Many of you applying for an Indian Passport will come across this question “Are you eligible for Non-ECR Category?”. It can be very confusing with ECR and Non-ECR as many of us are not sure what they mean. Also, you may be asked for emigration clearance for employment in certain foreign countries for ECR passport holders. We will look at all these aspects, including how to get that removed as well if you are eligible.
Background: Indian Passport, Categories ECR & Non-ECR
Firstly, as you all know a passport is a travel document that is issued by a country’s government for its citizens. It certifies the identity and nationality of a passport holder. You need it to visit any country for tourism or to work overseas. It is no different for India as well, India also issues Passports to its citizens as a key international travel and identity document.
In India, there are two categories of passports: ECR(Emigration Check Required) and Non-ECR (formerly called ECNR- Emigration Check Not Required). Depending on the individual’s status like their education, age, marital status, etc. their passports would be categorized as ECR or Non-ECR category. This is indicated by a notation/text/stamp in the passport. Let’s look at each of them in detail in the next sections.
What does ECR in an Indian Passport mean? Who gets it?
ECR stands for ‘Emigration Check Required‘. In general, if you have not passed 10th grade/class (Matriculation or higher education pass certificate) then your passport will fall under ECR Category. An emigration check is nothing but a verification process that an individual has to go through if they plan to travel to certain countries for work as unskilled workers.
The main reason for indicating ECR in passports is to ensure that unskilled workers or anyone with less education are not exploited when they visit certain countries for work. Individuals with ECR notation on their passports need to get clearance from the Protector of Emigrants(POE) to ensure they are safe and their employment is in-line with proper rules and not they are not exploited when they travel to certain countries for work.
What is Non-ECR or ECNR in an Indian Passport?
Non-ECR, formerly known as ECNR, means Emigration Check is Not Required(ECNR). In general, if you have passed the 10th class/grade (Matriculation or Higher Educational Pass Certificate) or have a higher degree then your passport falls under Non-ECR Category.
Also, if you satisfy any of the below criteria you qualify for the Non-ECR category Passport.
- Official and Diplomatic passport holders
- Gazetted Government officers, their spouses, and children
- Individuals who are above the age of 50 years
- Children up to the age of 18 years.
- Income taxpayers ( including agricultural income taxpayers), their spouses, and children under 18 years.
- Professional degree holders such as Engineers, Doctors, CA, etc., their spouses, and children.
- Anyone who holds visas for permanent immigration/resident visas for the US, UK, and Australia
- Individuals who have spent three years overseas and their spouses
- Individuals who hold a diploma in nursing under the Indian Nursing Council Act 1947
- People holding diplomas in Polytechnic from any recognized institute.
- People who work in Sea with Continuous Discharge Certificate or Sea Cadets and Deck cadets.
Documents Required for Non-ECR Category Passport
Depending on your status listed above, you will need to carry the relevant documents to support the Non-ECR Category. Some of the common documents are listed below
- 10th Class Pass Certificate (Matriculation Pass Certificate)
- If you have Bachelor’s or Masters’s degree, their corresponding certificate
- If you are above 50 years, your proof of birth or supporting documents
- If you are under 18 years, proof of your date of birth
- If you have a polytechnic diploma or certificate related to the same.
- If you are a nurse, a nursing certificate.
- Check the article Documents required for Non-ECR Category Passport for a complete list of documents required based on the status of the individual.
Also, you can check Passport Office Non- ECNR page for the same documents checklist as well.
Difference between ECR vs Non-ECR (ECNR) Indian Passport
The main difference between having ECR vs Non-ECR on your Indian passport is your ability to travel and work in certain countries. If your passport has an ECR notation or stamp, then you need to get “Emigration Clearance” from the office of the Protector of Emigrants (POE), if you plan to work in a certain list of countries.
“Emigrate” means, migrating to another country for work. The whole idea of Emigration Clearance for ECR passport holders is to safeguard unskilled workers from being exploited when they plan to work outside of India in unskilled jobs. The Emigration Clearance process makes sure the unskilled workers go through properly certified agents, credentials are evaluated and other checks are done to protect them from fraud. Check Handbook for migrant workers from eMigrate.gov.in
What to select for ECR Question in the Indian Passport Application Form?
