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Overseas Citizenship of India

Context:

The Delhi High Court has sought a response from the central government on a petition against the cancellation of a person’s Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who is an Overseas Citizen?
  2. Benefits to OCI Cardholders
  3. Limitations

Who is an Overseas Citizen?

  • An OCI is a category introduced by the government in 2005.
  • Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories as specified in the Citizenship Act, 1955 are eligible for being OCI cardholders.
  • Some of the benefits for PIO and OCI cardholders were different until 2015 when the government merged these two categories.
Definition:
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs defines an OCI as a person who:
    • Was a citizen of India on or after 26th January 1950; or Was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950; or
    • Is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
    • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Benefits to OCI Cardholders:

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
  • If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she is eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, buy the non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a Permanent Account Number (PAN) card.
  • At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.

Limitations:

  • OCI cardholders do not get voting rights, cannot hold a government job and purchase agricultural or farmland.
  • They cannot run for public office either, nor can they travel to restricted areas without government permission.

-Source: The Hindu


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