Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)

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OCI vis-à-vis PIO: as in January 2015. Graphic: The Times of India

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Asylees in foreign countries

2019: asylees to get visas, OCI cards

Bharti Jain, April 28, 2019: The Times of India

Govt tweaks rules, asylees to get visas, OCI cards

New Delhi:

In a major relief to persons of Indian origin (PIOs) who have taken asylum in foreign countries and are often denied consular services by Indian missions there for being on their local blacklist, India has directed all missions to abolish such locally maintained lists. This will help asylum-takers and their family members (derivative asylees) avail of consular services, including visa and OCI services, at their local Indian missions, as long as they are not on the central blacklist approved by the MHA. Many of the beneficiaries will be asylees hailing from Punjab who had taken asylum in countries like Canada and the US, citing fear of religious persecution back home during the crackdown on the pro-Khalistan movement.


Indian missions instructed to abolish local blacklists

Many of asylum-takers had been facing problems in getting visa and OCI benefits in their respective Indian missions that maintain local blacklists comprising names of such asylum-takers, in addition to the central blacklist.

The Modi government, acknowledging the sensitivities of many Sikh asylumtakers and their family members who have not been able to visit their native places or relatives even years after the end of Sikh militancy, has now issued instructions to all missions/posts abroad to abolish local blacklists. The missions have been asked to provide all asylees and their family members, whose names do not figure in the central blacklist, consular services, including visa services and OCI-related benefits. It has also directed the missions to continue with the usual checks and due diligence in line with the existing orders.

Sources said the decision reflects the recognition that many of the asylumseekers were, in fact, economic migrants who were forced to pass themselves off as victims of political persecution in order to escape the bleak economic condition then back home.

“Most of them never posed a security risk. They are now old, are keen to engage with their roots and kin and visit Golden Temple and other places of pilgrimage. They deserve compassion,” said a senior government functionary as he explained the reasons which went into the decision.

“This is an important confidence-building measure on the part of the government for PIOs. This is yet another step in line with Indian diaspora-friendly policies of Modi government,” said a government functionary.

Overseas Citizenship of India cards

The OCI card explained

The OCI card explained
OCI cards issued, 2014-17
The estimated size of the Indian diaspora
From: Nov 9, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic:

The OCI card explained
OCI cards issued, 2014-17
The estimated size of the Indian diaspora

Number of OCI cards issued till Aug 2013

No. of PIOs with overseas Indian citizenship card soars 10 fold

Himanshi Dhawan TNN

The Times of India 2013/08/09

New Delhi: India has been adding to its population not just within its territory but also outside the country. Over 2 lakh people of Indian origin have opted for the overseas citizenship of India (OCI) card every year since 2010 while 1 lakh OCI cards were issued in March-July 2013.

The largest group of overseas citizens of India is in the USA, which boasts of 5.2 lakh card holders, followed by the UK with 3.1 lakh people. Other countries that have a significant number of OCIs are Australia (1.3 lakh) and Canada (1.1 lakh). This means that roughly four out of every five OCIs live in one of these four countries.

OCI card members increased from 1.12 lakh in 2006-2007 to 12.52 lakh as on February 2013, growing more than ten-fold in just seven years. Between February and July 2013, the number of OCI card holders has gone up to 13.72 lakh. In addition, there are 11,672 applications under process in 107 Indian missions and posts across the world.


US | 5.2 lakh card holders UK | 3.1 lakh Australia | 1.3 lakh Canada | 1.1 lakh

Four out of every 5 OCI card holders live in one of these countries. In last 5 months alone, 1 lakh cards were issued

Saudi Arabia, which plays host to the largest number of overseas Indians, has only 968 OCIs registered. Pakistan has 2 OCIs, Nepal 6, Croatia 8 while Mali and Mongolia have one each. There are 4 OCIs in Libya and 19 in Cambodia, according to the data collated by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs (MOIA). The card is not given to citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

OCI can’t be read as dual citizenship

However, overseas citizenship of India card (OCI) cannot be construed as “dual citizenship” as card holders do not have the right to vote, hold a constitutional post, run for elections or buy agricultural or plantation land. The scheme is open only for persons of Indian origin (PIOs) who were eligible or were already citizens of India as on January 26, 1950.

