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  • Writer's pictureImran Mirani

Understanding the OCI (Oversea Citizen Of India) & It's Benefits.

OCI is short for “Overseas Citizen of India”. Despite its name, the OCI holder is not recognized as citizen of the Republic of India. OCI is a passport like blue-grey booklet “even though it’s called card” issued to individuals from Indian origin or their spouses.


In this article we will be talking about what is OCI and how it is different than the PR “Permanent Residence” of India. Some of the individuals misunderstand or confused OCI as PR whereas the OCI is way beneficial compared to the PR, in the article we will also be discussing the implications of being an OCI card holder.


The need of an OCI “Overseas Citizens of India” card comes in when any Indian citizen have obtained citizenship in another country, have relinquish his/her Indian citizenship voluntarily and surrendered the passport issued by the Indian authorities. The question then arises is why would one relinquish his/her Indian citizenship, and the answer to it is that under article 9 of the Indian constitution in simplified words is that “No person shall be a citizen of India if he/she has acquired the citizenship of any foreign state). People may relinquish their citizenship voluntarily and decide to live in a country of their new citizenship for a better future, access to health care & education, or to gain full access to their wealth and or any business expansion, whatever their reasons are but still most of these individuals have their roots, their families & friends, investments, agricultural/ plantation land, or other sort of properties in India (not everyone cut down the ties with their country completely), so the choice for these individuals is either to obtain for any visit visa be it the short term visit visa (in case of emergency obtaining short term visa on your foreign passport may take time), the Permanent Residence “that can be obtained by investing approximately 1.5 million US Dollars” or register their selves as “Overseas Citizen of India”.


The OCI scheme was introduced by the Citizenship (amendment) Act, 2005 on the recommendations of a high-level committee on Indian diaspora, later during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention held in Hyderabad on 9 January 2006 the OCI was launched, in March 2021 the rights of OCI holders were slightly modified such as the card holders will now require PAP “Protected Area Permit” before visiting any area falling between the Inner line / international border such as whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and some parts of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, also the card holders living in India will now need to register with the FRRO “Foreigners Regional Registration Officer” via email upon every change of their home address or occupation (this registration was not required prior to March 2021).


WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE “OVERSEAS CITIZEN OF INDIA” CARD?


OCI is a multi-purpose, a multi-entry and a lifelong status (registration certificate have to be re-issued only when a new passport is issued “if the holder is of 20 years of age or below, re-issuance of the registration certificate is not mandatory each time a new passport is issued between the age bracket of 21 and 50 years of age) allowing card holders to visit India at any time, for any length of time, for any purpose and the OCI status can be availed by individuals;


  • Who was a citizen of India at the time of applying, or at any time after 26th January 1950; or

  • Who was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950; or

  • Who belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15th August 1947; or

  • Who is a child, a grandchild or a great grandchild of such a citizen; or

  • Who is a minor child of such persons mentioned above; or

  • Who is a minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; or

  • Spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India cardholder and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two.


No individual, whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents are or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify, shall be eligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder. Also, a person who has served as a member of any foreign military, including that of his home country, is ineligible to receive an OCI card, except when bound by their home country to serve under their local law.


Registering and obtaining the OCI may take as little as 30 days after submitting the online application if there is no adverse information available against the applicant, if any adverse information is available against the applicant, the decision to grant or otherwise may take 120 days or more varying from person to person.


WHAT ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF “OVERSEAS CITIZEN OF INDIA” CARD?


  • OCI is a Multiple entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa to visit Republic of India,

  • Parity with NRIs in financial, economic and educational fields,

  • OCI holders shall be treated at par with NRI “non-resident Indian” in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children,

  • Indian civil/criminal laws will be applicable to OCI holders for the period holder is living in India,

  • OCI card is only valid with a valid foreign passport (as of 2020, there are over 6 million holders of OCI cards among the Indian overseas diaspora),

  • OCI holders can purchase any commercial property, anywhere in India,

  • OCI holders does not have the right to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties, however one can continue to hold the land which he/she already have prior, and he/she can also inherit such land,

  • OCI holders do not have the right to vote in India and cannot hold any public offices,

  • OCI holders can work in any private sector (conditions apply),

  • OCI card can be used as an identification document for any services rendered in India, and is a valid identification documents while any legal issue or notarization/apostle/legalization,

  • Foreigners who gained OCI cards through their marriage with an OCI card holder will not enjoy the status in the event of their divorce.

OCI holder shall be required to obtain a special permission / permit, as the case may be, from the competent authority or the FRRO “Foreigners Regional Registration Officer” or the Indian Mission concerned, namely;

  • to undertake research,

  • to undertake any Missionary or Tabligh or Mountaineering or Journalistic activities,

  • to undertake internship in any foreign Diplomatic Missions or foreign Government organisations in India or to take up employment in any foreign Diplomatic Missions in India,

CAN THE AUTHORITIES REVOKE MY OCI STATUS?


  • The authorities may cancel OCI status of individual who obtained it by fraud, showed acts of unpatriotism, or broke a law punishable with at least two years in jail,

  • The Citizenship (amendment) Act, 2019 gives the government additional power to cancel the OCI status of the people who violate any local laws, whether it is a petty infraction or a heinous felony. The new act makes the rules much more strict for OCI holders in an attempt to preserve OCI's dignity, however it also has a provision that gives the person whose OCI status is at stake the right to be heard by the government before they come to a verdict.


INDIAN PR “PERMANENT RESIDENCE”


Some people confuse OCI “Overseas Citizen of India” status with the PR “Permanent Residence” visa of India, and both are two separate things, the PR can be obtained by investing approximately 1.5 million US Dollar (INR 10 Crores) within 18 months OR 3.75 million US Dollar (INR 25 crores) within 36 months, the foreign investment should also result in job creation for at least 20 resident Indians in every financial year. The spouse and dependent children of foreign investors may also qualify with same investments). The Permanent Residence status is created to attract FDI “Foreign Direct Investment” in India and facilitate Make in India program which is a government initiative focused on encouraging companies to manufacture in India (launched in September 2014). The PR scheme will not be applicable for citizens of Pakistan or third country nationals of Pakistani origin.


Permanent Residence status is multiple entry visa permit valid of 10 years, and can be extended further for another 10 years, there will be no restriction on stay on each visit and no registration will be required with FRO “Foreigners Registration Office”, PR holders are allowed to purchase one residential property for residential use, spouse/dependents of the investor are allowed to take up employment in private sector only (conditions apply) and can undertake studies in India without a applying for student visa.


In case you decide not to give up your Indian citizenship and are looking to opt for Dual Citizenship for a better future for you and your family, you may explore the options of Residency by Investment in Canada, Greece, Malta, Spain, Portugal, or others, and you may keep renewing it while enjoying the benefits of living in both worlds.


Feel free and contact the author if you have any confusion on relinquishing your Indian citizenship and o find out more about the OCI. We can help you answer all your queries and assist you take the next step towards global residency / citizenship.


About The Author

Head of RCBI / Business Migration

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