Friday, August 9, 2013

The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card

Over two lakh people of Indian origin have opted for the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card every year since 2010 while one lakh OCI cards have been given out in the last 5 months. 

The largest group of overseas citizens of India is in the US, which boasts of 5.2 lakh card holders, followed by the UK with 3.1 lakh people. Other countries that have a significant number of OCIs are Australia with 1.3 lakh and Canada with 1.1 lakh. This means that roughly four out of every five OCIs lives in one of these four countries. 

OCI card members increased from 1.12 lakh in 2006-2007 to 12.52 lakh as on February 2013, growing more than ten-fold in just seven years. Between February and July this year, the number of OCI cards has gone up to 13.72 lakh. In addition, there are 11,672 applications under process in 107 Indian missions and posts across the world. 

OCI can't be construed as dual citizenship 

However, OCI cannot be construed as "dual citizenship" as card holders do not have the right to vote, hold a constitutional post, run for elections or buy agricultural or plantation land. The scheme is open only for persons of Indian origin (PIOs) who were eligible or were already citizens of India as on January 26, 1950. 

The OCI card provides multiple-entry, multi-purpose lifelong entry visa for visiting India and exemption from registration with local police authorities for any length of stay in the country. It also allows parity with non-resident Indians with respect to economic, financial and educational fields, facilitates inter-country adoption of Indian children, allows opening of bank account in India and be charged the same entry fees as NRIs at national monuments, national parks and museums. 

OCIs also get parity with non-resident Indians in respect of practicing professions in India like doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, advocates, architects and chartered accountants. This is subject to the relevant laws governing these professions. 

Saudi Arabia, which plays host to the largest number of overseas Indians, has only 968 OCIs registered. Pakistan has 2 OCIs, Nepal 6, Croatia 8 while Mali and Mongolia have one each. There are 4 OCIs in Libya and 19 in Cambodia, according to the data collated by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA). 

The card is not given to citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh. 
Incidentally, about 69,425 cards have been issued by the foreigner regional registration offices in India indicating that many people may be opting for the card as a precursor to citizenship. According to the Citizenship Act, a person who has been registered as an overseas citizen for five years and has lived in India for one year can apply for citizenship

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