India: Ability of Tibetan refugees to exit and re-enter India, including the requirements and procedures for Tibetan refugees to obtain and renew an Identity Certificate (IC) and a "No Objection to Return to India" stamp; whether the IC can be renewed from abroad; Visa requirements for Tibetans returning to India
1. Right to Return to India
In a 2011 report, the Tibet Justice Center (TJC)  stated that India is not legally obliged to accept the return of Tibetans with expired documents (TJC Sept. 2011, 48). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 notes that India's legislation, The Foreigner's Act (1946), does not contain the term "refugee" and does not distinguish refugees as being treated differently than other foreigners (US 27 Feb. 2014, 30).
2. Identity Certificates
Sources indicate that the IC is an international travel document issued by Indian authorities to Tibetan refugees residing in India (Hindustan Times 30 Mar. 2014; TJC Sept. 2011, 48). The TJC's report, entitled Tibet's Stateless Nationals II: Tibetan Refugees in India, states that the IC resembles an Indian passport - with an imprint of India's national symbol, the Ashoka pillar, on its cover - but is yellow in colour instead of blue (ibid.). Media sources note that the IC is also known as the "Yellow Book" (Power Politics 5 Aug. 2011; Hindustan Times 30 Mar. 2014). The IC is reportedly not accepted as a travel document by many countries (Professor 3 Dec. 2014; TJC Sept. 2011, 48-49). According to the 2011 TJC report, it is only accepted by the US, Canada, and some European states (ibid.).
2.2 Requirements for Issuance of Identity Certificates
The website of the Consular, Passport and Visa Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India indicates that the IC is issued by the Regional Passport Office, Delhi and requires a recommendation from the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (BDL)  (India n.d.a). The same source indicates that issuance of the IC requires clearance by the Consular, Passport and Visa Division (ibid.).
In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Secretary of the BDL said that in order to receive a recommendation from the BDL for an IC, the applicant must have a Registration Certificate (RC)  as well as a Tibetan "Green Book," which is a document issued by the Tibetan Administration in Exile that indicates that the bearer is Tibetan (BDL 2 Dec. 2014).
According to the 2011 TJC report, applicants may obtain an IC application from the office of the Dalai Lama's representative in Delhi (TJC Sept. 2011, 48). The websites of both the Consular, Passport and Visa Division and the BDL indicate that the IC application can be downloaded from the Passport Seva website (India n.d.a; BDL 16 Feb. 2013). According to the website of the BDL, the applications can be submitted online using the online forms from the Passport Seva website, but applicants must submit a printout copy of the form and the supporting documentation to the BDL within a month of submitting the online application (ibid.). Both the TJC report and the website of the Consular, Passport and Visa Division indicate that applicants submit their applications for the IC to the Regional Passport Office in Delhi once completed (India n.d.a; TJC Sept. 2011, 48). The TJC report also states that the application must then be forwarded to the applicant's state of residence for officials at the state level to verify that the applicant resides at the address noted on the application (ibid.).
According to the BDL, the following documents are required to apply for an IC:
- The original approval letter from the Kashag Secretariat, Central Tibetan Administration Dharamsala, H.P.;
- Four passport size colour photographs with a white background;
- Two sets of attested copies of the first, second and last page of the Registration Certificate; and
- Proof of Date of Birth, such as a birth certificate, matriculation certificate, school bonafide certificate, or an affidavit stating date and place of birth (if the applicant has a Registration Certificate) (BDL 16 Feb. 2013).
The BDL indicates that in the case of an IC application for a minor, the applicant should provide the RC of his father or mother and the parent should sign the form (ibid.).
Instructions on the IC application form from the website of the Consular, Passport and Visa Division indicate that the following documents are required to apply for the IC:
- IC Application Form duly filled and signed in ink
- Recommendation Letter from the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL), New Delhi in case of applicants who are Tibetan Refugees
- Registration Certificate issued by FRRO [Foreign Regional Registration Office] / FRO [Foreign Registration Office] to the applicant
- Registration Certificate issued by FRRO/ FRO to the parents in case of minor applicants
- Proof of Date of Birth
- Proof of Address in India (India n.d.b)
A copy of the IC application form from the website of the Consular, Passport and Visa Division of the Ministry of External Affairs is attached to this Response.
