Good News for NRI Residents: Indian Government Has Merged PIO and OCI Categories to Simplify Immigration Norms

“Existing PIO Card holders are now deemed to be OCI Card holders.”

The Indian Government has simplified the immigration norms for its overseas citizens. The government of India has merged the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Scheme with the norms pertaining to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI).

On January 6, 2015, the Ministry of Law and Justice promoted the Citizenship Ordinance, 2015 to modify the Citizenship Act, 1955. As a result, on January 9, 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a press release notifying the change. The Citizenship Ordinance intends to simplify and consolidate the immigration norms for overseas Indians. The rights and benefits available to OCIs will now be extended to existing PIO cardholders.

According to the Ordinance, the effect of the PIO Scheme will not be changed and the OCI provisions shall be the sole immigration norm for all overseas Indians.

“The Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card notification has been withdrawn with immediate effect and, further, it has been notified that all existing PIO card-holders will be deemed to be OCI card-holders. Now only one OCI card with enhanced benefits is in existence,” said a home ministry release.

PIO and OCI Categories

The Indian Government placed overseas Indian citizens in two categories, PIO and OCI. The categorization provides some relaxations to the overseas citizen, such as non-requirement of India visa, relaxed registration requirements while in India, and absence of police verification.

In October 2014, the validity for entry in India for PIO cardholders has been raised to lifetime, and similar to the OCI cardholders, they are exempted from reporting formalities.

Amendments in Citizenship Act, 1955

Some of the provisions in the act are explained below. Some or all may apply in individual cases. Please refer to a lawyer for more details.

  • The following categories are included for the purpose of applying for an OCI card:
    • Great grandchild
    • Minor child with one or both parents who are citizens of India.
    • Spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or an OCI cardholder whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the date of application for OCI card.
  • Clarification that if a person holding an OCI card renounces his card then the spouse of foreign origin of such OCI card holder shall also cease to be an OCI.
  • Clarification that the Government may cancel the OCI registration if it is satisfied that the marriage of the spouse of foreign origin of an OCI:
    • has been dissolved by a competent court or,
    • has not been dissolved but, during the subsistence of such marriage, he/she has solemnized marriage with any other person.
  • Separately and with respect to application for registration as an Indian citizen as per the Citizenship Act, OCI registration was previously required for:
    • a person who or either of his parents, was earlier a citizen of independent India or,
    • a person who has been registered as an overseas citizen of India, to reside in India for 12 months. Through the Ordinance, Government has been granted the power to relax the 12 months period to a maximum of 30 days, if special circumstances exist.

Other Benefits of PIO & OCI Merge

  • Existing PIO cardholders will be free from various procedural requirements like registration and reporting obligations.
  • PIOs who wish to travel India can apply for the OCI category and assume the benefits that are available to the OCI.
  • This is also provide PIO Card Holders visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country

Read more about OCI Card and PIO Card, visit our NRI Section.
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