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What are the implications of applying for an Overseas Citizen of India Card?
Author : Fasiha Parveen Monday, June 29, 2020

What are the implications of applying for an Overseas Citizen of India Card?

The Constitution of India does not permit any Indian citizen holding dual nationality. However,   due to demand by the Indian diaspora, in developed countries, the Government created the Overseas citizen of India card or OCI card through an amendment to The Citizenship Amendment Act, in 2005. The OCI status does not grant people Indian citizenship, has many restrictions, and only allows certain rights. According to a survey done in 2013, a total of 1,372,624 people were holding OCI cards as on the 31st of July 2013.


While India does not support dual citizenships, multiple countries around the world do. Some of these countries are Albania, Iraq, Mexico, Spain, Armenia, Ecuador, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Austria, Egypt, Israel, Montenegro, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, Bangladesh, Fiji, Jordan, Pakistan, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, Kenya, Peru, Syria, Brazil, France, Philippines, Thailand, Germany, Poland, Canada, Lebanon, Portugal, Greece, Romania, United States of America, Russia, Serbia, Denmark, Iceland among many others.


What are the rights of OCI cardholders?

One of the most prominent rights of OCI cardholders is their ability to travel to and from the country of their nationality and India, without a visa. Due to this, companies around the world lean towards hiring OCI cardholders.


Furthermore,  OCI  cardholders  are  not  allowed  to  purchase  agricultural  land,  plantation  properties, vote in an election, or hold public office. The Government has announced a couple of additional benefits to OCI cardholders, and these are, being treated in parity with Indian  Citizens abroad when  it  comes  to  inter-country  Indian  children  adoption,  domestic  airfares,  and admittance into national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.  There  were  multiple  similar  additions  to their rights, and in 2012 the Government stated that OCI registration booklets could be treated as overseas citizens’ identification, including a facilitated rule allowing for its acceptance as proof of residence.

However, there was a stark distinction at the time of the Coronavirus pandemic hitting the world. Indian-Americans with OCI cards found their long term visas temporarily blocked due to the coronavirus travel restrictions. However, Indian citizens were given priority and taken back to India through flights that were coordinated by the respective country Governments.


Before the OCI card began playing such a big role in the lives of people, the Persons of Indian Origin Card (PIO card) was widely used. It was not as effective, more expensive, and caused a lot of confusion between the two, not just by the cardholders but the administration as well.

Additionally, people were not sure which one to apply for. In 2014, Prime minister Narendra Modi announced the merger between the two cards, the PIO and the OCI. However, PIO cardholders had to apply and convert their existing cards into OCI cards. Furthermore, the Bureau of Immigration stated that it would continue to accept the old PIO cards as valid travel documents until the 30th of September 2020.


What is the process of applying for an OCI card?

The OCI status and cards are provided by the Bureau of Immigration under the Union Home Ministry. The application process can be handled online as well as their through the Indian Mission office, abroad. These are the documents needed.

        Proof of citizenship

        Proof of either the individual’s parents, grandparents, or great grandparents being citizens of India

        Proof of the relationship as parents, grandparents, or great grandparents, if they were OCI cardholders

        Passport size photograph

        Thumb impression

        Application fee

        The filled out, application form and fee challan


How does dual citizenship work in countries that accept it?

Dual citizenship and multiple-citizenship are concepts handled by multiple countries. They, however, only work if the two or more countries where they are applied have laws in common. If individuals are born or married to someone from either one of these countries, they automatically

receive the right to apply for their dual or multiple citizenships. At some point, they have to apply and handle the registration process.


Many countries allow dual or multiple citizenships, with laws allowing citizens to acquire another citizenship without losing their present one. Other countries, like India, do not support the same and applying for citizenship in another country leads to the loss of their current citizenship.

Therefore, the acquisition of a second citizenship is only legally possible for citizens of those countries which allow dual citizenship.

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