An ordinance has been passed amending the Indian Citizenship Act to merge the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes. The amendment came into force end of last year based upon Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi address to the Indian diaspora on his visit to the USA.
The decision to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, was taken after several complaints were received from PIOs, whose major gripes were visits to the local police stations and stringent visa norms that debarred them from buying property in India, in comparison to those holding an OCI card. Requests and representations from a large number of Indian diaspora living in the US, Canada, Australia, and different parts of the world led the government to take a stand on the issue of merging the PIO and OCI schemes.
The PIO and OCI scheme will be merged and the combined scheme will be called as the “Indian Overseas Cardholder”.The merging of the scheme aims at enhancing networking and reinforcing commercial linkages.
This has come as a relief to the millions of PIOs, who often visited India, but had to face reporting and other issues compared to those who came under the OCI scheme. The OCI scheme was more popular, since it provided a lifelong visa and the process for obtaining the OCI card was more user-friendly, quick and simple.
Some salient features of the PIO and OCI merging scheme are:
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, will help PIOs to get lifelong visas and exemption from appearing before the local police station on every visit to India.
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, promulgated, will also do away with the clause requiring foreigners who marry Indians to continuously stay in India for one year before getting Indian citizenship. They will now be able to travel outside the country for up to 30 days in a year.
- It enables the registration as OCI by a foreign spouse of an Indian citizen or such spouses of an OCI cardholder, provided their marriage has been registered and has subsisted for not less than 2 years immediately preceding the presentation of the citizenship application.
- It also allows a minor child born to Indian citizens to be registered as an OCI. Besides providing for registration of a minor, whose parents are Indian citizens as an OCI, the ordinance also paves the way for registration as an OCI by a child or a grand-child or a great grandchild of such a citizen.
We, at SMA Legal, welcome this initiative of the Indian Government at understanding issues which make it easier for PIO’s to visit their motherland without any unnecessary obstacles to their entry. We strongly feel more such initiatives, which bring the Indian diaspora closer to India, are needed.