Modi announces merging of OCI and POI cards, but how will it help: Explained

Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi who arrived at the packed Madison Square Garden to a rousing welcome, striked the right chords and announced many things which made the crowd more happy and cheerful.

 Here is how this merging will help and why has it been done.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Madison Square Garden in US.

What is PIO card?

  • Persons of Indian origin (PIO) scheme was launched in 1999 and the PIO card was issued to any person currently holding foreign passport, who can prove their Indian origin up to three generations before.
  • PIO cards are issued to individuals who are either citizens or naturalized citizens of a country, but are of Indian origin, through their parents.
  • Citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries as may be specified by the central government are not eligible for grant of PIO card.
  • The PIO card must be produced alongside the foreign passport when entering or departing any port in India.
  • A PIO card is generally valid for a period of fifteen years from the date of issue.

What is OCI card?

  • Introduced in August 2005, the Overseas citizenship of India (OCI) scheme was launched during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention at Hyderabad in 2006.
  • OCI cards are given to those who have taken citizenship in other countries, apart from India, but have Indian origin roots. The same holds for spouses of Indian citizen or persons of Indian origin.
  • Therefore, Overseas Citizenship of India is not an actual citizenship of India and thus, does not amount to dual citizenship or dual nationality.
  • The OCI card is not a substitute for an Indian visa and therefore, the passport which displays the lifetime visa must be carried by OCI holders while traveling to India.

What has Narendra Modi announced?

  • Modi announced on Sunday that PIO card holders who have faced visa issues will get life long visas. He said, "Those who stay in India for a long time have to go to the police station, now they won't have to."
  • "I have been told that due to differences between PIO and OCI people face difficulties, especially those who have spouses who are not Indians. I am happy to announce that we will merge the PIO and OCI schemes and make it into one," he added.
  • He also announced that a new scheme will soon be announced for NRIs in a few months. "We will also give long term visas for US nationals. We will also set up visa on arrival facilities for you," he said.
  • Modi also said that PIO card holders to get lifetime visas.
  • Modi also said that PIO cardholders will get a lifetime Indian visa and that American tourists will be given visa on arrival.
  • Modi also announced the merger of PIO and Overseas Citizens of India schemes to facilitate hassle-free travel to the Indian Diaspora.

PIO card Vs OCI cards

  • The merger of these two cards could make PIO card holders also eligible for the benefits that are enjoyed by OCI card holders.
  • Both the cards are aimed at providing long-term residency rights to people of Indian origin and to help them participate in economic and educational activities in India.
  • Currently, the two cards provide different facilities to their holders.
  • PIO cards are issued to Indians who have lived abroad for a couple of generations while OCI cards are issued to more recent migrants that have taken citizenships of other countries.
  • The OCI cards are virtual visas that enable holders to enter India for an indefinite period, but PIO cardholders need to apply for separate visas.
  • If you are a PIO cardholder, and want to become an Indian citizen again, you need to reside in India for minimum seven years before making an application for grant of Indian citizenship. 
  • An OCI cardholder may be granted Indian citizenship after five years from the date of registration provided he/she stays for one year in India before making application.

How will merging help?

  • Merging PIO and OCI will lead to simplification of the rules under a single umbrella.
  • It was envisaged that merger of the card would facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country.
  • This is aimed at simplifying the visa-free entry for people of Indian origin into India.
  • The merger of the two cards could make PIO cardholders eligible for benefits already enjoyed by OCI cardholders.
  • Merging of the two cards will facilitate travel of Indians staying abroad and their participation in various activities in India.

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