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India has decided to do away with the Emigration Clearance Requirement Suspension (ECRS) norm for Emigration Check Required (ECR) passport holders travelling abroad
on overseas job assignments
The requirement for getting emigration clearance will be waived with effect from October 1 for all but 18 countries, saving paperwork and harassment for people.
Under the Emigration Act, 1983 a person holding a passport as Emigration Check Required (ECR) is required to obtain emigration clearance from the Protector of Emigrants (POE) before leaving the country for overseas employment. This is a statutory requirement.
The Emigration Act does not cover ECR passport holders who travel overseas for visits other than for employment. However, for the last two decades administrative instructions have been in force requiring them to obtain Emigration Clearance Requirement Suspension (ECRS).
In a statement issued in Lok Sabha on Thursday, minister for overseas Indian affairs Vayalar Ravi admitted that the scheme was ‘‘retrograde'' and was a cause of ‘‘harassment and corruption.''
The minister said that the ECRS system has no statutory basis. No other country imposes such restrictions on international travel. It has led to considerable inconvenience and harassment to passengers and resulted in corruption in POE offices.
Accepting that a nexus between unscrupulous recruiting agents and middlemen has come up resulting in the exploitation of a large number of poor people, Ravi further said that the initiative will benefit 5.5 lakh people and save an average of Rs 600 crore spent by them every year in getting ECRS stamped on their passports.
The move will also prevent duping of the poor and unlettered by travel agents who would get ECRS clearance instead of emigration clearance even though vast amounts would change hands. With the ECRS stamp, many potential workers became ineligible for jobs abroad because they did not know the distinction between the requirement of emigration clearance and this stamp which allows them to only visit other countries but not take up job.
To ensure that the data on ECR passport holders going abroad on a visit visa is captured, the Union Home Ministry will modify the arrival and departure cards by inserting a column seeking the status of the passport.
Countries for which emigration clearance is still required include the Gulf countries, Malaysia, Syria, Jordan, Afghanistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Iraq, Brunei, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon and Libya.