Authorities in India have restricted ECR (Emigration Clearance Required) passport holders from availing the visa-on-arrival facility announced by Qatar last year, several sources said.
Qatar introduced the free visa-on-arrival facility for several nationalities, including Indians, last year. This came as a boon for many residents who wanted to bring their family members and friends on a visit to the country.
Some airline representatives and travel agents have confirmed that they have got information from officials in India about the new directive. They stated that Indian airports will not allow ECR passport holders to travel to Qatar on the visa-on-arrival facility.
Many airlines have quoted the Indian Bureau of Immigration as having restricted the visa-on-arrival facility for the ECR passport holders.
Speaking to Gulf Times, a leading Indian airline official said that they have received such a directive from officials in India and it has been in effect for more than a week. “We have got this instruction and are following it. ECR passport holders will have to get the visa stamped on their passports to travel to Qatar,” he explained.
An official from a leading travel agency in Qatar said they have been advised not to issue tickets for ECR passport holders for the on-arrival visa facility. “We are no longer issuing tickets for such passport holders. We are asking for the copies of pages of the passport to verify for ECR or ECNR (Emigration Clearance Not Required) status,” he said.
“We have got a message from two Indian airlines stating that as per the instructions received from the Indian Bureau of Immigration, ECR passport holders are not permitted to travel to Qatar on the visa-on-arrival facility while others can continue to avail of it,” he continued.
According to him, there was an instance where a passenger with an ECR passport was stopped at one of the airports in India. He also noted that it is suspected that many have been misusing the facility and that is the reason why Indian officials have implemented this new restriction.
However, it seems that such restrictions are not applicable to senior citizens who are visiting Qatar. Of late, several such Indian citizens can be seen around the shopping centres and public places.
“My parents have come here availing the visa-on-arrival facility. They are over 75 years of age and were not stopped at the Indian airport. So, this restriction can only be applied to certain sections of people,” said an Indian resident whose parents reached Qatar a few days ago using the visa-on-arrival facility.
According to India’s Emigration Act, 1983, ECR passport holders require to obtain an “Emigration Clearance” from the office of Protector of Emigrants, Ministry of External Affairs, India for travelling to 18 countries, including Qatar. One of the main factors that determines whether an Indian citizen requires an ECR stamp is not clearing the matriculation (Class 10) examination, according to sources.