Overseas Citizenship of India

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Overseas Citizen of India
OCI JK.jpg
Front Cover of an OCI card
First issued2 December 2005
PurposeVisa, Identification
Eligibilitysee eligibility
Cost15000 (In India)
US $275 (abroad)
Renewal 1400 (In India)
Renewal US $25 (abroad)

Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is a form of permanent residency available to people of Indian origin and their spouses which allows them to live and work in India indefinitely. Despite the name, OCI status is not citizenship and does not grant the right to vote in Indian elections or hold public office.[1][2] The Indian government can revoke OCI status in a wide variety of circumstances. As of 2020, there are 6 million holders of OCI cards among the Indian Overseas diaspora.[3]

The OCI scheme was introduced by The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora. It provided to Overseas citizens many of the rights availablel to resident citizens. However, In a March 2021 notification, the Government of India has dramatically curtailed those rights.[4]

OCI status is not available to anyone who has ever been a Pakistani or Bangladeshi citizen, or who is a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of such a person.


The Constitution of India does not permit dual citizenship for citizens of India. Indian authorities have interpreted the law to mean a person cannot have a second country's passport simultaneously with an Indian one — even in the case of a child who is claimed by another country as a citizen of that country, and who may be required by the laws of the other country to use one of its passports for foreign travel (such as a child born in United States or in Canada to Indian parents), and the Indian courts have given the executive branch wide discretion over this matter.

On the recommendations of a High-Level Committee on Indian Diaspora, the Government of India decided to register Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of a certain category, as has been specified in the Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, as Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cardholders.[5]

The OCI program was launched during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention held in Hyderabad in late 2005.[6]

Before 29 January 2015, travelers holding OCI card were required to carry the passport which contained the lifetime visa while traveling to India. This requirement was done away with that day and OCI card holders no longer require the visa sticker passport. The OCI card (the blue booklet) in conjunction with a current valid foreign passport is sufficient to travel to and from India.

In March 2020, visa-free travel granted to OCI holders were put on hold till 15 April due to the coronavirus pandemic.[7]


The Government of India, on application, may register any person as an Overseas Citizen of India, if the person:

  • was a citizen of India on 26 January 1950 or at any time thereafter; or
  • belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15 August 1947; or
  • was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26 January 1950; or
  • is a child or a grandchild or a great-grandchild of such a citizen; or
  • is a minor child of such persons mentioned above; or
  • is a minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; or
  • is a spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder registered under section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application.
  • A person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan & Bangladesh, is ineligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India.[8]
  • A person who has served as a member of any foreign military is ineligible to receive an OCI card.[9][10]

Revoking the OCI card[edit]

Previously, the government could cancel OCI status of people who obtained it by fraud, showed acts of unpatriotism, or broke a law punishable with at least two years in jail before five years of having issued OCI. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 gives the government additional power to strip people of their Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status if they violate any local law, whether it is a petty offense or a serious felony. The new act makes the rules much more strict for OCI card holders. However, it also has a provison which gives the person whose OCI status is at stake the power of being heard by the government before they come to a verdict.[11]


Applications for OCI can only be made online at ociservices.gov.in. A person making an application is required to submit a photograph and several identification documents to prove they meet the eligibility criteria, and also must pay an application fee. Applications made from outside India are charged a fee of US$275. Applications submitted in India are charged a fee of 15,000 (US$210).

The applicant must provide proof of their current citizenship by presenting a copy of their current passport that has a minimum validity of at least 6 months. If the applicant is making their application while within Indian jurisdiction, they must submit a copy of any type of Indian visa (other than missionary and mountaineering visa), or a residential permit with at least 3 months' validity. Applicants must provide evidence that either they or their parents or grandparents or great grandparents meet the eligibility criteria described above. This can be done by presenting a copy of an Indian passport, a copy of the Domicile Certificate issued by the competent authority, a copy of Nativity Certificate from the competent authority, or an OCI Card/PIO Card of parents or spouse along with the base papers/documents upon which the OCI/PIO card was issued. Applicants may also submit any other evidence that may substantiate their claim. Usually, applicants are able to submit a certificate of residence or place of birth of self/parents/grandparents from First Class Magistrate/District Magistrate (DM) of the concerned place.

If the applicant cites their Indian origin as basis for registration as OCI Cardholder, they must provide evidence of their relationship with the person cited as parent/grandparent/great grandparent. The document of relationship could be a birth certificate issued from competent authority mentioning both parents' names. In case the birth certificate is issued by a foreign authority, it must be apostilled or endorsed by the concerned Indian diplomatic mission abroad. In the case of a minor child whose parents are both Indian citizens or who has at least one parent holding Indian citizenship, evidence may comprise a copy of the child's birth certificate that mentions its parents, a copy of Indian passport of at least one of the parents or copy of the Domicile Certificate or Nativity Certificate issued by a Competent Authority supporting the Indian origin of at least one parent or any other proof substantiating the status of at least one parent as being either an Indian citizen or being of Indian origin. If the parents are divorced, a court order of dissolution of marriage which specifically mentions that the legal custody of the child is with the parent who is applying for the OCI card must be submitted.

Evidence as spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an OCI Cardholder may be provided in the form of a registered marriage certificate. In the case of spouse of an Indian citizen, a copy of the Indian Passport of the spouse or copy of the Domicile Certificate or Nativity Certificate issued by the Competent Authority in respect of the Indian spouse or any other proof substantiating the status of the spouse as being an Indian citizen. In the case of spouse of an OCI Cardholder, a copy of the present valid Passport of the spouse and copy of the OCI Card of the spouse and copies of the documents upon which the OCI Card was issued to the spouse.[8]

OCI Travel Advisory – Re-issue of OCI Card (On getting a New Passport)[12][edit]

• For an applicant who is 19 years of age or younger, OCI documents must be re-issued each time a new passport is issued.

