Citizenship and Related Issues

Postal ballot for NRIs being contemplated


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRI vs OCI

Mains level : Voting rights for OCI

Chief Election Commissioner, during a recent visit to South Africa and Mauritius, urged Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to register as overseas electors and told them that a proposal on postal ballots for NRIs was being contemplated by the Election Commission of India.

Why in news now?

  • CECs interactions with NRIs came after Union Law Minister informed the Lok Sabha in March that the government was exploring the possibility of allowing online voting for NRIs.
  • The ECI had written to the Law Ministry in 2020 proposing that NRIs be allowed to vote through postal ballots, following which the matter has been under consideration by the government.
  • The ECI at present allows NRIs to register as overseas electors as long as they have not acquired the citizenship of another country.
  • They have to reach their respective polling booths to cast their votes in person on voting day.

Classification of Overseas Indians

Overseas Indians, officially known as Non-resident Indians (NRIs) or Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), are people of Indian birth, descent or origin who live outside the Republic of India:

(A) Non-Resident Indian (NRI)

  • Strictly asserting non-resident refers only to the tax status of a person who, as per section 6 of the Income-tax Act of 1961, has not resided in India for a specified period for the purposes of the Act.
  • The rates of income tax are different for persons who are “resident in India” and for NRIs.

(B) Person of Indian Origin (PIO)

Person of Indian Origin (PIO) means a foreign citizen (except a national of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and/or Nepal), who:

  • at any time held an Indian passport OR
  • either of their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were born and permanently resident in India as defined in GoI Act, 1935 and other territories that became part of India thereafter provided neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid countries OR
  • is a spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO.

(C) Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)

  • After multiple efforts by leaders across the Indian political spectrum, a pseudo-citizenship scheme was established, the “Overseas Citizenship of India”, commonly referred to as the OCI card.
  • The Constitution of India does not permit full dual citizenship.
  • The OCI card is effectively a long-term visa, with restrictions on voting rights and government jobs.


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