NFIA Organizes Virtual Meeting With Consulate Officials In Chicago, Discussing Issues Of Importance To The Community

(Chicago, IL: April 17, 2021) National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), FIA Chicago, GOPIO and India community organizations in the Chicago region, came together and organized a virtual interactive meeting on Thursday, April 15th, 2021with Honorable Amit Kumar, Consul General of India in Chicago provided a forum for the Indian American community leaders to clarify several issues, mostly pertaining to Consular services that are of importance to the community.

In his address, Ambassador Amit Kumar pointed to how the Covid pandemic continues to remain uncertain with the emergence of new variants. “We see a surge in India,” he said and urged the community “to follow the guidelines set by CDC and stay cautious.” On another note, the Indian Envoy flagged off the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence (India@75) ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.’ “We will be organizing a series of events to celebrate this momentous event. I welcome your suggestions as to how we can work together to make this historic event a memorable one for all of us,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Ajoy Kumar Dube, NFIA President set the tone for the meeting by saying, “NFIA along with its members organizations promote and foster goodwill between the people of the United States & the people of India. NFIA tries to cultivate and encourage unity among all Indian-American organizations and serves as a catalyst and as a forum for the fellowship, exchange of ideas, and representation of the interests of the Indian-American community. NFIA along with its member organizations provide, direct, develop or secure means from among the member associations, and other resources for educational and humanitarian causes for needy, disadvantaged and deserving groups and individuals.”

Mr. Dube said, “GOPIO and other Indian Community organizations have common interest of achieving better USIndia Relations. GOPIO has had interactive sessions with Indian Consulate and Embassy officials in the past and have discussed contemporary issues which are of concern to Indian American community and the Indian Diaspora at large. The event tonight, addressed by Ambassador Kumar and other officials of the Consulate will discuss some of the issues of common interest to the Indian Diaspora community.”

Ambassador Amit Kumar is a career diplomat and joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1995. He has wide ranging experience having served in Headquarters and in several Indian Missions abroad. He has dealt with both bilateral and multilateral work in diverse areas such as political, strategic and economic spheres. Prior to taking up his current assignment as the Consul General of India in Chicago, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy of India, Washington DC with Ambassador-rank.

Reflecting on the trajectory of Emerging US-India Relations – Role of Indian American community, Ambassador Kumar said, “The partnership between India and the United states is built on people to people connection. Indian Americans work in almost all areas, especially in healthcare, clean energy, digital tech, higher education, and  economic cooperation. NRIs play a critical role in enhancing the relationship. We look forward to leverage that cooperation,” he said.

On the recent announcement by the Government of India on OCI related issues, Ambassador Kumar said, “We have taken these steps to simplify measures with your participation and collaboration,” he told the leaders of the Indian American community. Government of India continues to simply the procedures and we are open to your suggestions.”

The Government of India on April 15, 2021 announced that the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders will now be required to get their document re-issued only once at the age of 20 instead of multiple times needed currently. According to a Press Information Bureau statement, a person who has got registration as OCI cardholder prior to attaining the age of 20 years will have to get the card re-issued only once when a new passport is issued after his or her completing 20 years of age, so as to capture his or her facial features on attaining adulthood.

If a person has obtained registration as OCI cardholder after attaining the age of 20 years, there will be no requirement of re-issue of OCI card, it said. Currently, the OCI card is required to be re-issued each time a new passport is issued up to 20 years of age and once after completing 50 years of age, in view of biological changes in the face of the applicant. “With a view to facilitate the OCI cardholders, the government has decided to dispense with this requirement,” it added.

Ambassador Kumar said, with a view to update the data regarding new passports obtained by the OCI cardholder, it has been decided that he/she shall upload a copy of the new passport containing his/her photo and also a latest photo on the online OCI portal, each time a new passport is issued up to 20 years of age and once after completing 50 years of age. These documents may be uploaded by the OCI cardholder within 3 months of receipt of the new passport. “There has been a surge in OCI application, which has delayed the process,” the Ambassador warned.  He referred to travel to India and current travel restrictions on tourist visas to India due to Covid.

Coveying greetings from the GOPIO International, Dr. Thomas Abraham, current Chairman of GOPIO International and the Founder President of FIA and NFIA shared with the audience as to how we was instrumental in starting several organizations that are now pillars of the Indian American community around the world. “We want to see where there are common interests,” Dr. Abraham said. Referring to the New Administration in DC and that the there are several elected officials from the Indian American community at the federal and state levels, he urged them to utilize the achievements to build relationship between India and the US.

While welcoming the new measures to simplify the OCI cards, Dr. Abraham was cautious and said, “GOPIO strongly urges the government to treat OCI Card holders who have invested in business and creating jobs in India at par with Indian citizens and they shouldn’t be termed as foreign nationals by various Govt. agencies while doing business including manufacturing and research in India,” Dr. Abraham added.

Prominent among those who attended the event included, Raj Patel, President, FIA (Chicago Area); Babu K. Patel, Foundation Chair, NFIA; Sohan Joshi, Past President, NFIA; Satish Gabhawala, RVP, NFIA; Gladdon Varghese, GOPIO; Minhhaj Akhtar, Director At Large, NFIA; and Dr. Thomas Abraham.

The members and leaders of the community raised several issues especially how imposrtant it is for the Consulate to each out large PIO communities in the Chicago area; Cooperation with the Consulate on joint programs and cultural matters; Emergency Services to Indian American community members in need. The Consul and the officials from the Consulate answered and clarified several questions related to Passport, Visa and OCI Card Issues, Emergency Visa, Power of Attorney and other Consular matters. For more information or if you have an issue to be taken up with the Consulate in Chicago.

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