As per guidelines that were made effective only recently, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked service providers to not provide mobile connections exceeding 3 months to foreign tourists in the country. The guidelines further instruct service providers that while issuing a SIM card to a foreign tourist, the latter's passport with a valid visa ought to be considered as the proof. This move by the government, evaluated by the Union Home Ministry, is in an attempt to curb the misuse of SIM cards issued to these foreign nationals by locals, after the former depart from the country.   

The guidelines read, “Any mobile connection issued to a foreigner should not have a validity beyond the validity of the visa. In case of foreign tourist, the validity of connection should not be beyond the visa period and also not exceed three months at a time even if the validity of the visa is beyond three months.”

No bulk SMSes, MMSes for the next 15 days (Image credit: Getty Images)

No mobile connection exceeding 3 months to foreign tourists (Image credit: Getty Images)

Going further, the guidelines instruct that for the address proof of the foreign national, the address of a local reference, including that of the tour operator, shall be taken. In the absence of a local reference, the guidelines state that the address of stay shall be taken. 

The guidelines further add that as per the revised guidelines issued on filling a Consumer Application Form (CAF), DoT has now made it compulsory for the licensee to sign the form before the activation of the SIM card, thereby certifying that the details submitted on the form is correct. It added further, “The date of sale of SIM and activation of SIM is required to be established from the entries in the CAF. For this purpose, entry of date is to be made with the signature of subscriber at the time of filing of CAF.”

Importantly, the fresh guidelines also provide for the connections issued to the personnel deployed on ships. As per guidelines, the mobile connections issued to them while at the sea shore would be valid only till the date they have the permit to stay at the port. 

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) shall be provided with the list of connections that have been issued to foreigners and such other short-term SIM cards, separately while submitting monthly database. 

Recent reports had indicated that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is reportedly planning to approach the Commerce and Industry Ministry on the issue of banning the import of phones with fake IMEI numbers.

An IMEI or International Mobile Equipment Identity number is a unique 15-digit code that is assigned to a handset and is unique to GSM, WCDMA and iDEN mobile phones as well as some satellite phones. To view the IMEI number of a handset, dial *#06#. It works on most keypads. The IMEI number flashes on the operator's network when a call is made and allows authorities to track users.

Off late, instances of IMEI cloning have been on the rise. Although cloning of IMEI numbers is not commonplace yet in the case of CDMA handsets, instances of cloning in the case of GSM handsets are aplenty. Mobile handsets with cloned IMEI numbers cannot be tracked, making them a deterrent to national security. 

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