Indians in US face problems in consular services

Maitri Singh 82-year-old, living in US can`t withdraw her pension from a bank in India because she was suffering from advance stage of Alzheimer.

Washington: Suffering from advance stage of
Alzheimer and living in the US, 82-year-old Maitri Singh can`t
withdraw her pension from a bank in India, where she was a
physician before retiring.

This is because the Indian Embassy here has refused to
attest Singh`s (name changed) duly notarised affidavit, which
authorises her only son to sign necessary documents on her
behalf, because due to medical reasons she can`t sign the
application form, which Indian officials argue is a must
according to rules of the Indian government.

Had, Singh, been a resident of any of the States -- Iowa,
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North
Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin -- falling under the
jurisdiction of Indian Consulate in Chicago, this would not
have been a problem as even a thumb impression of her would
have met the criteria for the Consulate to attest the
necessary affidavit.

"In case of those who cannot sign, thumb impression," say
the website of the Indian Consulate in Chicago in its rules
for miscellaneous services including power of attorney.

Had Singh been a resident of American States like
California falling under Indian Consulate in San Francisco,
there would have been a different set of rules.

San Francisco Consulate rules stipulates that her power
of attorney should have been first notarised and then
"apostilled" by the Secretary of State of California, before
the documents were considered for attestation.

"All consulates have different versions of rules and
regulations and interpret them in their own way," Inder Singh,
chairman of Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin
(GOIPO), told.

"When people go to the website from one consulate to
another, they get more confused when they read the same rules
differently interpreted," Singh said.

According to latest census figures there are about three
million Indian Americans living here. "This causes a lot of
inconvenience to Indian-Americans," Singh said.

Sources spoke to a dozen Indian-Americans, whose applications
for attesting affidavits or other services were turned down
either by the Indian Embassy or the four Consulates.

In all these cases they would have got their documents
attested had their residences been in a different State.

All of them requested that their names not be published,
fearing that this might jeopardise their case in the future.

The Indian Embassy here did not respond to the questions
sent regarding what rules govern these consular services and
why there were different set of rules and conditions for same
services by its different diplomatic posts.

A study of the guidelines posted on websites by the
Indian Embassy and its four Consulates in New York, Chicago,
Houston and San Francisco gives a confusing and different
pictures; which very often results in undue inconvenience and
harassment to Indian-Americans here, said Inder Singh.

Whereas the San Francisco Consulate encourages applicants
to have their affidavits and other documents attested even it
is apostallised, the embassy website says: "Embassy of India
will not re-authenticate a public document that has been
apostilled by the authorities of the country of origin."

New York consulate offers a middle path. Incidentally,
all of them refer to the Hague convention.

"Apostille Convention: the Hague Convention, to which
India and USA are signatories, abolishes the requirement of
legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. However in smany
places in India, they would easily recognise the attestation
by the Indian Embassy/Consulate and hence may ask for attested
copy despite the document already being apostilled.

"Hence, to avoid any inconvenience, if you wish to have
the apostilled document also attested by the Consulate, you
may apply to the Consulate," says the website of the Indian
Consulate in San Francisco.

"All consulates and embassies should implement uniform
policies regarding passport surrender and visa issuance and
this information should be identical on consular websites,"

GOPIO said in a recent memorandum submitted to the government.

Even the application form required to be filled up by
Indian-Americans for these services are different; so is the
case with the fees associated with these services.

While the Indian Consulate in San Francisco accepts debit
cards, besides money order and cashier`s cheque, the Chicago
Consulate and the embassy says it will not accept payments
through debit cards.

While the embassy says it will read the content of the
affidavits and power of attorney`s before attesting it, other
consulates say its role is simply to attest the signature.

"Role of the Consulate is restricted to the attestation
of applicant`s signature with no responsibility of contents,"
says the Chicago Consulate website.

"Please note that POA or another document that has
monetary implication will not be accepted at counter only if
the applicant is himself/herself present and no family member
is allowed to submit on behalf of others," says the embassy
website in capital and bold letters.

"The Consulate reserves the right to reject attestation
of documents the contents of which are objectionable or
contrary to the Rules," says the San Francisco Consulate.

The Chicago Consulate requires presence of the applicant
at the Consulate for attestation of the POA; whereas this
provision is waived off by the Indian Embassy in Washington,
which has a different set of rules.

"For attestation of the POA the applicant has to come in
person in the Consulate and has to sign in front of the
Consular Officer. Hence POA attestation application by mail
will not (repeat NOT) be accepted/entertained by the
Consulate. POA document(s) is/are attested by the Consulate
only if these are to be produced in Idia only," the Chicago
Consulate says.

"If the application is submitted in person by the
applicant at the counter, notarization is not necessary but
the applicant has to sign the document at the counter," says
the embassy.