Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Indian Bureaucracy

The Government of India does not recognize double citizenship, and therefore, all citizens of India who acquire foreign citizenship need to surrender their Indian passports. However, they are eligible to apply for either the OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) or PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cards that give them multiple privileges in India, almost equal to being a citizen. Even I, as a spouse of an OCI, am eligible to apply for the PIO card.

It seems to me that India did not get its nomenclature straight here. My husband, who actually is of Indian Origin, is classified as "Overseas Citizen of India", whereas I, a person of Polish origin living overseas, soon will become (retrospectively, I guess) a Person of Indian Origin... :)

The key benefits of the PIO card are:
  1. Visa-free travel to India
  2. Unlimited length of stay in India
  3. Parity with Indian Citizens in respect of all facilities available to the later in the economic, financial and educational fields (except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural/ plantation properties)
Luckily, San Francisco has an Indian Consulate, so I can apply for my PIO card here. I started by going to the consulate's webpage to check the application procedure for the PIO card, and I got rather surprised by what I found there. Several times they are asking me for documents that I am not able to provide (e.g. like an Indian Passport... If I had it, I would not be applying for the PIO...) I also checked the webpage of the Embassy of India in the US and the webpage of the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but it did not help me to clarify the situation.

I actually do not expect any problems with getting the PIO card and I am pretty sure the people in the consulate will be pretty lax about the "missing" documents. I more see it as a beautiful example of Indian bureaucracy, and I am trying to go with the flow and enjoy the experience.

For you entertainment, below are simplified PIO card application instructions as per webpage of Consulate General of India in San Francisco and my comments to them in italics.

Please send ALL documents listed from points 2 - 14, along with completed application form and check list:

1. Application (No problem)

2. Surrender Certificate (I do not have one. I never had, and therefore can not surrender, Indian citizenship.)
Application for Renunciation of Indian Citizenship (As above. How can I renunciate the citizenship I've never had?)

3. Completed Checklist (No problem)

4. Current US/foreign passport (No problem)

5. One Color legible photocopy of Green Card (No problem)

6. Please provide documents choosing option A or B:
A) Last Indian passport held in original (Since I do not have it, I need to choose option B.)
B) One notarized photocopy of the birth certificate. (So far no problem, though curiously they are not asking for a translation of the document...)
Any US court order regarding custody of minor child/divorce, if applicable (Not applicable)
Copy of US and Indian passports/OCI cards of both parents. (I don't have it. My parents are neither American nor Indian.)

7. Driving license (No problem)

8. One set of notarized photocopies of the first and last pages of the current US/ foreign passport. (No problem, though it will be completely useless. In the newest version of the Polish passport personal information is neither on the first nor the last page of the passport...)

9. One set of notarized photocopies of documents listed in OPTION 6B (I can not provide copies of the documents that I do not have in the first place...)

10. Two - (2" X 2") passport size photographs, both glued to the forms (No problem, though now I see that I might need to submit two copies of the application (judged from use of the plural "forms") rather than one as per point 1.)

11. Requisite fee (No problem)

12. A self addressed stamped trackable envelop (No problem)

13. Your name in the application should tally with your name in both the Indian passport and the US passport. (I neither have the Indian nor the US passport.)

Now the best: THERE IS NO POINT 14 in the instructions... :) I guess that it is a classic example of Catch-22. If they want, they could reject your application based on you failing to provide the documents listed in the secret point 14...

Moreover, taken into account that I am only eligible to apply for the PIO card based on my marriage to the OCI card holder, you would think that they might be interested in seeing e.g. our marriage certificate...

I love Indians. I think that's why I married one :) 

As an additional entertainment, I strongly recommend that you read the praises that satisfied customers left on the SF consulate's webpage. It is full of highlights like:

"The service at your consulate office is impeccable and brilliant. Your calm approach , fast pace, and efficiency make ordinary mortals like me look brilliant."

"It was cold/rainy and crowded as usual. But the gentleman officer (xxx) had such fantastic calm, patient and helping attitude that it blew me. He worked shoulder to shoulder with staff who also seemed to imbibe the same attitude."

"I must congratulate, the Consulate General of India, San Francisco, and its staff, for its efficient and well run organization. This is to put on record, that my experience at Consulate general of India, San Francisco, is worthy of appreciation and praise. (...)"

and so on and so forth... :)