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Hold valid papers while staying in India, MHA tells foreigners

The government has introduced a new clause in the Foreigners Order, 1948, that requires foreigners to hold a valid passport or travel documents not just while entering India, but also during their entire stay in the country.

It has explained that these “valid documents” would include “emergency certificate or certificate of identity or such other document” issued by the foreign country concerned.

Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the order had been issued in light of several foreigners having been found to be overstaying in India and claiming to have lost their documents. “Earlier, the Foreigners Act and Order only talked about holding a valid document while entering India. Although it is understood that one must continue to hold the document while living in India, it has been observed that some people have been violating this condition and so it has been inserted for more clarity,” an official said.

Sources said once a foreigner having entered on valid documents is caught living in India without valid documents later, the matter gets entangled in litigation. They said this new insertion was expected to help the government deal with such foreigners in a speedy manner.

“In a genuine case of loss of documents, it is expected the foreigner will report the matter to police and contact his embassy to get temporary documents,” an official said.

The gazette notification issued on March 8 has inserted a new paragraph (3B) in the Foreigners Order. The paragraph is titled “Requirement of holding a valid passport or other valid travel document while living in India”.

It says: “Save as otherwise provided in terms of this Order or rule 4 of the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950, a foreigner shall hold a valid passport or other valid travel document relating to passport, as the case may be, while living in India.”

The paragraph goes on to explain the “other valid travel document” to include “emergency certificate or certificate of identity or such other document that has been issued by or under the authority of the government of a foreign country satisfying the conditions specified in the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950, as made under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 (34 of 1920)”.

Notably, the paragraph has been inserted right below 3A, which deals with “Exemption of certain class of foreigners”.

3A grants exemption from holding valid travel documents to “persons belonging to minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution and entered into India on or before December 31, 2014”.

Sources in the MHA, however, insisted the insertion of 3B has got nothing to do with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which grants citizenship to above mentioned communities from the three countries. The Act, passed in 2019, has not been implemented as its rules are yet to be framed.

The latest gazette notification has also inserted another paragraph that asks for submission of reports or application or information regarding the order in electronic form and verification of information about a foreigner. It has been inserted after paragraph 16, which requires hotels to maintain a record of foreigners staying with them.

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