OCI and PIO cards to merge
By Hanishi T. Ali
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently announced that the Indian government has decided to merge the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) and the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) cards into a single facility in order to encourage active participation of the Indian diaspora in India as well as to sort out the problems that implementation of two different card schemes has given rise to.
Merging the two cards means that PIO card holders will now be entitled to life-long visa for India rather than the visa-free entry being limited to 15 years. This merging also means that PIO cardholders will be exempt from registration with local police in India for a stay exceeding 180 days in India on any single visit and they will also be entitled to the rights of residency just as OCI cardholders have at present. While OCI cardholders get a specific right to become an Indian citizen, the PIO cardholders do not have this option, but now merging the two into a single facility will bring PIO cardholders at par with OCI cardholders.
It should also be noted that at the time of writing this article the Embassy of India in D.C., and the other Consulate Generals of India in the United States are still issuing both PIO and OCI and the process for merging and the length of time it will take is unclear. Although, PIO cardholders can “upgrade” to an OCI card and have been and are allowed to do provided they fulfill the eligibility requirement but such applicants should note that the PIO card is typically cancelled by the Embassy/ Indian Consulate at the time the OCI documents are collected which is before acquisition of OCI.
Hanishi T. Ali is an attorney at Mithras Law Group, a Westborough based global immigration and international business law firm. Hanishi can be reached at 617-500-3233 or at www.mithraslaw.com. Firm Blog at: http://immigrationinfo.wordpress.com/ on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/immigrationinfo