You will come across this question: “Are you eligible for Non-ECR Category?” or “Is the applicant eligible for Non-ECR Category” when you are filling out an Indian passport application form. It looks like in below screenshot in the Offline PDF form and the online application form
As described above, if you have not passed 10th class/grade ( Matriculation or high school pass certificate) and do not satisfy any of the above listed Non-ECR category criteria, then you would need to select NO.
Alternatively, if you have passed 10th grade/class, or have qualifications above that, or if you fall under any of the above listed Non-ECR category criteria, then you would select YES. Below is the screenshot of the complete list of requirements as given by the Passport Seva Website for Non-ECR Category.
How would I know, if my passport is ECR or Non-ECR?
If your passport falls under the ECR category, your passport will have it listed clearly with either a stamp/ notation or full text “EMIGRATION CHECK REQUIRED”. For passports before Jan 2007, it used to be a stamp, for the latest passports you will find the text written/endorsement on the address page of the passport.
Usually for passports issued after Jan 2007, if you do not find any endorsement / printed text/notation in the passport that says “EMIGRATION CHECK REQUIRED”, then your passport falls under the Non-ECR category. The practice of putting a Non-ECR (previously ECNR) stamp has been discontinued and you only see printed text notation in the passport, see the below screenshot of the sample notation.
Sample ECR Endorsement/ Notation in Passport
Below is the sample for ECR that was for a passport issued before 2007. Below is the sample for ECR, where the passport officer has crossed the ENCR part and left it as ECR. in Some cases, you would have a Stamp too.
Children or Minors Passport Classification – ECR or Non-ECR?
All children below the age of 18 years are eligible for Non-ECR till they attain the age of 18 years. Once they reach 18 years of age, they would need to provide proof such as their 10th class or higher education certificate during Passport Renewal to have their passport classified as Non-ECR. If they fail to provide that proof, then the passport would get a notation or printed text as in the above screenshot with “EMIGRATION CHECK REQUIRED”
ECR Passport – Emigration Clearance to work in Certain Countries?
As per the Emigration Act 1983, Indian Passport holders under the ECR category, who wish to travel to certain countries for employment will have to obtain Emigration Clearance from the office of the Protector of Emigrants (POE), Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. As per the Indian Bureau of Immigration (BOI), below is the list of those countries :
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)
As of now, there is a ban on emigration to Iraq.
How to Change from ECR to Non-ECR Indian Passport
The process to change from an ECR passport to a Non-ECR passport is very straightforward. Below is the general process :
- Apply for passport re-issue to change from ECR to Non-ECR
- When you are applying for the re-issue, you should select “YES” for the question “Are you eligible for Non-ECR Category?”
- When you go to the Passport office or upload proofs during the process, you need to submit all the relevant proofs for your eligibility like your 10th or matriculation pass certificate or degree certificate, income tax statements, etc. depending on your eligibility criteria.
- You can read How to apply for Indian Passport Re-issue Steps to know more.
You do not need Emigration Clearance for any of the above-listed countries as an ECR Passport holder if you are traveling for purposes other than employment like tourism, pleasure, or visiting friends/relatives. For the purpose of tourism or visiting friends, all you have to do is provide a valid passport, valid visa and return ticket at the immigration counters at international airports in India. These guidelines came into effect from Oct 2007.
You can indicate the mistake done by you at the Passport Seva Kendra and get it corrected by showing proper proofs that you need for a non-ECR category.
In general, it means leaving your home country with a plan to work abroad or any place outside of India.
It is a process that is administered by the Indian Govt body “Protector of Emigrants (PoE)” to make sure all unskilled workers leaving India are working through certified agents, have proper credentials, etc. to make sure they are not exploited in foreign countries.
Yes, you can. If your passport was ECR category in the past and now you qualify to be Non-ECR category due to changes in your situation either age, education or marital status, etc. then, you can follow the below steps to have it corrected from ECR to Non-ECR
What has been your experience with ECR or Non-ECR passports? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.