Note: This post is not really on travel but rather a problem that I faced because of my travel document. Hence relevant only to those with an Indian passport and living in certain countries outside India.
I made a brief weekend trip to India in July to attend a wedding. On my return, at the Emirates check-in counter of Bangalore International airport, I wasn’t allowed to exit and board the flight to Dubai. Eh, why? Because I had an ‘ECR’ stamp on my passport.
I have been in Dubai for the last 3 years, made a couple of trips to India and never faced this problem. However recently, I moved to my own work visa, having been earlier being on a spouse visa. What I didn’t realize was that my passport when issued and renewed, had an ECR stamp.
So what’s ECR?
“ECR = Emigration Check Required and as per the Emigration Act, 1983, ECR categories of Indian passport holders require to obtain ‘Emigration Clearance’ from the office of Protector of Emigrants (POE), Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs for going to following 18 countries: United Arab Emirates (UAE), The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Brunei, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Thailand, Iraq .
However, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (Emigration Policy Division) have allowed ECR passport holders traveling abroad for purposes others than employment to leave the country on production of valid passport, valid visa and return ticket at the immigration counters at international airports in India w.e.f. 1st October 2007.”
So effectively, I wasn’t allowed to pass immigration and what followed was figuring out how I’d get my passport renewed when all my original documents were back home in Dubai. It meant spending atleast a week in Bangalore, dealing with the Passport Office there and its known bureaucracy, arranging for the papers to be couriered, missing days of work and getting a new passport before I could ‘legally’ exit India.
And then we did something crazy. But legal, I must add.
In short, I used a valid 6-month UK visa and exited India. It was the quickest way out of this unwanted mess. I had no problems at Indian immigration and of course, there was never an issue with entering Dubai. All in all, a stressful 24 hours. And an expensive one too. But all’s well that ends well.
So this one’s for those of you NRI’s, who issued or renewed the passport in the past and not realised that some idiotic passport officer didn’t check your educational qualification and stamped an ‘ECR’ on the passport. Get that rectified now.
I have to get my passport renewed at the Indian consulate in Dubai (which I assume should be far less complicated) so that I can enter my country-of-origin again without fear of being held back again!