"Wait for flights to resume if your return is non-essential."
Popular and recognised immigration lawyer, Harjap Bhangal, is well known for his advice on legal matters related to immigration in the UK and citizenship.
His breadth of knowledge allows him to provide valuable and useful information to help people with the toughest of questions or dilemmas.
Being fluent in both English and Punjabi, Harjap’s bi-lingual skills have earned him an excellent reputation among the Punjabi community in the UK.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, DESIblitz has sought his advice with some questions to try and help those British citizens who are stranded in India and finding it difficult to get back home.
Here are the replies Harjap Bhangal exclusively gave to DESIblitz to the questions.
What is the process for getting back to the UK?
Harjap said that there are two ways you can get a flight back to the UK from India.
“One way is to wait until international and commercial flights are resuming again.”
“At the moment India’s lockdown is until the 3rd of May. Therefore, can’t really see them resuming in May or June 2020.
“They might resume in June. so you can sit and wait it out.
“Wait for flights to resume if your return is non-essential.”
This was probably the best advice Harjap said he could give. However, the second way he said was as follows.
“The British government are running repatriation flights and you need to register yourself with the British High Commission in New Delhi.
“You’ll get a reference number and you need to register yourself for a flight back.
“Now these are not free but there are flights coming back.”
“You have to do this before the 20th of April (by midnight April 19)”
“If you are registered with them, they will get you a flight back to the UK.”
“You’ll be brought back to London from where you can arrange your own return.”
Who should you contact?
Being a British citizen stranded in India we asked Harjap who should they contact. He replied, there are three areas of contact you need to make:
“You should contact your MP (in the UK) to let them know where you are.
“You should contact the British High Commission (in New Delhi) so they know who you are.”
Harjap said you need to provide them with the following details when you contact them.
- Your name
- Your address in India
- Your address in the UK
- Your UK phone number
- Report any medical conditions you may have
Harjap then stated the third organisation to contact, while you are stuck in India, saying:
“The other organisation you need to contact is called the FRRO.”
“This is based usually in your local police station in India.
“You register yourself as a foreigner living there. That way the Indian government will know you are staying there.
“You can register with them through an e-portal as well.
“They will extend your visa to 30th April 2020 and maybe beyond that depending on how long the lockdown lasts.”
“So the police station is always a good place to get yourself registered at.
“They can get you access to medicines as well and any requirements and check up on you as well.”
What are the legal rights of British Citizens?
Responding to this question Harjap said:
“They will be the rights of any tourists.
“Remember you are a British citizen, you are not an Indian citizen. You might even have an Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card there, that doesn’t make you an Indian citizen.
“So you are the nationality of the passport that you hold.
“You don’t effectively have the same rights as Indian citizens but you’d have the rights of a tourist there.
“So, you have basic legal rights there.”
“You should contact the British High Commission if you have any problems or trouble.”
“And they will try to assist you. Because the British High Commission is British soil based in India.
“Just like the Indian High Commission in the UK is Indian soil.”
What if you can’t get an international flight back?
Harjap stated that it will most likely mean staying in India until international flights open again.
He then said in this case, the advice would be to:
“Stay secure, stay isolated and avoid temptation to go out.
“At the moment compared to the number of deaths India is probably safer thank the UK.
“So wherever you are, stay isolated, keep in contact with people, make sure you’ve got internet access and wait it out.
“Because international flights will resume. That’s a definite. It’s just a matter of time.
“We are looking at perhaps June. India and the UK have extended their lockdown. But flights are coming into the UK.
“Repatriation flights are really something you need to get (if you are in a hurry).”
“If not, if you’re intending to come back August or September or October anyway then by all means stay in India and wait it out.
“Wait for commercial airlines to get back up and running again. And believe me, they are really on the case because they are losing business and they can’t afford to.
“They are lobbying governments to get the flights started again.”
What’s your overall advice?
Overall Harjap re-iterated his points and answers he gave to the previous questions saying:
“For those British citizens who want to come back now, is get the repatriation flights back. Register yourself and get yourself back.
“Yes, it is going to cost you but at least you will be back home.
“Otherwise, be prepared to sit and wait it out and secure yourself there. At least in India, in your ancestral home, you will have a bigger place to walk around than you would here.
“At least you’ll have fresh air there and a big garden.
“If not and you just need to get to back due to a lot of reasons. You might have work, care or medication you might need here. Although you can get your medication in India, then get the repatriation flight back.
“Register yourself before April 20th. Not on the 20th. It’s 19th April midnight it ends.”
“Make sure you are registered because the UK are looking to organise a mass repatriation of anyone that’s left out there.
“And remember there’s a lot of British people stranded in India. Up to about 12,000. So, it’s a big job.
“Good luck in getting back and stay safe.”
Watch the video with Harjap Bhangal’s advice:
From the advice provided by Harjap Bhangal there are two core options currently available. One is to register for a repatriation flight or the other is to stay in India and wait until commercial flights resume.
Both of these do still require patience and vigilance and while it is going to be very difficult for anyone to perceive the stress and strain this is putting on British citizens stuck in India, these options hopefully do provide a way for them to get back to the UK.
It is important for those who are stranded in India to keep checking local and UK based news for updates on what is available to them such as the UK GOV site.