Work on the merging of the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card into a single facility was announced last year by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The idea is to create a single facility that enables visa-free entry for the diaspora inside Indian territory such that it helps in business development and other activities. So far over 1,000,000 OCI cards have been issued. Dr Singh had said that the merger would take place once some of the procedural problems were ironed out.

  • OCI card is available to all PIOs who meet the prescribed eligibility criteria except to those who are citizens of Bangladesh and Pakistan or who have ever held citizenship of these two countries. Those who have ever held nationalities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are excluded from PIO card scheme.
  • OCI card holder is entitled to life-long visa with free travel to India whereas for a PIO card holder it is only valid for 15 years.
  • A PIO cardholder is required to register with local police authority for any stay exceeding 180 days in India on any single visit whereas an OCI is exempted from registration with police authority for any length of stay in India.
  • An OCI cardholder gets a specific right to become an Indian citizen after holding OCI for 5 years whereas the PIO cardholder can apply for Indian citizenship only after 7 years of stay in India, like any other foreigner.
  • Specific benefits notified by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs are available only to OCI cardholders.

As per a notification of April 11, 2005 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, persons registered as Overseas Citizens of India under Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 are entitled to:

  • Grant of multiple entry lifelong visa for visiting India for any purpose.
  • Exemption from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration
  • Officer for any length of stay in India, and
  • Parity with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) 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.

Further notification issued by MOIA on January 5, 2007 says that:

  • Registered Overseas Citizens of India shall be treated at par with NRIs in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children.
  • Registered OCI cardholders shall be treated at par with resident Indian nationals in the matter of tariffs in air fares in domestic sectors in India.
  • Registered OCI cardholders shall be charged the same entry fee as domestic Indian visitors to visit national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India.

Further notification issued by MOIA on January 5, 2009 says that:

OCI cardholders will have parity with NRIs in respect of:

Entry fees to be charged for visiting the national monuments, historical sites and museums in India.
Pursuing the following professions in India, in pursuance of the provisions contained in the relevant Acts, namely:

Doctors, engineers, nurses and pharmacists.
Chartered accountants.

February 2012

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