The OCI card provides multiple-entry, multi-purpose lifelong entry visa for visiting India and exemption from registration with local police authorities for any length of stay. It also allows parity with non-resident Indians with respect to economic, financial and educational fields, facilitates inter-country adoption of Indian children, allows opening of bank account in India and be charged the same entry fees as NRIs at national monuments, national parks and museums.

OCIs also get parity with non-resident Indians in respect of practicing professions in India like doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, advocates, architects and chartered accountantssubject to the relevant laws governing these professions.

2015: Merger of OCI with PIO

Citizenship ordinance merging PIO, OCI schemes gets Prez nod The Times of India Jan 07 2015

The President cleared an ordinance amending the Indian Citizenship Act to merge the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes. The amendments relaxed the stipulation of one-year continuous stay in India by certain categories of applicants -including a PIO, a foreign national married to an Indian citizen and an OCI of 5 years -before they can seek Indian citizenship.

The President has signed the citizenship ordinance, President's press secretary Venu Rajamony was quoted by agencies as saying. Home ministry officials confirmed the development. The amendments to the Citizenship Act will merge the benefits of PIO and OCI schemes and rename the combined project as Indian Overseas Cardholder scheme. The PIOs would thus enjoy a life-long Indian visa, besides exemption from registering themselves with the Foreigners Registration Office Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FROFRRO) if their stay in India exceeds six months. This is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurance to the Indian diaspora at New York's Madison Square Garden, where he announced life-time visas for PIOs as well as merger of the PIO and OCI schemes. The decision to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 was taken after a large number of representations were received from PIOs, complaining about police reporting required beyond 180 days of stay , within the next 30 days. Also, PIO cardholders were eligible for only 15-year visas, as against life-long visas provided to those OCI card-holders.

No OCI card for retired foreign military personnel

No OCI card for retired foreign military personnel, Neeraj Chauhan | TNN | Nov 11, 2016

The government recently discussed a proposal to give Overseas Citizens of India card to Indian origin persons with military background in at least 80 countries but ministry of home affairs has reportedly decided against it.

Sources in home ministry said that ministry of external affairs had sent the proposal for consideration but any move to grant OCI cards to Indians abroad with military background will be against the country's interests.

The inter-ministerial committee's recommendation came after careful examination of all aspects of granting OCI cards to Indian origin people who had served the armed forces of any foreign country.

"The committee felt that any person with military background (retired) should not have uninterrupted access to Indian territories. If such a person is granted OCI card, he or she could enter India without visa and the facility is offered for life," a senior government official said.

The move came after the government received several applications of Indian origin persons who had served in militaries of foreign countries.

Benefits of OCI card

Life-long visa

An OCI card holder gets benefits like life-long visa and exemption from appearing before the local police station on every visit. The benefits are passed on their children as well.

OCI students are eligible for state quota

Vasanth Kumar, December 16, 2020: The Times of India

Students holding Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards must be treated as Indian citizens for the purpose of admission to professional courses and they are entitled to admission under the state quota, the Karnataka high court ruled.

The court observation came while disposing of a batch of petitions by students and a writ appeal by the state government. A division bench comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and NS Sanjay Gowda pointed out that when the issue pertains to citizenship, the state law must yield to the Citizenship Act, the central legislation enacted by Parliament.

The HC said the petitioners were minors at the time of filing of petitions and had the benefit of a dual citizenship being conferred on account of their birth in a foreign country and also citizenship of India as per the Act, a right particularly conferred on minors so as to safeguard and protect their interests until they attain majority.

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