Our Indian Constitution doesn’t allow dual citizenship. The single citizenship rule of Indian Government was hurdle for many Indians who migrated to foreign land and acquired citizenship of such country. The provision of granting Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) was introduced to reduce the trouble of these persons. The provisions are available to such persons to obtain OCI card as long as their country of residence allows dual citizenship as per their local laws. This category of Overseas Citizenship of India is specified under Section 7 A of the Citizenship Act. Let’s discuss some queries relating to this concept.

Who are Persons of Indian Origin?

Before the emergence of category of Overseas Citizen of India, the concept of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) was there to categorize the Indian foreign nationals. The Indians who have migrated to overseas and obtained the citizenship there are called PIOs. The Reserve Bank of India defines PIO as follows:-

Person of Indian Origin (PIO) means a citizen of any country other than Bangladesh or Pakistan who had (a) at any time held Indian Passport or (b) he or either of his parents or any of his grandparents were a citizen of India by virtue of the Constitution of India or the Citizenship Act, 1955 or (c) the person is a spouse of an Indian Citizen or a person referred to in (a) or (b).

Now from the year of 2015, the status of Person of Indian Origin has been merged into the status of Overseas Citizen of India.

What is difference between NRI and OCI?

A Non-Resident Indian (NRI) is a person who an Indian Passport while living in foreign country. A person who has lived for atleast 6 months on foreign land is considered an NRI. The classification of such category is only used for income tax purpose. On the flipside, Indians who are citizens of other country and got OCI card by fulfilling the eligibility criteria under Citizenship Act are called Overseas Citizen of India.

Who are eligible to apply?

The Indians who got citizenship of Pakistan and Bangladesh are not eligible to apply for OCI card. The following persons are eligible to apply for OCI card in India:-

  • Person who is citizen of foreign land but was citizen of India at the time of commencement of Indian Constitution or any time after the commencement.
  • Citizen of foreign land but was eligible to become a citizen of India at the time or any time after the commencement of Indian Constitution.
  • Who is citizen of foreign land but belonged to a territory which became part of India after the independence i.e. 15th August, 1947.
  • Child, grandchild, or great-grandchild such citizen.
  • Minor child of persons of above mentioned categories.
  • Minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India.
  • Spouse of foreign origin of citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of Overseas Citizen of India and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for continuous period of 2 years immediately preceding the presentation of the application.

It is mentioned here that person who has served as a member of any foreign military is not eligible to acquire OCI card.

How to apply?

The Bureau Immigration under the Union Home Ministry issues OCI cards. The whole process of applying for OCI card can be done through online mode by reaching online portal of its official website. Person making an application is required to submit photograph and several documents in order to prove the eligibility along with prescribed application fees. Application can made be in India and outside India also. A fee may differ according to the place of making application i.e. in India or outside India.

What documents are required?

For making application to obtain OCI Card, there are documents which need to be submitted by the applicant. It is marked here that requirement of documents vary from case to case. Here is the list of some documents which may be required to acquire OCI Card:-

  • Copy of current passport with atleast validity of 6 months as a proof of present citizenship.
  • Copy of any type of Indian visa other than missionary or mountaineering visa if applicant applies within the jurisdiction of India.
  • Copy of Indian Passport or OCI card of parents or spouse along with base papers to prove that applicant was citizen of India or parents, grandparents, great grandparents being a citizen of India.
  • Birth certificate issued from competent authority mentioning both parents’ names and if birth certificate is issued by foreign authority then it must be apostilled or endorsed by the concerned Indian diplomatic mission abroad to prove the relationship as parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent if their Indian origin is claimed in the application.
  • Marriage certificate in spouse case.

What are the advantages of obtaining OCI card?

Some advantages of having OCI card are explained below:-

  • OCI cardholders can visit India anytime during their lifetime.
  • They can stay in India for any duration without registering with Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
  • They can study or work in private institutions in India without special permissions.
  • They enjoy same financial and economic benefits as NRIs.

What rights are not granted with OCI card?

As per constitutional view, OCI cards holders are not citizens of India, thus they don’t enjoys the rights of citizens. They can’t enjoy the followings rights even if they reside in India:-

  • Right to vote
  • Right to hold offices of Prima Minister, President, Vice-President, Judge of Supreme Court or High Court, member of Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assembly or Council.
  • Right to join any Government Jobs.
  • Right to invest in agriculture land, howbeit they can inherit agriculture land.

Is OCI card can be cancelled?

Yes, Ministry of Home Affairs holds the right to cancel or blacklist the card if it is found to be obtained by fraud or by concealing any information. If person is proved to have disrespected the Constitution of India then also the OCI Card can be cancelled immediately.

The OCI card is usually issued within the period of 30 days upon receiving an acknowledgment from the Bureau of Immigration. The Ministry of Home Affairs can reject any application after scrutinizes the same. There may be a reason for rejection for e.g. lack of adequate security clearance etc.

-Kiranpreet Kaur

Associate at Aggarwals & Associates, S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali