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Merger of PIO and OCI: What it means to foreigners of Indian origin


The government of India vide Gazette notification no.26011/01/2014-IC-I dated 9.1.2015 notified that all the existing ‘Person of Indian Origin’ (PIO) card holders shall be deemed to be Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders under Indian Citizenship Act of 1955.

Now let us find out what it means to foreigners of Indian origin.

Meaning of Person of Indian Origin                                                       

Person of Indian Origin’ means a citizen of any country other than Bangladesh or Pakistan, if

  1. he at any time held Indian passport; or
  2. he or either of his parents or any of his grand- parents was a citizen of India by virtue of the Constitution of India or the Citizenship Act, 1955 (57 of 1955); or
  3. The person is a spouse of an Indian citizen or a person referred to in sub-clause ( a ) or (b

Since issuance of PIO cards is no longer exists after 9.1.2015, the applicants have to apply for OCI hereafter.

Overseas Citizen of India:

The PIOs (The foreigners of Indian origin except Pakistan and Bangladesh) are eligible to apply under OCI scheme, with any of the following evidences in respect of self or parents or grandparents:

  1. Being eligible to become a citizen of India at the time of commencement of Indian Constitution i.e. 26.01.1950. OR
  2. Belonging to a territory that became a part of India after 15.01.1947. OR
  3. Being a citizen of India on or after 26.01.1950.

A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is eligible to become Overseas Citizen of India (OCI), if his home country allows dual citizenship of some form or the other under their local laws.

Who is not eligible to apply for OCI?

The OCI Registration card will be issued by the Indian Mission/Posts abroad after scrutinizing the application and deciding eligibility. A person shall qualify on his/her own to become OCI. Being married to an OCI does not qualify a person to apply for OCI. If both parents are Indian citizens, the foreign born children are not eligible to apply for OCI. At least one parent must be a PIO (foreign citizen of Indian origin).

Features of Overseas Citizen of India scheme

A person registered as OCI will have following benefits. 

  1. Will have lifelong VISA to visit India for multiple purposes.
  2. Is exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India,
  3. Is exempted from reporting to Police Authorities on arrival to India.
  4. Is entitled to general ‘parity with Non-Resident Indians in respect of all facilities available to them in economic, financial and educational fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties’. Specific benefits/parity is notified by the Ministry from time to time.
  5. Can adapt an Indian child.
  6. Acquires parity with resident Indian nationals in matters of tariffs in domestic air fares ;
  7. Acquires parity with domestic Indian visitors in respect of entry fee for visiting national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India ;
  8. Acquires parity with non-resident Indians in respect of entry fees for visiting the national monuments, historical sites and museums in India;
  9. Acquires parity with Non Resident Indians in financial economic and educational field except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties’. Specific benefits/parity is notified by the Ministry from time to time.
  10. Does not require taking employment VISA for working at private sectors in India.
  11. Allowed starting professional services in India such as medical practice, advocate, architect etc. However OCI are not allowed in the field of mountaineering, missionary, research work and other works which requires protected area permit (PAP)/Restricted Area Permit (RAP).
  12. There is a misunderstanding with some people that OCI card is a dual citizenship passport. Actually, the OCI card holders do not get Indian Passport and there is no such thing as an OCI passport. The OCI documents consist of OCI Registration Booklet and a Universal visa (U Visa) sticker. It is mandatory for registered OCIs to carry their passports which carry the Universal visa sticker for entry into / exit from India.
  13. The OCI is eligible to apply for citizenship of India if he/she is a registered OCI for more than Five years. He/she must have stayed in India for continuously minimum one year. However such person has to renounce his/her foreign citizenship to be eligible for Indian citizenship.

An OCI card holder travelling to India is advised to carry both old pass ports and new passports (if U VISA sticker is attached to old passport) to avoid problems at immigration check points in India. Alternatively, miscellaneous services can be availed for transfer of U Visa sticker to new passport.

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