According to the TJC, the decision to grant an IC is "discretionary" (TJC Sept. 2011, 48). The same source reported that they knew of cases in which the applicant was denied an IC because the applicant did not reside at the stated address (ibid.).
The Secretary of the BDL said that the process to obtain or renew an IC usually takes between eight months and two years (BDL 2 Dec. 2014). In 2011, the TJC noted in its report that many applicants reported "inordinate delays" and that the processing time took between three months and three years (TJC Sept. 2011, 48). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a professor of law at Touro Law School in Central Islip, New York, who conducted field research in India for the TJC in June 2014, said that the process to obtain an IC can take two years, and that the paperwork passes through "so many government offices and one office points the finger at the other when complaints of inordinate delays are raised" (Professor 3 Dec. 2014).
2.3 Requirements for Renewal of IC
According to the BDL's website, to renew an IC, the applicant must submit:
- Green Book: One attested copy of page 1, 2 and latest updated payment page.
- Latest original IC with two sets of attested copies from page 1 to 5.
- Two sets of attested copies of RC's first page, photo page and latest extension page.
- If the latest IC is issued by a Foreign Mission, the applicant must also submit the original IC and two sets of attested copies of the last IC issued by the Regional Passport Office (RPO), New Delhi.
- Four passport size color photographs with white background.
- Two attested copies of marriage certificate are required if name of the spouse is to be added. (BDL 16 Feb. 2013)
2.4 Requirements for Renewal of IC from Abroad
According to the Secretary of the BDL, Tibetans cannot obtain a first-time IC from abroad (ibid. 2 Dec. 2014). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a board member of the TJC said that renewing ICs can only be done in India (TJC 3 Dec. 2014). The Secretary of the BDL also stated that ICs cannot be renewed from abroad and that Tibetans must return to India to renew the ICs before they expire, but explained that there are exceptions for diplomats and university students who can instead apply to renew their ICs at Indian Missions abroad (BDL 2 Dec. 2014). Without providing details, the Secretary noted that it is "difficult" for a Tibetan individual if their IC expires while abroad (ibid.).
According to information on the BDL website, the following are required for Tibetans to renew an IC from abroad:
- An attested copy of Green book from page 1 to latest updated payment page.
- Latest original IC with three sets of photocopies from page 1-5 with Indian visa and airport arrival stamp.
- Three attested copies of Green card or Residence card.
- If the latest IC is issued by a Foreign Mission, the applicant must also submit the original IC and three sets of attested copies of the last IC issued by the Regional Passport Office (RPO), New Delhi.
- Four passport size color photographs with white background. (ibid. 16 Feb. 2013)
3. "No Objection to Return to India" Stamp
According to the 2011 TJC report, Tibetans must have a "No Objection to Return to India" stamp, also known as a "NORI stamp," in order to gain re-entry to India (TJC Sept. 2011, 48). The website of the Consular, Passport and Visa Division states that in order to receive a NORI stamp in an IC, clearance is required by the Ministry of External Affairs as well as the FRRO and state government's "Department of Home Affairs / Police" (India n.d.a).
4. Visa Requirements
The TJC report indicates that Tibetans must obtain a return visa from the Indian consulate of the country abroad before returning to India, noting that there is "no guarantee" that the Indian authorities will grant the visa (TJC Sept. 2011, 49). Sources indicate that all foreign nationals require a visa to enter India, with the exception of those from Nepal and Bhutan (BLS n.d.; India n.d.e). The "India Visa Online" website of the government of India states that the visa is obtained from an Indian Mission abroad (India n.d.c). Applicants are asked to submit the visa application online, and bring a signed physical copy of the application, along with supporting documents, to the Indian Visa Application Center or to the Indian Mission or Post on the date of the interview (India n.d.c).
According to the TJC board member, the ease of obtaining a visa and the duration of the visa vary depending on the type of travel document the Tibetan individual possesses, such as an IC or a US-issued Refugee Travel Document or Re-entry Permit (TJC 3 Dec. 2014). The same source noted that Tibetans who retained their ICs have an easier time obtaining a visa than Tibetans with a Refugee Travel Document or Re-entry permit, who tend to be issued visas with a shorter duration (ibid.).
