Overseas Citizenship of India
The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is an immigration status permitting a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in the Republic of India indefinitely. The OCI was introduced in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora, particularly in developed countries. It was introduced by The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 in August 2005. It was launched during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention held in Hyderabad in late 2005.
|Overseas Citizen of India|
Front Cover of an OCI card
|Date first issued||2 December 2005|
|Eligibility requirements||see eligibility|
|Cost||₹15000 (In India)|
US $275 (abroad)
Renewal ₹1400 (In India)
Renewal US $25 (abroad)
The Constitution of India prevents Indian citizens from holding dual citizenship. As such the OCI is not actual citizenship of India according to Indian law as it has many limitations such as no right to vote, no right to hold constitutional offices, and no right to buy agricultural properties. The United Kingdom's government argues differently, however, and it considers OCI as dual nationality.
- 1 History
- 2 Eligibility
- 3 Application
- 4 Privileges and restrictions
- 5 Overseas recognition
- 6 OCI and PIO documents merge
- 7 Physical appearance
- 8 List of notable people with OCI status
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Constitution of India does not permit dual citizenship for citizens of 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 United States or in Australia 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.
Before 9 January 2015, travellers holding OCI card were required to carry the passport which contained the lifetime visa while traveling to India. This requirement was done away with in early 2015, and OCI card holders no longer require the visa sticker passport. The OCI card (the blue booklet) in conjunction with a current valid foreign passport is sufficient to travel to and from India.
The Government of India, on application, may register any person as an Overseas Citizen of India, if the person:
- was a citizen of India on 26 January 1950 or at any time thereafter; or
- belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15 August 1947; or
- 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 and 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
No person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, is eligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India. Persons who served as a member of any foreign military are also ineligible to receive an OCI card.
Applications for OCI can only be made online at ociservices.gov.in. A person making an application is required to submit a photograph and several identification documents to prove they meet the eligibility criteria, and also must pay an application fee. Applications made from outside India are charged a fee of US $275. Applications submitted in India are charged a fee of ₹15,000 (US$220).
The applicant must provide proof of their current citizenship by presenting a copy of their current passport that has a minimum validity of at least 6 months. If the applicant is making their application while within Indian jurisdiction, they must submit a copy of any type of Indian visa (other than missionary and mountaineering visa), or a residential permit with at least 3 months' validity. Applicants must provide evidence that either they or their parents or grandparents or great grandparents meet the eligibility criteria described above. This can be done by presenting a copy of an Indian passport, a copy of the Domicile Certificate issued by the competent authority, a copy of Nativity Certificate from the competent authority, or an OCI Card/PIO Card of parents or spouse along with the base papers/documents upon which the OCI/PIO card was issued. Applicants may also submit any other evidence that may substantiate their claim. Usually, applicants are able to submit a certificate of residence or place of birth of self/parents/grandparents from First Class Magistrate/District Magistrate (DM) of the concerned place.
If the applicant cites their Indian origin as basis for registration as OCI Cardholder, they must provide evidence of their relationship with the person cited as parent/grandparent/great grandparent. The document of relationship could be a birth certificate issued from competent authority mentioning both parents' names. In case the birth certificate is issued by a foreign authority, it must be apostled or endorsed by the concerned Indian diplomatic mission abroad. In the case of a minor child whose parents are both Indian citizens or who has at least one parent holding Indian citizenship, evidence may comprise a copy of the child's birth certificate that mentions its parents, a copy of Indian passport of at least one of the parents or copy of the Domicile Certificate or Nativity Certificate issued by a Competent Authority supporting the Indian origin of at least one parent or any other proof substantiating the status of at least one parent as being either an Indian citizen or being of Indian origin. If the parents are divorced, a court order of dissolution of marriage which specifically mentions that the legal custody of the child is with the parent who is applying for the OCI card must be submitted.
