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NPZ Immigration Law Blog

Thursday, March 19, 2015

OCI CARDHOLDER: INDIA OFFERS MULTIPLE ENTRY & MULTI-PURPOSE LIFE-LONG VISA TO ITS OVERSEAS CITIZENS.

Introduction

The Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, during his last visit to the United States, had promised to the Indian community about a life-time visa and exemption from the requirement of registering with police authorities during long-term stays in India for Persons of Indian Origin (PIO)[1].

Giving effect to the Prime Minister's promise, the Central Government of India[2] through a Gazette Notification[3] notified that that the PIO card scheme has been merged with the OCI scheme[4] and the new scheme will be referred as "Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholder. The new scheme need not be confused with dual citizenship because the Constitution of India does not offer dual citizenship. This is only a scheme to bring PIO and OCI in parity.

The Gazette notification further stated that all existing PIO cardholders shall be deemed as OCI cardholders effective January 9, 2015. All PIO applications currently pending are being returned to the applicants with a request to apply for OCI card on the same fee prescribed for the PIO card. In case the PIO cardholder has new passport then he or she can travel to India on their new passport with the valid PIO card and old passport mentioned on the PIO card.

Who Can Register As An (OCI) Cardholder?

Amending the Citizenship Act of 1955, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has extended the registration as an OCI cardholder to the following categories of people:

• Any person who is a citizen of another country[5], but: (1) was a citizen of India at the time of, or at any time after, the commencement of the Constitution; (2) was eligible to become a citizen of India at the time of the commencement of the Constitution or (3) belonged to a territory that became part of India after the 15th day of August, 1947.

• Minor children where both their parents are citizens of India, or where one of the parents is a citizen of India.

• Great grandchildren of certain Individuals who were previously Indian citizens or were eligible to be Indian citizens[6].

• The spouse of foreign origin of an India citizen or of an OCI cardholder whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a minimum of two years, subject to prior security clearance. The OCI card would be cancelled if the marriage is dissolved or the spouse who obtained the OCI card marries another person.

What Are The Benefits For An OCI Cardholder?

An OCI cardholder would get the following benefits:

• A multiple entry, multi-purpose life-long visa for visiting India.

• Exemption from registration with local police authority for any length of stay in India.

• Parity with Non-resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of economic, financial and educational fields, except in relation to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

• OCI can be used as identity proof for application of PAN Card and driving license as well as for opening a bank account if the OCI cardholder is residing in India.

What Benefits An OCI Cardholder Is Not Entitled To.

The OCI Cardholder will not be entitled:

• To vote.

• To be a member of a Legislative Assembly or of a Legislative Council or of the Parliament of India.

• To hold Indian constitutional posts such as that of the President, Vice President, Judge of the Supreme Court or High Court etc.

• He/she cannot normally hold employment in the Government.

Under What Circumstances The Indian Government Can Cancel The OCI Cardholder Registration?

Section 7D of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (amended), specifies the grounds under which the Central Government of India can cancel the OCI cardholder registration. Note that while certain grounds are specific, some are vague. Specifically, the Indian Central Government may cancel the registration if it is satisfied that:

• the registration was obtained by means of fraud, false misrepresentation or the concealment of any material fact.

• the OCI cardholder shows disaffection towards the Constitution of India.

• the OCI cardholder has, during any war in which India may be engaged or been engaged in, has unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy, or assisted an enemy.

• the OCI cardholder, within five years after registration, has been sentenced to imprisonment for a term two years or more.

• it is necessary to cancel the registration in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India; the security of India, maintaining friendly relationship with any foreign country, or in the interests of the general public.

• the marriage of an OCI cardholder who had obtained registration through marriage to an Indian Citizen or OCI cardholder has been either dissolved or the foreign spouse has solemnized marriage with another person.

Conclusion

Based on the foregoing, the Central government of India has not only changed the name of the scheme previously called as OCI to OCI cardholder, by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955, it has completely abolished the PIO scheme. However, note that the new scheme is not a dual citizenship that the Indian government is offering to its overseas citizens, it is mere aprivilege which can be taken away by the Central government of India. Also, worth highlighting is that the Individuals who currently hold PIO do not need to make an application for OCI cardholder because the existing PIO cardholder would be deemed as OCI cardholder.


[1] Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) was a form of identification issued to a Person of Indian Origin who holds a passport in another country other than Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. The PIO card was valid only for 15 years and required registration with local police authorities in the event of continuous stay beyond 180 days.

[2] Ministry of Home Affairs.

[3] The Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance 2015.

[4] OCI scheme was limited to PIOs of certain categories as specified in the Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The OCI card provided a life-long visa to India and the holder was not required to register with the local police authorities.

[5] Except any person who had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government of India may later specify.

[6] The earlier OCI scheme Included only children and grandchildren.


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