Individuals of Indian origin who have surrendered their Indian citizenship but wish to regularly visit India without a hitch are often faced with the question of whether or not they should apply for an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card. This card scheme was launched in 2015 as a means to replace the former PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) card scheme, which functioned in almost the same way as the OCI but differed from it in terms of eligibility, the application process, benefits and more.
What is OCI?
In 2005, the OCI scheme was introduced in India to address demands for dual citizenship. With this scheme, one cannot have a second country’s passport simultaneously with an Indian passport, even when a child is claimed as a citizen of another country and may be required by that country to use one of its passports for foreign travel. Hence, OCI is not tantamount to dual nationality or citizenship.
What is PIO?
On the other hand, the PIO card used to be a proof of identification issued to PIOs with passports in countries other than Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and China. The Government of India abolished this card scheme on Jan. 9, 2015 and merged it with the OCI.
What makes OCI different from PIO?
As mentioned, several factors differentiate OCI from PIO, though in some ways, they may be the same.
- Who are eligible to apply?
For both OCI and PIO, any person of Indian descent who is a citizen of another country and holds a foreign passport can apply.
- Where to apply?
Both the OCI and PIO cards can be applied for in the CKGS Application Center nearest to your jurisdiction.
- What are the guidelines for eligibility?
Anyone eligible to become an Indian citizen on or after January 26, 1950, belongs to any Indian territory after August 15, 1947, or is a child or grandchild of someone who meets any of the two aforementioned criteria is eligible to apply for an OCI card. On the other hand, anyone who has an Indian passport at any time, whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents were born in India and permanently reside in India as defined by the Government of India Act of 1995, is eligible to apply for a PIO card.
- What is the required duration of the cardholder’s entry to India?
For OCI cardholders, there is no restriction when it comes to their period of stay in India. But for PIO cardholders, they cannot stay longer than 180 days. If they do, then they need to register themselves with the concerned FRRO/ FRO.
Question about Relatives
Is the cardholder’s spouse and children eligible to apply?
For OCI cardholders, the spouse is not eligible if he or she is not of an Indian origin. For PIO cardholders, the spouse is eligible to apply whether or not he or she is of Indian origin. Children of an OCI cardholder are eligible to apply for an OCI card so long as at least one of his or her parent is a foreign citizen of Indian lineage. On the other hand, children whose parents are both Indian citizens are the only ones eligible to apply for a PIO card.
General Living in India
- What are the employment opportunities involved?
OCI cardholders are not required to have an employment visa and can stay in India for as long as they wish. There are also no restrictions to pursue a profession, except in Indian territories that require specially Protected and Restricted area permits. PIO cardholders also do not need to have an employment visa. However, if they stay longer than 180 days in India, they need to register themselves with the nearest FRO office.
- Is there a need for a separate Education Visa?
Both the OCI and PIO cards do not require a separate Education Visa and children are free to enroll in any educational institution that’s within the NRI quota.
- Can OCI and PIO cardholders earn their income like regular Indian citizens?
When it comes to economic and financial rights, both OCI and PIO holders can invest in agricultural and plantation properties and be issued with a PAN card and a driver’s license. They can also open their bank accounts and invest just like regular citizens.
- Is income earned in India liable for taxation?
Since taxation laws differ from one country to another and hugely depend on individual circumstances, it is always best to consult an expert in taxation laws. As far as India is concerned, income earned in the country is always liable for taxation in India, and tax depends on whether the status of the cardholder is ROR (Ordinary Resident) or RNOR (Not Ordinary Resident). While possession of immovable properties like house or land is not taxed, the sale of such is taxed. In the U.S.A., residents are taxed on worldwide tax incomes, although this can be reduced under the Double Taxation Laws.
DOCUMENTATION AND PROCESSING
How long does it take to process the card?
Processing the OCI card involves two steps. As soon as the Consulate in Delhi approves the OCI card and sticker, the applicant should send the passport and the fee receipt to the CKGS. It usually takes 3 to 4 months to process the card. On the other hand, processing of the PIO card involves just one step and takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete.
Can I convert my OCI to PIO and vice versa?
Since the OCI came later than the PIO card, it does not change to PIO status. However, a PIO card can be converted into an OCI card.
What if I already have a PIO card? Do I still need to apply for an OCI card?
Since the PIO card scheme has already been withdrawn, all PIO cards that were issued until January 9, 2015, need to be converted into an OCI card. Applicants may apply for a new OCI card in lieu of their PIO card by following some simple steps. Those who want to convert their PIO cards to OCI have until June 30, 2017, to process their applications with zero consular fees and ICWF fee.
If you are an application from the U.S., the CKGS website has already been customized so that all documents, letters, and forms required in the application are as per the instructions of the Embassy and Consulates of India in the U.S. So as to avoid errors, the rules on the website will help identify the applicant’s OCI category, including the type, fees, and duration. It also has an auto-population feature so all repetitive information in forms and letters may be noted and the applicant only needs to fill in the missing fields.
