What is an OCI Card?
The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme was introduced by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955 in August 2005. The Scheme provides for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) of all Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) who were citizens of India on 26th January 1950 or thereafter or were eligible to become citizens of India on 26th January 1950 except who is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify.
Despite the name, OCI is commonly misconstrued as Indian ‘dual citizenship’. It is important to know that an OCI is more of a life-long visa as opposed to citizenship. Also, an OCI does not infer any political rights on an applicant, such as the right to vote.
The Constitution of India does not permit dual citizenship for citizens of India. Indian authorities have interpreted the law to mean a person cannot have a second country’s passport simultaneously with an Indian one.
OCI Card is a multiple entry life-long visa which enables the holder to have unlimited travel and stay in India. The OCI documents consist of OCI Registration Booklet and a Universal visa sticker. It is mandatory for registered OCIs to carry their passports which carry the Universal visa sticker for entry into / exit from India.
A registered Overseas Citizen of India is granted multiple entry, multi purpose, life-long visa for visiting India, he/she is exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India, and is entitled to general ‘parity with Non-Resident Indians in respect of all facilities available to them in economic, financial and educational fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties’. Specific benefits/parity is notified by the Ministry from time to time.
How do I get an OCI Card?
OCI is an online process. The applicant needs to fill up the OCI Application Form Online. After filling up the online OCI application, the applicant has to take out the print of the application and submit two sets of application forms with prescribed documents and fees to the designated VFS Centre.
Feel free to contact our team for a free assessment for your OCI card application today.
What is the eligibility criteria for an OCI Card?
The Government of India, on application, may register any person as an Overseas Citizen of India, if the person:
- was a citizen of India on 26 January 1950 or at any time thereafter; or
- belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15 August 1947; or
- was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26 January 1950; or
- is a child or a grandchild or a great-grandchild of such a citizen; or
- is a minor child of such persons mentioned above; or
- is a minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; or
- is a spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder registered under section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application
No person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan & Bangladesh, is eligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India. Persons who served as a foreign military member are also ineligible to receive an OCI card.
What are the benefits of an OCI card?
An OCI card holder will be eligible for the following benefits:
- Multiple entry, multi-purpose life long visa free to visit India. Life long denotes to 100 years from the date of birth
- Exemption from reporting to Police authorities for any length of stay in India
- Equality with NRIs in financial, economic and educational fields except in the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.
- OCI can be used as identity proof for application of PAN Card and driving licence as well as for opening a bank account if the OCI card holder is residing in India.
Though not actual dual citizenship, the privileges afforded by acquiring an OCI card is that now multinational companies are finding it simpler to hire the OCI cardholders, who enjoy a multiple entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa to visit India. The card provides a lifelong visa to the holder, sparing them the need for permits. Many companies are following an active policy of moving PIOs to India for business expansion.
What benefits are not allowed by an OCI card?
Overseas citizens of India are not citizens of India from a constitutional point of view and will not enjoy the following rights even if resident in India:
- they do not have the right to vote
- they do not have the right to invest in farmland (agricultural property). However, they can still inherit farmland.
- they do not have the right to hold the offices of Prime Minister, President, Vice-President, Judge of Supreme Court and High Court, member of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assembly, or Council
- they do not have the right to any public services (government jobs).
United Kingdom and OCI
The British Home Office has confirmed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s perspective on OCI status is that it is not a form of citizenship. As such, people with OCI are still eligible for consular assistance from the FCO whilst in India.
What is a PIO?
The predecessor to the OCI was the Persons of Indian Origin Card (PIO card). The PIO card was less effective than OCIs, and there was some criticism that holders of the more expensive PIO card were disadvantaged when the OCI scheme launched, that there was a confusion of the differences between the two, and administration of the two independent schemes caused complexity and confusion.
PIO cardholders must apply to convert their existing cards into OCI cards. The Bureau of Immigration stated that it would continue to accept the old PIO cards as valid travel documents until 30 September 2020.
How much does an OCI Card cost?
VFS handles OCI application on behalf of the Indian Government, the fees for an OCI card application are as follows:
- £194.00 + £7.44 VFS fee for each new OCI application
- £21.00 + £7.44 VFS fee for changing any details in the card and linking of new passport with OCI.
- £73.00 + £7.44 VFS fee for lost/damaged OCI Card
- £66.00 + £7.44 VFS fee for conversion of PIO to OCI.
Frequently Asked Questions about the OCI Card
- Can foreign nationals, who are not otherwise eligible for OCI, get OCI if they are married to persons who are eligible for OCI?
- The spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India cardholder registered under section 7A and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application.
- Are Minor (below 18 years of age) children eligible for OCI Card?
- Minor children whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India are also eligible for OCI Card.
- Is an applicant who had held nationality of Pakistan or Bangladesh, eligible for OCI?
- No, If the applicant has ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, he/she will not be eligible for OCI.
- Can a person renounce OCI?
- Yes. He/she has to declare their intention of renunciation in Form XXII to the Indian Mission/Post where OCI registration was granted.
- Are ‘Empire of India’ Passports issued by the British authorities in India prior to Indian Independence accepted as a proof of Indian Origin?
- No, if they state the National Status of the holder as a British subject by birth. Yes, if they state the National Status of the holder as a person of British Protectorate, originally a citizen of a place in India.
- Are letters issued by the Indian Mission/Post in an African country in respect of parents/grandparents etc. stating that the applicant was once a citizen of India accepted as proof of Indian Origin?
- Can I submit my OCI application through an agent?
- No. OCI applications can be submitted at the Counter only by the applicants in person or by a spouse or by parents in case of minors.
- Is there an emergency service for OCI?
- No. In case of emergency, please apply for an emergency visa with the Indian High Commission.
- What is the processing time of application?
- 6-8 weeks is the application has been submitted accurately, any incomplete application submitted may result in additional processing time.
- Can OCI applications be made in India?
- Yes. Any applicant wishing to apply in India may see guidelines available on Ministry of Home Affairs website.
- Whether civil Govt. servant working in Ministry of Defence as IT engineers/civil contractors entitled for OCI?
- No. Such applicants are not eligible.
- Can OCI card holder do Journalistic, Filming of Documentary, Missionary, Mountaineering and Research work in India?
- No. An OCI card holder is not entitled to undertake any Journalistic, Filming of Documentary, Missionary, Mountaineering and Research work in India. They need prior approval from the concerned Department/Ministry of the Government of India for these.
- Do I need to re-apply for an OCI card at any point in time?
- OCI card needs to be re-issued each time a new passport is acquired by the cardholder up to the age of 20 years.
- OCI card is required to be re-issued once on acquiring a new passport after completing 50 years of age.
- Re-issuance of OCI card is not required each time a passport is issued to a cardholder between 21 and 50 years of age.
- Can OCI status be revoked by the Government of India?
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 gives the government additional power to strip people of their Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status if they violate any local law, whether it is a petty offence or a serious felony. The new act makes the rules much more strict for OCI cardholders in a justified attempt to preserve the status’s dignity. However, it also has a provision which gives the person whose OCI status is at stake the power of being heard by the government before they come to a verdict.
Assistance with OCI Card: How we can help you
Contact us for a free assessment today, we can:
- Ascertain your eligibility
- Guide you with the online application form
- Provide insight into the required documents and their alternatives
- Complete the online application on your behalf and prepare your case file for submission at the VFS offices
Applicants are personally required to attend the VFS offices to submit an OCI application.