The Union Home Ministry has notified that a foreigner living in India shall hold a valid passport or any “other valid travel document”, which includes emergency certificate, certificate of identity and any other document issued by the government of a foreign country.
The Ministry through a gazette notification amended the Foreigners Orders, 1948 by inserting a new provision, paragraph 3B, stating “requirement of holding a valid passport or other valid travel document while living in India.”
The order assumes significance as many people from Afghanistan were not able to return or had decided to stay back in India after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in August 2021. India issued 200 e-Emergency X-Miscellaneous visas, out of 60,000 applications, to Afghan nationals. The passports of many Afghans seem to have either expired and are not valid anymore. The Passport Act states that a foreigner unless exempted through a government order, needs to be in possession of a valid passport to continue to stay in India.
India had last year extended the visas of all Afghan nationals living in India on gratis until further orders. “They will not be granted exit or issued leave India notice by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) without prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs,” the September 2, 2021, order had said.
The Foreigners Order under Foreigners Act, 1946 regulates the entry and departure of foreigners in India. Other than this, the Passport (Entry in India) Act, 1920 prescribes the rules for foreigners authorising their stay here on the basis of visas affixed to passports or other travel documents. Foreigners not in possession of valid passports is a punishable offence.
The Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2022 notified on March 8 inserts paragraph 3B, which 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 explanation of the order says, “For the purpose of this paragraph, “other valid travel document” includes emergency certificate or certificate of identity or such other document which 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)”.
The amended order also enables online filing of “any report or application or information.”
“...the Registration Officer or the civil authority shall verify genuineness of the report or application or information and, he may, if considered necessary, call upon the applicant or the informant for personal appearance of the applicant or informant,” the amended order says.
A Ministry official said the amendment has been done for “ease of doing business.”
“It is to improve compliance, and electronic data helps in ease of business,” the official said.