Citizenship and Related Issues

OCI card holders no longer required to carry old passports for India travel

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PIO, OCI

Mains level : Indian Diaspora

People of Indian origin (PIO) and the Indian diaspora having Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards are now not required to carry their old, expired passports for travel to India.

UPSC can ask statement based question in prelims based on the definition and privileges of OCI card-holders.

Who is an Overseas Citizen?

  • An OCI is a category introduced by the government in 2005.
  • Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories as specified in the Citizenship Act, 1955 are eligible for being OCI cardholders.
  • Some of the benefits for PIO and OCI cardholders were different until 2015 when the government merged these two categories.
  • The MHA defines an OCI as a person who was a citizen of India on or after January 26, 1950; or was eligible to become a citizen of India on that date; or who is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Privileges to an OCI

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) no matter how long their stay.
  • If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.
  • OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, they can buy the non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a driver’s license and PAN card.
  • However, OCI cardholders do not get voting rights, cannot hold a government job and purchase agricultural or farmland.
  • They cannot run for public office either, nor can they travel to restricted areas without government permission.

Why such a move?

  • There had been inconvenience caused to members of the Indian diaspora due to certain OCI card rules as they undertook to travel to India during the pandemic.
  • He said some of the passengers were not allowed to board flights to India and were sent back from airports as they were not carrying their old foreign passports, which was required as per government rules.
  • The OCI card, among other benefits, allows multiple entries, multi-purpose lifelong visa to an Indian-origin foreign national to visit India.
  • Under the provisions of the OCI card, which gives the cardholder a lifelong visa to India, those below 20 years and above 50 years need to renew their OCI card every time they have their passport renewed.

Back2Basics: PIO vs. OCI

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