Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is a form of permanent residency available to people of Indian origin and their spouses which allows them to live and work in India indefinitely. Despite the name, OCI status is not citizenship and does not grant the right to vote in Indian elections or hold public office. The Indian government can revoke OCI status in a wide variety of circumstances. As of 2020, there are 6 million holders of OCI cards among the Indian Overseas diaspora.
The OCI scheme was introduced by The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora. It provides Overseas citizens many of the rights available to resident citizens.
OCI status is not available to anyone who has ever been a Pakistani or Bangladeshi citizen, or who is a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of such a person.
The Constitution of India does not permit dual citizenship (under article 9 of The Indian Constitution) in India. Indian authorities have interpreted the law to mean a person cannot have a second country’s passport simultaneously with an Indian one — even in the case of a child who is claimed by another country as a citizen of that country, and who may be required by the laws of the other country to use one of its passports for foreign travel (such as a child born in the United States or in Canada to Indian parents), and the Indian courts have given the executive branch wide discretion over this matter.
On the recommendations of a High-Level Committee on Indian Diaspora, the Government of India decided to register Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of a certain category, as has been specified in the Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, as Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cardholders, by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003.
The OCI program was launched during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention held in Hyderabad on 9 January 2006.
Before 9 January 2015, travelers holding OCI cards were required to carry a passport that contained the lifelong “U” visa stamp while traveling to India. This requirement was done away with that day and OCI cardholders no longer require the lifetime visa stamp passport. The OCI card (the blue-grey booklet) in conjunction with a valid foreign passport is sufficient to travel to and from India.
On 15 April 2021, the number of times OCI needs to be renewed got reduced down to only once, when the passport is renewed for the first time after age 20. However, every time the passport is renewed before age 20 and when the passport is renewed for the first time after age 50, a copy of the current passport along with the current passport-sized photo needs to be uploaded onto the OCI online portal. These relaxed OCI renewal guidelines reduce the administrative burden caused by multiple OCI renewals.
The Government of India, on application, may register as an Overseas Citizen of India, any person who:
- is a citizen of another country, but was a citizen of India on 26 January 1950 or at any time thereafter; or
- is a citizen of another country, but belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15 August 1947; or
- is a citizen of another country, but was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26 January 1950; or
- is a child or a grandchild or a great-grandchild of such a citizen; or
- is a minor child of such persons mentioned above; or
- is a minor child whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; or
- is a spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder registered under section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application?
A person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan & Bangladesh, is ineligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India.
A person who has served as a member of any foreign military, including that of his home country, is ineligible to receive an OCI card, except when bound by their home country to serve under their local law. For this reason, Israeli citizens of Indian origin are exempt from this rule and are eligible for OCI even if they served in the Israel Defence Forces.
Dutch nationals of Surinamese origin up to the sixth generation whose forefathers came from India in the 19th century will be eligible for applying for OCI Card.
Revoking the OCI card
Previously, the government could cancel OCI status of people who obtained it by fraud, showed acts of unpatriotism, or broke a law punishable with at least two years in jail before five years of having issued OCI. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 gives the government additional power to strip people of their OCI status if they violate any local law, whether it is a petty misdemeanor or a serious felony. The new act makes the rules much more strict for OCI cardholders, however, it also has a proviso that gives the person whose OCI status is at stake the right to be heard by the government before they come to a verdict.
Applying OCI-Global Passport and Visa LLC, 3119 S Main Street, Stafford Texas 77477, Tel-281-612-3264
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