The TJC board member indicated that the Indian consulate in the US has outsourced visa processing to a private company (ibid.). The website of the High Commission of India in Ottawa indicates that, since 2013, the processing of applications for visas from Canada has been outsourced to the company BLS International (India n.d.d). The website of BLS International provides instructions for different types of visas (BLS n.d.).
5. Exit Permit
According to the TJC board member, IC holders in India must also obtain an Exit Permit from local Indian authorities before they leave India (TJC 3 Dec. 2014). According to the BDL, the documents required to obtain a supporting letter for an Exit Permit are a valid travel document, an immigration visa, a Registration Certificate, a Police Clearance Certificate, and the Green Book (BDL n.d.b).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
 The Tibet Justice Center is a California-based volunteer committee of lawyers and other experts promoting human rights, environmental governance, refugee protection and self-governance for the people of Tibet (TJC n.d.).
 The Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is located in New Delhi and functions as "the nodal agent of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration" and liaises with Indian government agencies, foreign embassies, NGOs and other bodies on behalf of the Central Tibetan Administration (BDL n.d.a).
 A Registration Certificate is similar to an identity card (The Times of India 24 Aug. 2012). It is issued by India's Foreign Registration Office (FRO) or Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) (ibid. 2 Mar. 2014). For more information about Registration Certificates and residency rights for Tibetans in India, see Response to Information Request IND105009.
BLS International. N.d. "Applying for an Indian Visa (from Canada)." [Accessed 5 Dec. 2014]
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (BDL). 2 December 2014. Correspondence from the Secretary to the Research Directorate.
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (BDL). 16 February 2013. "Identity Certificate (IC) Information." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2014]
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (BDL). N.d.a. "About Us." [Accessed 1 Dec. 2014]
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (BDL). N.d.b. "Documents Required for Exit Permit." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2014]
Hindustan Times. 30 March 2014. Manoj Sharma. "To Vote or Not to Vote: Torn Between Two identities, Tibetans Debate New Right." (Factiva)
India. N.d.a. Passport Seva, Consular, Passport and Visa Division, Ministry of External Affairs. "Identity Certificate." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2014]
India. N.d.b. Ministry of External Affairs. "Identity Certificate Form." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2014]
India. N.d.c. Indian Visa Online. "Overview." [Accessed 1 Dec. 2014]
India. N.d.d. High Commission of India in Ottawa. "Outsourcing of Consular Services." [Accessed 5 Dec. 2014]
India. N.d.e. Bureau of Immigration. "Visa Requirement." [Accessed 10 Dec. 2014]
Power Politics. 5 August 2011. "How Namgyal Became an Indian Citizen." (Factiva)
Professor of Law, Touro Law School, Central Islip, New York. 3 December 2014. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.
Tibet Justice Center (TJC). 3 December 2014. Correspondence from a board member to the Research Directorate.
Tibet Justice Center (TJC). September 2011. Tibet's Stateless Nationals II: Tibetan Refugees in India. [Accessed 5 Dec. 2014]
Tibet Justice Center (TJC). N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 4 Dec. 2014]
Times of India. 2 March 2014. "Right to Vote?" 2 March 2014. (Factiva)
The Times of India. 24 August 2012. Lawrence Milton. "Home Ministry Revises Renewal Period of Certificate for Tibetans to Five Years." [Accessed 5 Dec. 2014]
United States (US). 27 February 2014. "India." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. [Accessed 26 Nov. 2014]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources, including: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Canada Tibet Committee; Central Tibet Administration – Department of Information and International Relations, Reception Center; International Campaign for Tibet; Office of Tibet in Washington. The following organizations were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response: India – Embassy of India in Ottawa.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Asia Human Rights Commission; Canada Tibet Committee; Central Tibet Administration; Factiva; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; International Campaign for Tibet; Migration Policy Institute; Radio Free Asia; United Nations – Integrated Regional Information Networks, Refworld.
India. N.d. Consular, Passport and Visa Division, Ministry of External Affairs. Identity Certificate Form.