Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Jan. 7 launched an overseas citizenship program for all Indians who emigrated to other countries after 1950, and said it may grant voting rights to Indians temporarily working in Gulf Arab states.
About 25 million people of Indian origin have moved abroad, often in search of jobs and education in wealthier countries. The government wants them to invest in India, which will be easier under the citizenship program.
Singh handed the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards to two Indian Americans, Nivruthi Rai and Iftekhar Shareef, at an annual conference of nearly 1,200 people of Indian origin who have moved abroad.
The program grants Indians living abroad lifelong multiple-entry visas, and lets them buy and own land, homes, and buildings in India.
The citizenship offer covers Indians who were born in India and are now working overseas, as well as those whose parents or previous forebears left India after 1950. However, they will not be allowed to vote or run for political office in India, or to take jobs in India’s defense services.
Sharif, president and chief executive officer of the Chicago-based National Bankcard Corporation, said, “For all practical purposes, now I am an Indian. There are no restrictions on me now.”
Singh also said the government was thinking about granting voting rights to more than 3 million Indians who are temporarily working in oil-rich Gulf Arab states.
“They are nonresident Indians who will never become naturalized citizens of those countries,” Singh said. “Their demand seeking voting rights at home has, therefore, a convincing political basis.”
There are large numbers of Indians living abroad in countries including Britain, the United States, Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada.
Singh said the amount of cash sent back to India every year by ethnic Indians living and working abroad has risen to $20 billion in 2005, from $13 billion in 2001.
“I salute the overseas Indians, the workers and the professionals, who are contributing with their skills and sweat to the economic development of their motherland,” Singh said.
NOT DUAL CITIZENSHIP
Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status is not the same as dual citizenship. OCIs do not receive an Indian passport. They receive a registration certificate and an OCI U-visa sticker is pasted on their American (or other) passports.
So what are the benefits? A multiple-entry, lifelong visa for visiting India. You’d be exempt from registration with the local police authority for any length of stay in India. OCIs can buy and own land, homes, and buildings in India, but not agricultural or plantation properties.
A person who is registered as OCI for five years, and has resided in India for one year in that period, is eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), courtesy of the Consulate General of India, San Francisco:
FAQS ABOUT OCI
Who is eligible to apply?
A foreign national, who was eligible to become citizen of India on Jan. 26, 1950 or was a citizen of India on or at anytime after Jan. 26, 1950 or belonged to a territory that became part of India after Aug. 15, 1947 and his/her children and grandchildren, provided his/her country of citizenship allows dual citizenship in some form or other under the local laws, is eligible for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). Minor children of such person are also eligible for OCI. However, if the applicant had ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, he/she will not be eligible for OCI.
Who was eligible to become a citizen of India on Jan. 26, 1950?
Any person who, or either of whose parents, or any of whose grandparents, was born in India as defined in the Government of India Act, 1935 (as originally enacted), and who was ordinarily residing in any country outside India was eligible to become citizen of India on Jan. 26, 1950.
Which territories became part of India after Aug. 15, 1947 and from what date?
(i) Sikkim from April 26,1975
(ii) Pondicherry from Aug. 16, 1962
(iii) Dadra and Nagar Haveli from Aug. 11, 1961
(iv) Goa, Daman, and Diu from Dec. 20, 1961
Can the spouse of the eligible person apply for OCI?
Yes, if he/she is eligible in his/her own capacity.
Can children of parents, wherein one of the parents is eligible for OCI, apply for OCI?
In what form should a person apply for OCI and where are they available?
A family of spouses and up to two minor children can apply in the same form.
Can application form be filled and submitted online?
No. For the present, applications form has to be submitted by mail to the Indian Mission/Post.
What documents have to be attached with the application?
The following documents shall be enclosed with each application:
(1) Three passport size (2” inches X 2” inches) photographs
(2) Proof of citizenship of applicant(s)
(3) Evidence of self or parents or grandparents
(a) being eligible to become a citizen of India at the time of commencement of the Constitution; or
(b) belonging to a territory that became part of India after Aug. 15, 1947; or
(c) being citizen of India on or after Jan. 26, 1950,
(i) Copy of the passport (or)
(ii) Copy of the domicile certificate issued by a competent authority (or)
(iii) Any other proof (or)
(4) Evidence of relationship as parent/grandparent, if their Indian origin is claimed as basis for grant of OCI.
(5) Proof of fee payment US$275 for each applicant or equivalent in local currency (US$25 or equivalent in local currency for each PIO card holder)
(6) PIO card holders must also submit a notarized copy of their PIO card.
What documents would qualify for “any other proof” for evidence of self or parents or grand parents being eligible for grant of OCI?
Any documentary evidence by which the officer equivalent to Under Secretary to the Government of India in the Indian Mission/Post can diligently arrive at the decision.
How many copies of application have to be submitted?
Application and supporting documents have to be submitted in duplicate.
Do applicant(s) have to go in person to submit the application(s)?
No. Application(s) can be sent by post.
Do the applicant(s) have to take oath before the
Counsel of the Indian Mission/Post?
No. Earlier provision in this regard has been done away with.
Where to submit the application?
To the Indian Mission/Post of the country of citizenship of the applicant. If the applicant is not in the country of citizenship, to the Indian Mission/Post of the country where he is ordinarily residing. If the applicant is in India, to the FRRO Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkota or Amritsar or to CHIO, Chennai or to the Under Secretary, Citizenship section, Foreigners Division, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Jaisalmer House, 26, Mansingh Road, New Delhi-110011.
