immigration Indira Gandhi Airport
The immigration and arrival hall at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Indians who do not require emigration clearance feel the government is restricting their right to travel freely. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: The Indian government on Wednesday deferred a controversial decision to make online registration mandatory for ECNR (emigration clearance not required) passport holders flying to 18 countries, including the UAE.

In a public notice, India’s top emigration officer who signed the advisory stated that the decision to make ECNR registration mandatory for Indians flying to these countries on employment visa has been “deferred due to difficulties raised by the community”.

The advisory regarding the registration, which was scheduled to be effective from January 1, has been kept in abeyance until further order. However, the notice added that any emigrant wanting to register voluntarily can do so.

“In response to the concerns raised by the NRI community, the Government of India has decided to defer mandatory pre-registration for Non-ECR passport holders with employment visa of UAE and other affected countries,” the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi tweeted while sharing the notice.

Issued by M.C. Luther, Joint Secretary for Overseas Employment and Protector General of Emigrants, Government of India, the notice stated: “The Ministry of External Affairs has been receiving representations from various quarters including Non-ECR/ ECNR passport holders already employed in ECR countries regarding difficulties faced by them in registration on

“The Indian missions in those countries have also forwarded representations received by them from the local Indian community. In view of the above, the competent authority has decided to keep this advisory regarding registration of Non-ECR passport holders in abeyance until further orders.”

Gulf News Impact

On Wednesday, Gulf News highlighted the concerns expressed by Indian expatriates who questioned the legality of the registration rule, under which passengers could be offloaded if they fail to comply.

Many expats questioned the arbitrary decision to prevent passengers who do not require emigration clearance from flying, if they fail to register, and sought an immediate revision of the rule.

Last week, Gulf News also reported that worried Indian expats had sought clarity on the implementation of the rule and demanded convenience in registering from here.

They could access the registration form only by using an India mobile number. Also, they were required to register while they are on their first visit to India and at least 24 hours before flying back to their country of residence.

As per the first announcement, registration was made mandatory for ECNR passport holding Indians taking up jobs in 18 countries notified for emigration clearance: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Thailand, UAE and Yemen. It was made applicable to all ECNR passport holders already working in these countries as well.

Those holding dependent and investor visas were exempted, whereas those with emigration clearance required (ECR) passports were also required to do ECNR registration if they switched to ECNR passports after three years of overseas employment.

Many Indian expats welcomed the government’s decision to defer the rule. “Hope the government will do away with the offloading policy and make the registration more passenger-friendly,” said Ajay Petta Karai, who had questioned the arbitrary decision to offload violators.

India’s U-turn on NRI policies

Wednesday’s announcement is the second instance in which the Indian government was forced to retreat on policies that affect Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) due to public outcry. In January, the government shelved a plan to change the colour of the Indian passport based on socioeconomic backgrounds, and drop the last page which serves as address proof.


Indian expats in the UAE played a major role in the government having to rescind its plans at the time.

Gulf News had also published a series of reports highlighting the concerns raised by the Indian community here.

K.V. Shamsudheen, chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust in Sharjah, said the government should learn from these experiences and refrain from making policies without taking into consideration expatriates’ opinion.

“The bureaucrats in India may not understand the practical difficulties we expats face. So, the government should always consider the opinion of the Indian diaspora through its missions, before announcing rules affecting them,” he said.