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Indian expats concerned over mandatory online registration

Those who fail to register won’t be allowed to board flights

KUWAIT: The Indian government’s decision to make online registration mandatory for all Indians travelling for work to 18 countries including Kuwait from Jan 1, 2019 has created confusion and panic among the Indian expat community here. Essentially, almost all Indians working in Kuwait will have to register.

Many of them feel that the new rule is ambiguous and will lead to unwanted travel chaos as it affects all ECNR (emigration clearance not required) passport holders already working in these countries. Several expats who spoke to Kuwait Times yesterday voiced anxiety about the new rule and suggested that the registration process must be hassle-free. They also demanded that they should be allowed to register from their country of residence, be allowed to use mobile phone numbers of their country of residence and more time should be given for registration.

An advisory issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs on Nov 14, 2018 stated that registration must be completed on the e-migrate portal (www.emigrate.gov.in) between 21 days and 24 hours prior to the date of travel. On successful completion of registration, the applicant will receive a confirmatory SMS/email, it said.

Those who fail to register and receive confirmation by SMS/email will not be allowed to board their flights, according to the new law. The registration is mandatory for Indians heading for jobs in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Thailand, the UAE and Yemen.

“The rule appears arbitrary. In the first place, it is not right to offload an ECNR passport holder from a flight,” said Ajithkumar, director of NORKA (Non Resident Keralites’ Affairs) welfare board. He also said there is a lack of clarity in the new rule. “The applicant, in most cases, will not be able to provide the employment duration while registering, as many would be on a permanent job. It appears that the form is designed only for contractual laborers. Also, many applicants will not be in a position to furnish details of their sponsors,” he pointed out.

The objective for this registration is to retain the data of Indian emigrants so that they can be reached without delay in case of any eventuality. Implementation of this registration is only the first phase of the plan to ensure that the system works smoothly and there are no hiccups, the advisory added. “Similarly, many Indians working in the Gulf region will not be able to maintain an Indian mobile connection beyond a few months. Registering by using an Indian mobile will be difficult for many. In many rural areas, Internet connection is also poor,” Kumar added.

According to the advisory, the registration confirmation of the applicant will be verified by the Bureau of Immigration (BoI) at emigration counters prior to their departure. Offloading of unregistered non-ECR emigrants at the airports will be carried out by the appropriate authority after Jan 1. “At the same time, there is also a positive spin to the decision if it is a hassle-free process. So far, the Indian government does not have proper statistics on the Indian diaspora. This may help the government compile data on overseas Indians,” Kumar said.

Details to be furnished include personal, visa and travel details, emergency contact details in India and the destination country and contact details of the foreign employer/sponsor in the destination country. Those already working overseas are not required to register while they are overseas. However, if they come to India on vacation and are returning for the same job, they will need to register. This is only a one-time requirement for a given employment duration. Babu Francis, a member of the Loka Kerala Sabha from Kuwait, said: “This new rule will only complicate life for overseas Indians. It is an impetuous decision like the one to issue color-coded passports for Indians.”

By Sajeev K Peter

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