Evidence as spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an OCI Cardholder may be provided in the form of a registered marriage certificate. In the case of spouse of an Indian citizen, a copy of the Indian Passport of the spouse or copy of the Domicile Certificate or Nativity Certificate issued by the Competent Authority in respect of the Indian spouse or any other proof substantiating the status of the spouse as being an Indian citizen. In the case of spouse of an OCI Cardholder, a copy of the present valid Passport of the spouse and copy of the OCI Card of the spouse and copies of the documents upon which the OCI Card was issued to the spouse.
Privileges and restrictionsEdit
Overseas Citizenship of India allows a holder:
- Multiple-entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa to visit India;
- Exemption from foreigner registration requirements for any length of stay in India; and
- Parity with non-resident Indians in financial, economic and educational fields except in the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.
Overseas citizens of India are not citizens of India from a constitutional point of view and will not enjoy the following rights even if resident in India:
- they do not have the right to vote,
- they do not have the right to hold the offices of Prime Minister, President, Vice-President, Judge of Supreme Court and High Court, member of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assembly, or Council.
- they do not have the right to any public services (government jobs).
- they do not have the right to hold farmland (agricultural property).
Though not actual dual citizenship, the privileges afforded by acquiring an OCI card is that now multi-national companies are finding it simpler to hire the OCI cardholders, who enjoy a multiple entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa to visit India. The card provides a lifelong visa to the holder, sparing them the need for permits. OCI holders are treated on par with NRIs for economic, financial and educational matters and only don’t have political rights and rights to buy agricultural and plantation properties or hold public office.
Since the launch of Overseas Citizenship in 2005, the Indian government has announced some ‘additional benefits’ during its annual diaspora conference, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. In 2007, OCI card holders were given parity with Indian citizens abroad in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children, for domestic airfares and for admittance into national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. In 2009, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs granted OCI card holders parity with NRIs for working as doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, advocates, architects, and chartered accountants. And the parity with NRIs was extended to entry fees for national monuments, historical sites, and museums. Further, in 2012, the privilege was added that Indian State governments should ensure that OCI registration booklets are treated as overseas citizens’ identification and included a facilitated rule for providing proof of residence.
They are also exempt from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) on their arrival in the country and can stay or live in India for as long as they wish. OCI cardholders can travel at very short notice and take up assignments in India, while others could get caught up in bureaucratic delays over their employment visa. Many companies are following an active policy of moving PIOs to India for business expansion. Indian missions overseas are witnessing a deluge in OCI applications, the number of OCI cards issued by diplomatic missions around the world have been steadily rising with several Indian diplomatic missions grappling with a huge backlog of applications.
Research on the effects of Overseas Citizenship of India shows three effects. (a) It enables overseas citizens by granting special privileges; (b) it affects expectations about privileges; and (c) it eases the transaction process and reducing costs and risks. Regarding the latter, a special status like OCI reduces the actual and expected cost of operation through exemptions from formal requirements and by serving as official proof of being entitled.
Privileges of OCI holders depends on the government policy of the day, and there are instances where they are denied additional rights and conveniences afforded to full Indian citizens including citizen NRIs:
- Overseas Citizens of India need to apply for an Inner Line Permit, and/or protected area permit if they want to visit certain areas in India.
- OCI card holders desirous of visiting India for the purpose of conducting research must obtain separately a No Objection/Research Project Clearance Certificate from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), India and that can be applied at nearest Indian Diplomatic Mission. This includes Scholars awarded Scholarship under Fulbright or any other scheme.
- During the 2016 Indian banknote demonetisation where non-citizens, including OCIs were denied rights to bring rupee notes back into the country contrary to initial indications.
- Aadhaar cards cannot be issued to OCIs or NRIs. Increasingly, the lack of an Aadhaar card prevents non-holders accessing some services conveniently, such as easily obtaining SIM cards for mobile phones. and passports need to be shown for visiting hotels, and taking domestic flights. Insurance policies, utilities etc cannot be easily obtained without an Aadhaar card, with the OCI card having little or no value in any of these cases above a foreign passport.
- OCI holders are sometimes prevented from obtaining admission seats at colleges. In one case this restriction has been overturned by a state high court.