Can a person apply in the country where he is ordinarily residing?
What are the consequences of furnishing wrong information or suppressing material information?
All the applications will be subject to pre- or post-enquiry depending on whether any adverse information is available or not. If the Government comes to the knowledge that any false information was furnished or material information was suppressed, the registration as OCI already granted shall be cancelled by an order under section 7D of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The persons will also be blacklisted banning his/her entry into India.
What is the fee for application for registration as OCI?
US$275 or equivalent in local currency for eac
h applicant. In case of PIO card holder, US$ 25 or equivalent in local currency for each applicant.
What is the time taken for registration as OCI?
The expected time frame is about 12 weeks from the time of application. If any adverse information is available against the applicant, the decision to grant or otherwise may take longer.
If the registration as OCI is not granted, what amount will be refunded?
An amount of US$250 or equivalent in local currency shall be refunded, if registration is refused. US$ 25 is the processing fees, which is non-refundable.
Can a PIO cardholder apply?
Yes, provided he/she is otherwise eligible for grant of OCI like any other applicant.
Will the PIO Cardholder be granted OCI registration gratis?
No. He/she has to make a payment of US$25 or equivalent in local currency along with the application.
Will the PIO card be honored till the time they are valid even after acquisition of OCI?
No. The PIO card will have to be surrendered to Indian Mission/MHA for grant of OCI registration certificate and OCI ‘U’ visa sticker.
What will be issued after registration as OCI?
A registration certificate in prescribed format will be issued and a multiple entry, multi-purpose OCI ‘U’ visa sticker will be pasted on the foreign passport of the applicant. For this purpose, the applicant has to send the original passport to the Indian Mission/Post after receipt of the acceptance letter/OCI registration certificate.
Will a separate OCI passport be issued?
Will a duplicate certificate of registration as OCI be issued?
Yes. For this purpose, an application has to be made to the Indian Mission/Post with evidence for loss of certificate. In case of mutilated/damaged certificate an application has to be made enclosing the same. The applications in both the cases have to be made to the same Indian Mission/Post which issued the certificate along with payment of fee of US$25 or equivalent in local currency.
Will a new OCI visa sticker be issued on the new foreign passport after the expiry of the old passport?
Yes. On payment of requisite fee, a new OCI ‘U’ visa sticker will be issued. However, the applicant can continue to carry the old passport wherein OCI ‘U’ visa sticker was pasted along with new passport for visiting India without seeking a new visa, as the visa has lifetime validity.
Will the applicant lose his citizenship after registering as OCI?
No. As only citizens of the country which allows dual citizenship under the local laws in some form or the other are eligible for applying for registration as OCI, the issue of losing foreign citizenship does not arise.
Can a person holding OCI travel to protected area/restricted area without permission?
No. He/she will be required to seek Protected Area Permit (PAP)/ Restricted Area Permit (RAP) for such visits.
Would the Indian civil/criminal laws be applicable to persons registered as OCI?
Yes. For the period, OCI is living in India.
Can a person registered as OCI be granted Indian citizenship?
Yes. As per the provisions of section 5(1)(g) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, a person who is registered as OCI for 5 years and is residing in India for 1 year out of the above 5 years, is eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
Will OCI be granted gratis to certain categories of people?
Can OCI be granted to foreign nationals who are not eligible for OCI, but married to persons who are eligible for OCI?
Will foreign-born children of PIOs be eligible to become OCI?
Yes, provided one of the parents is eligible to become OCI.
What are the benefits of OCI?
Following benefits will be allowed to OCI:
(a) Multipurpose, multiple-entry, lifelong visa for visiting India.
(b) Exemption from registration with local police authority for any length of stay in India.
(c) Parity with NRIs in respect of economic, financial and education fields, except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural/plantation properties.
Will any other benefit be granted to OCI?
Any other benefits to OCI will be notified by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) under Section 7B(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Is an OCI is entitled to voting rights?
Is an OCI is entitled to hold a constitutional post in India?
Whether the OCI is entitled to hold government posts in India?
No, except for the posts specified by an order by the Central Government.
If a person is already holding more than one nationality, can he/she apply for OCI?
Yes, as long as the local laws of at least one of the countries allow dual citizenship in some form or other.
What are the advantages of OCI status compared to PIO?
(i) OCI is entitled to lifelong visa-free travel to India whereas for PIO cardholder, it is for 15 years.
(ii) PIO cardholder is required to register with local police authority for stay exceeding 180 days in India on any single visit whereas OCI is exempted from registration with police authority for any length of stay in India.
Is an OCI be entitled to apply for and obtain a normal Indian passport which is given to a citizen of India?
No. An Indian passport is given only to an Indian citizen.
Are nationals of Commonwealth countries are eligible for OCI?
Yes, if they fulfill the eligibility criteria.
Can a person renounce OCI?
Yes. He/she has to declare intention of renunciation to the Indian Mission/Post where OCI registration was granted. After receipt of the declaration, the Indian Mission/Post shall issue an acknowledgement.
Do the applicants who have applied on the earlier prescribed application form have to apply again in the new form?
No. All such applications will be considered for registration as OCI without seeking fresh application and fee.
Courtesy: Consulate General of India, 540 Arguello Blvd., San Francisco. For more information and to apply: www.cgisf.org