Recently, author & writer Aatish Tasser’s OCI card was cancelled by
the Government on allegations that he concealed that his late father was of
Pakistani origin while submitting the PIO application. But who exactly is an
Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)? How does one apply for the OCI card? Here is
an explainer.

Indian
diaspora is the largest
in the world. Migration due to trade, colonial rule, employment etc. at various
intervals of time in the history has led to the spread of India diaspora in
more than 200 +
countries
as per the latest data from the Ministry of External
Affairs (MEA).

After
the formation of India as an Independent Republic, relevant legislation was
made to define who is eligible to be Indian Citizen. The
Citizenship Act, 1955
lays down the provisions
which determine a Citizen in India. One of the key aspects about Indian
citizenship is that it does not allow for dual citizenship i.e. an individual
holding citizenship of another country cannot be a citizen of India.

For
a long time, there have been calls to review this, especially regarding people
of Indian origin living elsewhere in the world. It was demanded that the
government provide recognition and extend certain privileges to persons of
Indian origin who are citizens of other countries.

Over
the years, the number of Indians working abroad or migrating to other countries
has increased. In-fact the latest UNO data states that India
has the largest share
of International migrant
stock.

Efforts
towards recognizing people of Indian origin.

Persons
of Indian Origin (PIO Card) came into effect on 30 March 1999. This was meant
for overseas Indians who or whose forefathers have migrated to another country
prior to Indian Independence and was valid for a period of 15 years. After a
lukewarm response to the scheme, a High-Level committee on Indian Diaspora made
certain recommendations.

Based
on these recommendations, the Government of India launched the ‘Overseas
Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme’ by making amendments
to Citizenship Act, 1955 in 2005.

This
scheme
was launched
during Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, held in Hyderabad in
2006.

On
09 January 2015, the Government of India
discontinued the PIO card and merged  it with
OCI card. In other words, those who held a PIO card by that time were deemed to
have OCI card.

What
is OCI Card?

OCI
card was introduced as a response to the multiple calls for granting dual
citizenship for overseas Indians. However, since the constitution of India does
not allow for dual citizenship, OCI card was introduced with certain
restrictions. However, there are many benefits for persons of Indian origin who
are issued an OCI Card.

Government
of India allows the following categories of foreign nationals to apply for OCI
Card.

Anyone
who is applying for OCI card should hold a valid Passport of another country.
Individuals who do not have citizenship of any other country are not eligible
to gain an OCI status. Furthermore, individuals whose parents or grandparents
hold citizenship of Pakistan and Bangladesh are not eligible to apply. This may
extend to other countries as notified by Government of India.

Lifelong
visa with Multiple entry, any length of stay among the benefits for OCI Card
Holders

The
experience of the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card scheme provided important learnings
for Government of India in terms of the benefits to that can be extended to the
overseas citizens, which can encourage them to be part of any such scheme.

Keeping
these in mind, multiple benefits have been extended to OCI Card holders like
the following.

  • Lifelong Visa to visit India multiple times. (special
    permission needed for research work in India).
  • No need to register with Foreigners Regional Registration
    Officer (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) for any length of stay.
  • Except for acquisition of agricultural and plantation
    properties, OCI card holders have similar facilities that are extended to NRIs
    in economic, financial and educational fields.
  • Same treatment as of NRIs in respect to Inter-country
    adoption of Indian children.
  • Also treated at par with NRIs regarding – entry fees
    for national monuments, practice of professions like doctors, dentists, nurses,
    advocates, architects, Chartered Accountants & Pharmacists.
  • At par with NRIs to participate in All India
    Pre-medical tests and such. 
  • Treated at par with Indian citizens in matters of
    traffic in airfares in Indian domestic sectors.
  • Same entry fee as for Indians for entry into India’s
    national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
  • OCI booklet can be used as identification to avail
    services. An affidavit can be attached with local address as residential proof.

As
OCI Card is not citizenship of India, there are certain restrictions placed on OCI
card holders like the following.

  • Do not have right to vote.
  • Do not have right to any public service/government
    jobs
  • Cannot hold offices of – Prime Minister, President,
    Vice -President, Judge of Supreme Court and High Court, member of Parliament or
    Member of state legislative assembly or council.
  • Cannot own agricultural property.

Application for OCI card can only be done online

Applying for registration as OCI Cardholder can only be done online via
the dedicated
portal
.

The Fresh application requires submission of the following details.

(a) Applicant’s Information

(b) Passport details

 ( c) Family Details

The applicant can save the application and come back later to continue
the application process. A temporary application ID is provided during the
initial application that can used to retrieve the saved the application.

The
following documents are required to be submitted along with the application.

  • Proof of present citizenship i.e. copy
    of present passport.
  • Copy of Visa in case the application is
    submitted in India
  • Evidence of parents/grandparents being
    citizens of India or were eligible to be citizens. (Copy of passport, Domicile
    certificate, Nativity certificate, OCI /PIO Card etc.) along with the evidence
    of relationship.
  • In case of applicant being a minor –
    Child’s birth certificate, passports or other aforementioned documents of
    parents.
  • Proof of Spouse being citizen of
    India/OCI card holder along with marriage certificate.

The application along with the supporting documents needs to be
submitted online. Post the online application, the originals of the supporting
documents need to be submitted Indian Mission or FRRO for prior verification.

In case the applicant is applying from outside India, the documents are
to be submitted at the following places.

If the application is done from India, there are 13 FRROs based on the jurisdiction where these documents have to be submitted physically.

The applicants are required to pay an application fee as described below.
However , currently there is no provision for online payment. Applicants can get
further details on the relevant embassy’s website.

Cancellation of OCI Card

The Government of India can cancel
the registration
of OCI card in case any of the
following criteria is met.

Author & writer Aatish Tasser’s OCI card was
cancelled
recently on allegations that he
concealed that his late father was of Pakistani origin while submitting the PIO
application.

USA & Malaysia have the highest number of Persons of India Origin

As per the data
provided
by Ministry of External Affairs, as of
December 2018, there are a total of 3.09 crore (3,09,95,799) overseas Indians.

Of these, 1.31 crores ( 1,31,13,360) are NRIs , while the rest i.e. 1.78
crores ( 1,78,82,369) are People of Indian Origin.  Approximately 170 countries across the globe
have People of Indian Origin.  USA has
the highest with 31.8 lakhs, followed by Malaysia who have 27.6 lakh people of
Indian Origin.

OCI Card_Top 10 countries with people of Indian origin

As per the data shared by the government in Lok Sabha in August 2018, more than 16 lakh OCI cards were issued in the 4-year period between 2014 & 2017.

Featured Image: OCI Card

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