the expiry of their visas.
  • This year’s report also includes visitors who entered on a student or exchange visitor visa (F, M, or J visa). Of the 1,457,556 students and exchange visitors scheduled to complete their program in the United States in FY16, 79,818 stayed beyond their authorized window for departure, resulting in a 5.48 percent overstay rate. Of the 79,818, 40,949 are suspected in-country overstays (2.81 percent).
  • In 2016, as many as 9,897 Indian students or exchange scholars were expected to depart by the end of the year and of which, 4,575 overstayed their legal period.
  • 1,561 Indian students and exchange visitors left the country after their visas expired, while 3,014 of them have overstayed in the country, the report said.

Copy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay Report.

The findings of the report were highlighted extensively in the Indian media