Indian Government merges PIO and OCI cards
Staff Reporter –
The Indian government has announced the merger of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) cards with those of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards and that all PIO cardholders will be deemed to have OCI cards.
“The PIO card notification has been withdrawn with immediate effect and, further, it has been notified that all existing PIO cardholders will be deemed to be OCI cardholders. Now only one OCI card with enhanced benefits is in existence,” a Home Ministry notification said.
The PIO-OCI merger comes close on the heels of promulgation of an ordinance on January 6 amending the Citizenship Act, 1955. The ordinance incorporated the eligibility and additional benefits of PIO card in OCI card and provided certain other relaxations to OCI cardholders.
The relaxations include allowing breaks not exceeding 30 days in the one-year continuous stay required before applying for Indian citizenship and registration as an OCI by a minor born to Indian parents or by the spouse of an Indian citizen or OCI after two years of marriage.
‘U’ Sticker goes
Another notification issued by the External Affairs Ministry said that there is no need to change the PIO Card into OCI Card and that the currently held PIO cards will be treated as OCI Cards with all the facilities entitled to an OCI Cardholder.
“This will include lifelong validity with no requirement of registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Offices/Foreigners Registration Offices in India if their stay exceeds 180 days. The government has also decided to dispense with ‘U’ (Universal) visa sticker on the foreign passport of OCI Cardholders with immediate effect and to modify the OCI registration certificate in the form booklet to provide for the endorsement ‘Visa validity-Lifelong.’ However, it is advised that passport containing ‘U’ sticker may be carried with the new passport and OCI registration card, wherever it is possible,” the notification stated.
Immigration authorities in India have been advised not to insist on production of the foreign passport containing the ‘U’ visa sticker and to grant clearance based on production of the OCI Card only.