Indian Americans in major U.S. cities are protesting the delay in receiving visas following the introduction of surrender certificate by government of India.
Houston witnessed a 24-hour fast against the delays over the visa last week. The fast was observed by several community members of Indian origin to create awareness across the country and has created “dignity among the people who are suffering due to this issue,” said Ramesh Shah of ’Ekal Vidyalaya’ and one of the prominent community members taking part in the protest.
“We are against the system which is broken. It must be fixed,” Shah, a long-time leader in the Indo-American community, said during the demonstration outside a Hindu temple in southwest Houston.
“The surrender certificate is slowing down the process for Indian-Americans who are waiting for their visas to go to see their family in India for the holidays. In addition, the consulate charges as much as $250 to cancel the old passports,” Lalit Chinory, vice president of the Indian Senior Citizen Association, said.
The protesters, frustrated due to the delays were demanding “immediate” actions to be taken for the withdrawal or suspension of the surrender certificate rules required immediately for issuing passports and visas.
“We sent in our passports as requested. While the surrender certificate rule was imposed at your convenience, the consulates were not properly informed or prepared for the onslaught of passports arriving at their door,” he said.
In Houston, hundreds of people have complained that obtaining a surrender certificate required multiple trips to the consulates office (several hours in line each time), and “unpleasant interactions” with overworked consular service staff, Chinory said.
However, Consulate General of India Sanjiv Arora, said, “there might have been delays in a few stray cases, but overall things are being streamlined very professionally by our staff.”
“I have been pursuing the matter of additional staff within our system and have appointed extra hands during this peak season for our consular section,” he said.
The Houston Consulate, considered one of the top ten missions in the world, provides over 700 consular services on daily basis to nine U.S. states and over half a million Indian Americans, and has issued over 21000 surrender certificates this year.