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