All OCI online forms can be found not on the website of the Government of India but on the CKGS website. The same website will also check if you require the Renunciation of Indian Citizenship, and if so, then you can proceed to the next steps.
So how do I convert my PIO into an OCI card?
Here are the steps:
Step 1: Get started.
- Look for the “OCI Application-Get Started” link and begin your application by clicking it.
- Remember all the details before filling out the “OCI in Lieu of PIO” application form.
- Remember that your current US passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of application and should have at least 2 blank pages. Take note of the following:
- Passport number
- Date of issue
- Date of expiry
- Details of any of your other valid passport/identity certificate
- Country of issue
- Date of issue
- Passport or certificate number
- Place of issue
- Details of current citizenship
- Existing PIO card
Step 2: Fill in the widget.
On the CKGS website, the widget contains different OCI categories where you must click “OCI in Lieu of PIO” to proceed. Once you have clicked it, choose which among the miscellaneous services indicated is applicable to your case.
Step 3: Wait for the result page to flash on the screen.
The page will display the following information:
- Document checklist. Read this carefully to know which documents, forms, and letters are required.
- OCI in Lieu of PIO fees
- Processing time
- CKGS web reference number
Step 4: Accomplish the forms.
- Print a copy of the documents on the document checklist.
- Fill out the forms.
- Review and check the letters and forms.
- Go to “My Account” and print the forms.
- Sign the forms and letters.
Step 5: Choose your mode of submission.
For the mode of submission, you can choose between Shipping and Walk-in.
Step 5a: Shipping
Send your fully completed application, including all the documents and payment, through shipping to the CKGS Application Centre of your jurisdiction.
Step 5b: Walk-in
If you choose Walk-in as your mode of submission, continue online to proceed to the “Appointment Process.” Here are the steps:
- Select your appointment date.
- Choose your timeslot.
- Confirm your appointment date and time from CKGS.
- Make sure that you appear on the designated appointment date and time and submit your completed application at the CKGS Application Center.
Step 6: Complete your payment.
Pay via credit card online at the CKGS Application Center. Fees include (a) OCI in Lieu of PIO fees, (b) Indian Community Welfare Fund, (c) CKGS service fee, and other fees. Note that the center does not accept cash or personal checks for payment, so make sure that you have your credit card with you.
Step 7: Go to the Government Online OCI website.
To continue with your OCI application process, you will have to go to the Government Online OCI website and leave the CKGS website. On the website, select “OCI Registration (In Lieu of Valid PIO Card). Fill out forms A and B, and make sure that your jurisdiction is the same as the one identified earlier in the process. Affix your photo and sign the form.
For the photo, please take note of the following specifications:
- The photo for OCI cannot be the same as the one in your passport.
- It should have been taken within the past six months.
- It should be 2×2 in size.
- It should not be stapled or taped.
- It should be colored.
- Its background should be white.
- It must show your full face.
- It must be taken in your colored, normal street attire.
- It should be printed on glossy photo paper.
- It should show you wearing prescription glasses, a hearing device, or wig, if you normally wear those.
- It should not show you wearing a hat or anything that may obscure your hair or hairline. Except for personal reasons, head coverings are not allowed.
Before uploading the photo, make sure that it meets the following conditions:
- It is in JPEG/JPG format.
- Its size does not exceed 200kb.
- Its height and width are equal.
- Its minimum dimensions are 200×200 pixels.
- Its maximum dimensions are 900×900 pixels.
For the signature, here are the specifications:
- It is in JPEG/JPG format.
- Its maximum size is 200kb.
- Its height and width have an aspect ratio of 1:3.
- Its minimum dimensions are 200×67 pixels.
- Its maximum dimensions are 900×300 pixels.
Step 8: Upload your photo on the signature on the Government of India website.
Do not forget to upload all the necessary documents on the Government of India website post form filling. If you have not yet readied your scanned copies, you may return to the site later but make it a point to return and upload the documents there.
Step 9: Get a NEW Web Reference Number.
From the Government of India website, get a new web reference number. This number will be the one that you will use on the CKGS website if you want to track the status of your application.
Step 10: Return to the CKGS website.
After completing and printing all the Government OCI forms, go back to the home page of the CKGS website and click on the option that says “Already filled in government form.” Fill in the (a) New Web Reference Number, (b) CKGS Web Reference Number, (c) Date of Birth, and (d) Current USA Passport Number fields if you are an existing applicant.
Step 11: Go to the CKGS Application Center for your physical application.
Once you are done with the online process, the next and final step is to submit your physical application via walk-in or shipping option previously chosen by you, depending on your jurisdiction. If you choose the shipping option, the CKGS will send you an email acknowledgment stating “Received but not verified” as soon as they have received your application package. Remember that your application will not be processed unless you submit your physical application package to the CGKS Application Center, so make sure that you go to the center will all the documents.
Upon submission, make sure that you:
- Place all the documents in the same order as mentioned in the checklist.
- Check if the number of your documents, forms, and letters is correct as per the checklist.
- Tick off the boxes on both checklists.
- Put all the documents in an envelope, enclosed with one copy of the document checklist.