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Updated with info from Embassy of India, Washington, DC: India Fails to Adequately Notify OCI Card Holders of New Restrictions

Credit: https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com/oci/homepage

Washington, DC - Embassy of India, Washington DC provided the following answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on OCI Card:

1. What are the Benefits for an OCI card holder:
An OCI card holder gets the following benefits:
i. A multiple entry, multi-purpose life-long visa for visiting India.
ii. Exemption from registration with local police authority for any length of stay in India.
iii. Parity with Non-resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of economic, financial and educational fields, except in relation to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.
iv. OCI can be used as identity proof for application of PAN Card and driving licence as well as for opening a bank account if the OCI card holder is residing in India.
2. What benefits an OCI Card holder is not entitled to:
The OCI Card holder is not entitled:
i. to vote,
ii. to be a member of a Legislative Assembly or of a Legislative Council or of the Parliament of India,
iii. to hold Indian constitutional posts such as that of the President, Vice President, Judge of the Supreme Court or High Court etc.
iv. He/she cannot normally hold employment in the Government
3. Under what conditions should one apply for New OCI Card and Sticker:
(i) In case of issuance of new passport.
(a) For an applicant who is 20 years of age or younger, OCI documents must be re-issued each time a new passport is issued.
(b) For an applicant who is 50 years of age or older, OCI documents must be re-issued once after the issuance of a new passport.
(c) For an applicant who is 21 to 49 years of age, there is no need to re-issue OCI documents each time a new passport is issued. However, if the applicant desires, he/she can request that the OCI documents be re-issued so that the OCI documents reflect the correct passport number.
(ii) In case there is a change in personal particulars.
(iii) In case of loss/damage of passport and/or OCI booklet.
(iv) For correcting personal particulars entered wrongly while submitting online applications e.g name, father’s name, date of birth etc.,
(v) In case of change of address/occupation.
In case of emergency, the applicant can continue to carry the old passport wherein OCI 'U' visa sticker is pasted along with the new passport and the OCI booklet for visiting India.

*** It is important for the OCI card holder to carry the OCI booklet along with the passport having U visa sticker. Both these documents should always be in the possession of the OCI card holder while travelling to India.

4. Can foreign nationals, who are not otherwise eligible for OCI, get OCI if they are married to persons who are eligible for OCI?
No.
5. Are Minor children eligible for OCI Card?
Minor children are NOT eligible for OCI Card in case both parents are Indian nationals. However, they can apply for PIO Card.
6. Is an applicant who had held nationality of Pakistan or Bangladesh, eligible for OCI?
No, If the applicant has ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, he / she will not be eligible for OCI.
7. What are the advantages of OCI when compared to PIO cardholders?
(i) OCI is entitled to life-long visa free travel to India while in the case of PIO card holders it is for 15 years only.
(ii) PIO cardholder is required to register with local authorities for any stay longer than 180 days in India on any single visit while OCI is exempted from registration with local authorities for any length of stay in India.
8. Can a person renounce OCI?
Yes. He/she has to declare their intention of renunciation in Form XXII to the Indian Mission/Post where OCI registration was granted. After receipt of the declaration, the Indian Mission/Post shall issue an acknowledgement in Form XXII A. A separate application form is available for this purpose.
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“Indian visa regulations change frequently, often with little advance notice, and changes may be poorly advertised and inconsistently enforced.” These words are not complaints from India-visa-seekers, but from the advisory posted on the website of the US Department of State.

The hassles of dealing with Indian consulates across the globe to get visas to India were termed nothing short of a nightmare by most applicants as they had to face long queues, out-dated procedures, and rude staff, among other inconveniences. Then the government of India introduced the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card scheme on September 15, 2002, with the purpose of allowing non-resident Indians (NRIs) to travel freely to and from India without a visa. 

With the aim of further encouraging those NRIs who had adopted foreign citizenship to invest in Indian industry and perhaps even return permanently to India, the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card scheme was created on December 2, 2005, giving holders a lifelong visa and shortening the waiting period to seek Indian citizenship from seven to five years.

The benefits touted were a multiple entry, multi-purpose, life-long visa for visiting India, exemption from registration with the local police authority for any length of stay in India, and parity with NRIs with respect to economic, financial and educational fields, except in relation to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

The promise of a life-long visa has now evaporated and the nightmare scenario has returned with the addition of a new requirement that the OCI be reissued each time the passport is renewed until the age of 20 and once over the age of 50. Those in the age group of 20-49 need only to carry the old passport with the U-visa along with their new passport.

The arbitrary changes announced and the failure on the part of the government and their diplomats to inform OCI card holders has resulted in much confusion.

The US State department advises prospective travelers to India “to check the website of the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC before any travel to India to review the most current information,” but upon visiting the website of the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC to look for guidelines, the page instead states that, “The Embassy of India has decided to outsource the handling of OCI applications to M/s. Travisa Outsourcing.”

Travisa has no information on its website about the new restrictions imposed on  the use of the OCI visa sticker once a person renews a foreign passport.

Investigations have revealed that Travisa, the company to whom the procedures have been outsourced, is nothing but a clerical and administrative part of the entire visa-issuance process. According to informed sources within the company, Travisa has no say in the setting of rules or even in the issuance of visas, but only makes sure the applications are complete and the money is collected and then forwards the file to diplomats. The procedure adds to the process time, alleged most of the people who have used both the former direct Indian diplomatic handling and now the outsourced services.

V.S. Raghavan, a former World Bank Director and who is also associated with several non-governmental and community service organizations in the greater Washington area lamented, “The rub is that these applications have to be sent to India, and the processing time would be ninety days for Washington and sixty days for all other centers. Add about 15 days for other handling.” Raghavan added, “In other words, a OCI cardholder is without an Indian Visa for three to four months.”

Citing the case of the US government’s decision to give lead time when it announced that passports would be needed for US nationals to travel to Mexico and Canada, Raghavan felt that the US government cared for their citizens by giving them several months notice and making transitional arrangements, while the Indian government is making rules and then changing them; but in both cases, hardly any attempt is made to make the Indian population in other countries aware of those changes.

Another arbitrary example of rule implementation was shared by a person who didn’t want to be identified saying, he got an OCI card when he/she was a Canadian national. Coming to the US later and becoming a US National, the person wanted the OCI endorsed on the US Passport. The person was asked to renounce his Indian nationality once more, though it was already done earlier while obtaining the OCI card in Canada.

Most of the people India America Today spoke to agreed the government needs to update the visa rules as required, but all of them could not understand the lack of information and additional processing time and effort to reissue the visa stamps on new passports for certain age groups. Another pertinent question that was repeatedly raised was why can’t the Indian diplomats abroad be given the responsibility to reissue U visas of OCI cards on new foreign passports instead of sending those back to India again.

Applicants are not always made aware of the procedures they need to follow, and the Indian diplomatic services are found lacking in the dissemination of information, especially where the rules are changed frequently. It is not enough to say, “The new rules are on our website,” especially when they are not even prominently posted there.


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