A stateless person cannot apply for an OCI, however there is an open question if an OCI holder can be considered stateless (if they lose citizenship of the other country), so in countries where citizenship to dual citizens can be revoked, such as Australia an OCI holder may be disadvantaged, however, the lack of precedents in this area means that the issue is uncertain.
In specific circumstances, acquiring Overseas Citizenship of India prevents British National (Overseas) and British Overseas citizens from registering as full British citizens under Section 4B of the British Nationality Act 1981 (which requires that they have no other citizenship in order to register). It does not prevent them from acquiring full British citizenship by a different method and it does not revoke their British citizenship if they have already registered under Section 4B. The UK government considers that, for purposes of the British Nationality Act 1981, "OCI is considered to be citizenship of another State". The circumstance where a person in this provision is rare, as it means (a) they hold a secondary form of British citizenship such as a British Overseas citizen and passport. (b) they do not hold any other citizenship. (c) They have been issued an OCI nevertheless.
The British Home Office has confirmed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's perspective on OCI status is that it is not a form of citizenship. As such, people with OCI are still eligible for consular assistance from the FCO whilst in India.
OCI and PIO documents mergeEdit
The predecessor to the OCI was the Persons of Indian Origin Card (PIO card). The PIO card was less effective than OCIs, and there was some criticism that holders of the more expensive PIO card were disadvantaged when the OCI scheme launched, that there was confusion of the differences between the two, and administration of the two independent schemes caused complexity and confusion.
- A gazetted order published on 30 September 2014 stated a PIO card issued to an applicant shall be valid for their lifetime, provided such applicant has a valid Passport.
- A gazetted order published on 9 January 2015, converted all PIO holders on that date to OCI,
- That second order stopped further applications of the PIO card, and
- Free conversion of PIOs to OCIs was permitted until the extended deadline of 31 December 2017.
PIO cardholders must apply to convert their existing cards into OCI cards. The Bureau of Immigration stated that it would continue to accept the old PIO cards as valid travel documents until 30 September 2019.
The OCI document is a passport-like document (though it is not a passport). It has a blue cover with golden colored printing. The Emblem of India is emblazoned in the centre of the front cover. The words 'Overseas Citizen of India Card' are inscribed above the Emblem, and 'भारत गणराज्य' (Hindi) and 'Republic of India' (English) are inscribed below the emblem.
OCI Cards were formerly printed with a separate lifelong “U” Visa Sticker (which was pasted on the applicant's passport). The proof of lifelong visa is now just the OCI Card which has a “Life Time Visa” printed on it. The OCI Card is valid for travel but must be carried with a valid overseas passport. Airlines will, generally, ask to see both when traveling to and from India, as will Indian customs and police at Airport counters.
First page (identity) contentsEdit
- Given name(s)
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Place of issue
- Date of issue
- Photo of holder
- Signature of the holder
- The information page ends with the Machine Readable Passport Zone (MRZ).
Second page contentsEdit
The OCI certificate contains a note:
|“||This is to certify that the person whose particulars are given in this Certificate have been registered as an Overseas Citizen of India under the provisions of Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955||”|
The note bearing page is typically stamped and signed by the issuing authority.
Final page contentsEdit
- Name of father or legal guardian
- Name of mother
- Passport number
- Date of Issue
- Place of Issue
- Visual distinguishing mark
- File number
List of notable people with OCI statusEdit
A total of 1,372,624 people held OCI cards as on 31 July 2013.
|C. Mohan||Computer Scientist||American|||
|Muttiah Muralitharan||Cricketer||Sri Lankan|||
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Benefits: (i) Multiple entry, multi-purpose life long visa to visit India. Life long denotes to 100 years from the date of birth;(ii) Exemption from reporting to Police authorities for any length of stay in India; and (iii) Parity with NRIs in financial, economic and educational fields except in the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.
- "India Visa Information - Australia - Long Term Visas - Overseas Citizen of India(OCI)". www.vfsglobal.com. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
Benefits to which OCI is not entitled to: The OCI is not entitled to vote, be a member of Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council or Parliament, cannot hold constitutional posts such as President, Vice President, Judge of Supreme Court or High Court etc. and he/she cannot normally hold employment in the Government.
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