News Polity & Governance

OVERSEAS CITIZENS OF INDIA (OCI)

Written by Talent KAS

Related Topic in KAS Prelims Syllabus:

Indian Constitution [Paper-I]: Indian Constitution and its salient features

Why in News?

Union Home Ministry has relaxed the provisions for Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders that made it compulsory for those aged above 50 and below 20 to renew their cards on renewal of their passports.

News in Detail

  • Several OCI card holders were not able to travel to India due to this and many were stopped by airlines and immigration authorities at various airports due to the mismatch.
  • According to a recent Home Ministry order, an OCI card holder is required to re-register each time a new passport is issued till 20 years of age and once after 50 years of age. This is not mandatory in the age group of 21-50 years.
  • In order to facilitate OCI cardholders, the requirement has been relaxed till June 30, 2020, according to the union home ministry instructions dated December 17, 2019, but they will have to carry old and new passports.

Background

  • An Overseas Citizen of India, or 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.

Who is an OCI?

  • Ministry of Home Affairs 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.

Benefits for OCI cardholders

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times and get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India.
  • They are exempted 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, buy non-farm property and exercise ownership rights.
  • They 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 farm land.
  • They cannot run for public office either, nor can they travel to restricted areas without government permission.
[Source: The Hindu, Economic Times]

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