The Government of India has effectively scrapped the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card scheme through the amended act Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015. The PIO scheme, launched in 2002 was aimed at providing some of the citizenship benefits applicable for Indian citizens to Indian-origin people with foreign nationalities. A corresponding scheme called the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) was launched in 2006 to which offered more benefits to Indian-origin foreign citizens than the PIO cards. In 2015, the government announced a merger of both the schemes to streamline the process for all overseas citizens of India.
Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015
The amendment to the Citizenship Act was passed in March 2015 by both the houses of parliament and came into effect from 6 th January 2015 onwards. As per the new act, the following measures have come into force in terms of merging of the two cards:
- People with PIO cards will automatically be considered as OCI cardholders and may obtain a separate OCI card if they so desire
- People who are in the process of receiving their PIO cards will automatically be considered as OCI cardholders when the application gets processed.
- People whose PIO card applications are still unapproved will need to reapply for OCI cards.
Eligibility for new OCI cards
For applying for the new OCI cards, an applicant should satisfy the following criteria:
- Who were citizens of India at any point since the Indian constitution came into being (26 th January 1950).
- Who were eligible for Indian citizenship at the time of inception of constitution.
- Who were citizens of territories that integrated into the Union of India after Independence on 15 th August 1947
- Children, grand-children or great grand-children of people who were citizens of India at any point since the Indian constitution came into being on 26 th January 1950.
- At least one of the parents in an Indian citizen.
- Spouse of an OCI/PIO cardholder or Indian citizen, who are eligible to apply for registration if their marriage was registered and subsisted for at least 2 continuous years before application.
- The amended act has also provided for special circumstance where a
- Bangladesh and Pakistan citizens cannot apply for the new OCI cards. Restrictions are also expanded to include the parents, grandparents or great-grandparents of such citizens.
- All OCI cardholders below 20 years and above 50 years of age need to apply for the new OCI card along with any new passport.
The above is a non-exhaustive list of passport services we offer. If you require any other service, contact our team who will be happy to help and advise.
Benefits of applying for an OCI card are:
- Multiple entries, with multi-purpose life-long Visa being offered to visit India.
- Exception from having to report to Police authorities for any length of stay in India.
- Equality with NRIs in all spheres of financial, economic and educational fields barring the purchase of agricultural or plantation properties
Important Note: Vide circular No. 26011/06/2015-OCI dated 29th January, 2015 of Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, all immigration authorities in India will not insist on production of the foreign passport containing the 'U' Visa Sticker in the case of OCI Cardholders while they enter / exit India and the immigration clearance will be granted based on production of the 'OCI CARD ONLY'.
New OCI cardholders vs Indian citizens
New OCI cardholders are withheld from having some of the rights available to Indian citizens, including:
- Work opportunity with public enterprises.
- Standing in elections for Vice President or President of India.
- As judges in High Courts or the Supreme Court.
- Voting rights for elections.
- As a member of Legislative Council or Legislative Assembly of any Indian state.
- As a member of Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha.
- As an appointed member in public posts or services in lieu of affairs of the Centre or any State.
Lead NRI and OCI applications:
If you wish to obtain an OCI or make any changes to your existing OCI, such as changing your photo due to an appearance change, Lead NRI and visa services have experienced staff who can deal with your OCI needs at any time. If you are unsure whether an OCI will be of any benefit to you, please contact our team to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of having an OCI and whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages for your personal needs.