The Government of India has effectively scrapped the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card scheme through the amended act Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015. The PIO scheme, launched in 2002 was aimed at providing some of the citizenship benefits applicable for Indian citizens to Indian-origin people with foreign nationalities. A corresponding scheme called the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) was launched in 2006 to which offered more benefits to Indian-origin foreign citizens than the PIO cards. In 2015, the government announced a merger of both the schemes to streamline the process for all overseas citizens of India.
Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015
The amendment to the Citizenship Act was passed in March 2015 by both the houses of parliament and came into effect from 6th January 2015 onwards. As per the new act, the following measures have come into force in terms of merging of the two cards:
- People with PIO cards will automatically be considered as OCI cardholders and may obtain a separate OCI card if they so desire.
- People who are in the process of receiving their PIO cards will automatically be considered as OCI cardholders when the application gets processed.
- People whose PIO card applications are still unapproved will need to reapply for OCI cards.
Eligibility for new OCI cards
For applying for the new OCI cards, an applicant should satisfy the following criteria:
- Foreign nationals
- Who were citizens of India at any point since the Indian constitution came into being (26th January 1950).
- Who were eligible for Indian citizenship at the time of inception of constitution.
- Who were citizens of territories that integrated into the Union of India after Independence on 15th August 1947.
- Children, grand-children or great grand-children of people who were citizens of India at any point since the Indian constitution came into being on 26th January 1950.
- At least one of the parents in an Indian citizen.
- Spouse of an OCI/PIO cardholder or Indian citizen, who are eligible to apply for registration if their marriage was registered and subsisted for at least 2 continuous years before application.
- Special circumstances
- The amended act has also provided for special circumstance where a
- Bangladesh and Pakistan citizens cannot apply for the new OCI cards. Restrictions are also expanded to include the parents, grandparents or great-grandparents of such citizens.
- All OCI cardholders below 21 years and above 50 years of age need to apply for the new OCI card along with any new passport.
New OCI cardholders vs Indian citizens
New OCI cardholders are withheld some of the rights available to Indian citizens, including:
- Work opportunity with public enterprises.
- Standing in election for Vice President or President of India.
- As judges in High Courts or Supreme Court.
- Voting rights for elections.
- As a member of Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha.
- As a member of Legislative Council or Legislative Assembly of any Indian state.
- As an appointed member in public posts or services in lieu of affairs of the Centre or any State.