From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : OCI, PIO
Mains level : Citizenship related issues of Indian Diaspora
In a bid to allay fears of the OCI cardholders over the temporary suspension of their long-term visas, the Ministry for External Affairs has said the government will soon take an appropriate decision.
UPSC may ask a statement based question in prelims considering various privileges of the OCI cardholders.
What is the issue?
- A large number of Indian citizens whose children are OCI cardholders and several people of Indian-origin having the card are unable to travel to India, even for emergency reasons, because of the temporary suspension of their long-term visa.
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.