The government of India has merged the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) programs. The PIO card was first implemented in 2002 as a benefit to foreign nationals who could establish at least a third generation tie to Indian origin. The PIO card is valid for travel, work, and residence in India for a period of 15 years. The OCI card was implemented in 2005, carried more expansive benefits than the PIO card, and was valid for the holder’s lifetime.
As a result of the recent change, all current PIO card holders are automatically granted OCI status without a separate application. All applicants whose PIO applications are still pending must re-submit their applications under the OCI category. OCI status is valid for the holder’s lifetime, allows for multiple entries into India for an indefinite length of stay, provides for work authorization, and exempts the holder from local police (FRRO) registration requirements. The OCI card entitles the holder to essentially all benefits of Indian citizenship except for the right to vote.
In addition to merging the PIO and OCI programs, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs also expanded eligibility for OCI classification to include the following:
- Children born abroad to two Indian citizens are now eligible to apply for OCI status.
- The children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of former Indian citizens or those who were previously eligible for OCI status are now all eligible to apply for OCI status.
- Foreign national spouses of OCI holders or Indian citizens are now eligible to apply for OCI status after they have been married for two (2) years.
- Citizens of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Iran, Nepal, and Sri Lanka will now be eligible for OCI status, however citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh remain ineligible.