International travel is complicated and bringing along a newborn child takes it to a whole new level. Travel to India with a newborn recently born in the US is a special case of difficulty since the Indian Government doesn’t recognize dual-citizenship. It’s illegal to simultaneously hold an American and Indian passport. If you’re looking to visit India with your newborn, there are steps you need to take to make sure you can cross the border without issue.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive article to guide you through the process of making travel to India with your child as easy as possible, from the child’s birth to obtaining a visa.
Step 1: Get Your Child’s Birth Certificate and Social Security Number (SSN)
Soon after the birth of your child, you’ll fill out a birth certificate application form to be filed with the Office of Birth and Death at the Vital Records Office (which varies from state to state). Here’s an example of the “Application for a Birth Certificate” from Pennsylvania, the contents of which are pretty consistent with the forms in every state. This is usually done with the assistance of a nurse or midwife. About a week after you file the form, call the Vital Records office in your county to check on the availability of the (birth) certificate. Once it’s available, you can either pick it up in person or have it mailed to you for (between $15 and $30 depending on where you live (some states even offer expedited shipping at an additional cost).
Most hospitals will assist you with the birth certificate and SSN applications. If you choose not to or are unable to apply for your child’s SSN at the hospital, you’ll have to apply through the Social Security Administration Office. You’ll have to fill out this form and mail it to any Social Security office.
Step 2: Get Your Child An American Passport
To get a passport for a child under 16, the application must be done in person at an official acceptance facility. These are usually local post offices, county courts, or other municipal offices. You can find one nearest to you here. Some facilities require that you make an appointment, so be sure to call ahead to make any necessary arrangements.
Bring either the original or a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate, a completed DS-11 form, a valid photo ID, and a passport photo for the child that meets all photo requirements to the acceptance facility. (Getting this photo is no small challenge, but the photo requirements page has some helpful tips for getting an acceptable photo of your newborn).
Both parents have to authorize the application, and it’s easiest to do this by having both parents present. If this isn’t possible or if you have sole legal authority over your child, this website has a comprehensive chart of what will need to be done for a number of circumstances. Below is a quick summary of that information.
What Needs To Be Done
You have sole legal authority
You must submit evidence of this with the application (Examples: court orders, the birth certificate that only has one parent’s name, an adoption decree, the death certificate of the other parent).
One parent can’t be there
That parent can give permission through the “Statement of Consent” form. The form must be notarized and a photocopy of the ID presented to the notary provided.
The other parent can’t be located
You must submit a “Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances” form.
Neither parent is able to appear
A third party can apply with a notarized statement from BOTH parents giving permission to the third party.
Once everything has been sorted out, your application will be submitted. The total cost of application and passport is $115. If you need a passport quickly, you can expedite the service for an extra $60.
Step 3 (OPTIONAL): Apply for an Overseas Citizen of India Card (OCI)
An OCI card is basically a multiple entry and multi-purpose life-long visa to visit India. Once you have your child’s passport, you can apply immediately for an OCI at an Indian Embassy or Consulate. You can find an Embassy or Consulate for your jurisdiction here.
You can find all of the information necessary to apply for an OCI at the Cox and Kings Global Services (CKGS) website.
Your child is eligible for an OCI if they are a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of someone who…
Was eligible to become an Indian citizen on January 26, 1950
Was an Indian citizen on or after January 26, 1950
Belonged to a territory that became part of India after August 15, 1947
Assuming nothing goes wrong with your application, it takes about 8-10 weeks to receive your OCI card. You can find out the usual processing time for your application center on their website. The total cost is $295.
It’s important to note that an OCI is NOT the same as being a dual-citizen of India, but rather is an entry card to make it easier for those in the Indian diaspora to travel to India. Remember, you DON’T need to apply for a visa if, and only if, you have an OCI card.
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Step 4: Apply for an Indian Visa
Sometimes getting an OCI isn’t feasible due to the associated costs or the length of time it’ll take to process. It generally takes much longer to get an OCI than it does a visa, which can be a big factor if your travel date is rapidly approaching.
If you don’t want to get an OCI card, the last step is to apply for an Indian visa through the Indian government. Applicants from the USA are highly recommended to use the CKGS website for instructions about how to apply and to access the application itself.
You’ll need to know your port of arrival and have passport information, information about any prior visas to India and international travel, your travel agenda, and a photo that meets their requirements (basically, just use your passport photo). You can look through their how to apply page to make sure that you have all of the information available prior to starting the application.
For travelers outside of the United States, the application can be done entirely online using the Indian Government’s e-Visa services that bundles applying, paying, and receiving the visa in one place. Look through their Sample e-Visa to make sure that you have all of the information necessary to apply. It’s very similar, if not identical, to the information needed for American travelers.
It takes anywhere between 3-10 days for your visa to process. That said, you should apply for a visa well in advance of your travel date. Getting the visa well in advance also allows you to purchase plane tickets earlier, which saves a ton of money.
Other Notes, Facts, Laws, Caveats
Are there restrictions that prevent application for an OCI card?
You cannot get an OCI card if you’re parents/grandparents/great grandparents were ever a citizen of Pakistan and/or Bangladesh OR are of Pakistan/Bangladesh origin.
What about PIO cards?
You may have heard about something called a “Person of Indian Origin (PIO)” card that functions about the same as an OCI, but know that it’s been discontinued and is no longer usable as of September 30th, 2019.
Can someone have both an American and Indian passport?
No, it’s illegal to have both an American and Indian passport since India doesn’t recognize dual-citizenship. If you are an American citizen, you have to return the Indian passport to get an OCI.
Traveling to India with your child is a complicated process, but with proper planning and a little paperwork, you’ll soon be on your way to India with your baby in tow.
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