• For an applicant who is 50 years of age or 60 above, OCI documents must be re-issued once after the issuance of a new passport. If the OCI card is issued for the first time after the age of 50 years, then there is no need for re-issue of OCI.

• For an applicant who is 20 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.

Privileges and restrictions[edit]

Overseas Citizenship of India allows a holder:[13]

(1) Multiple entry, multi-purpose life long visa free to visit India. Life long denotes to 100 years from the date of birth.

(2) Exemption from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) of India on their arrival in the country.[14]

(3) Exemption from reporting to Police authorities for any length of stay in India.

(4) Parity with NRIs in financial, economic and educational fields except in the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

(5) Can pursue the following professions in India: medicine, dentistry, nursing, advocacy, architecture, chartered accountancy, and pharmacy.[15]

(6) Are considered in parity with Indian citizens for admittance into national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, national monuments, historical sites, and museums.[16]

(7) Can visit India for the purpose of conducting research after obtaining a No Objection/Research Project Clearance Certificate from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), India and that can be applied at nearest Indian Diplomatic Mission.[17] This includes Scholars awarded Scholarship under Fulbright or any other scheme.[18]

OCI holders are not citizens of India from a constitutional point of view and will not enjoy the following rights even if residing in India:[19]

  • they do not have the right to vote,[20]
  • they do not have the right to hold the offices of Prime Minister, President, Vice-President, Judge of Supreme Court and High Court, member of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assembly, or Council.
  • they do not have the right to any public services (government jobs).
  • they do not have the right to invest in farmland (agricultural property). However, they can still inherit farmland.[21]
  • Like how the Citizens of India need to apply for an Inner Line Permit to visit certain areas in India, the Overseas Citizens of India are also needed to apply for a protected area permit to do the same.[22]

Though not actual dual citizenship, the privileges afforded by acquiring an OCI card is that now multi-national companies are finding it simpler to hire the OCI cardholders, who enjoy a multiple entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa to visit India. The card provides a lifelong visa to the holder, sparing them the need for permits. OCI holders are treated on par with NRIs for economic, financial and educational matters and only don't have political rights and rights to buy agricultural and plantation properties or hold public office.[23]

Since they are exempted from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) on their arrival in the country and can stay or live in India for as long as they wish. OCI cardholders can travel at very short notice and take up assignments in India, while others could get caught up in bureaucratic delays over their employment visa.So many companies are following an active policy of moving PIOs to India for business expansion. Indian missions overseas are witnessing a deluge in OCI applications, the number of OCI cards issued by diplomatic missions around the world have been steadily rising with several Indian diplomatic missions grappling with a huge backlog of applications.[14]

Research on the effects of Overseas Citizenship of India shows three effects. (a) It enables overseas citizens by granting special privileges; (b) it affects expectations about privileges; and (c) it eases the transaction process and reducing costs and risks. Regarding the latter, a special status like OCI reduces the actual and expected cost of operation through exemptions from formal requirements and by serving as official proof of being entitled.[16]

Privileges of OCI holders depends on the government policy of the day, and there are instances where they are denied additional rights and conveniences afforded to full Indian citizens including citizen NRIs:

  • During the 2016 Indian banknote demonetisation where non-citizens, including OCIs were denied rights to bring rupee notes back into the country contrary to initial indications.[24]
  • OCI holders are sometimes prevented from obtaining admission seats at colleges. In one case this restriction has been overturned by a state high court.[25]

Overseas recognition[edit]

Most overseas countries such as United States of America do not recognize the OCI as citizenship of another country.[2] There are however some exceptions.


A stateless person cannot apply for an OCI, however there is an open question if an OCI holder can be considered stateless (if they lose citizenship of the other country), so in countries where citizenship to dual citizens can be revoked, such as Australia[26] an OCI holder may be disadvantaged, however, the lack of precedents in this area means that the issue is uncertain.

United Kingdom[edit]

In specific circumstances, acquiring Overseas Citizenship of India prevents British National (Overseas) and British Overseas citizens from registering as full British citizens under Section 4B of the British Nationality Act 1981 (which requires that they have no other citizenship in order to register).[27] It does not prevent them from acquiring full British citizenship by a different method and it does not revoke their British citizenship if they have already registered under Section 4B.[28] The UK government considers that, for purposes of the British Nationality Act 1981, "OCI is considered to be citizenship of another State".[29] The circumstance where a person in this provision is rare, as it means (a) they hold a secondary form of British citizenship such as a British Overseas citizen[27] and passport. (b) they do not hold any other citizenship. (c) They have been issued an OCI nevertheless.

The British Home Office has confirmed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's perspective on OCI status is that it is not a form of citizenship. As such, people with OCI are still eligible for consular assistance from the FCO whilst in India.[30]

OCI and PIO documents merge[edit]

The predecessor to the OCI was the Persons of Indian Origin Card (PIO card). The PIO card was less effective than OCIs, and there was some criticism that holders of the more expensive PIO card were disadvantaged when the OCI scheme launched, that there was confusion of the differences between the two, and administration of the two independent schemes caused complexity and confusion.

Prime minister Narendra Modi announced in 2014 that PIO and OCI cards would be merged.[31] Ultimately this was implemented as:[32]

  1. A gazetted order published on 30 September 2014 stated a PIO card issued to an applicant shall be valid for their lifetime, provided such applicant has a valid Passport.
  2. A gazetted order published on 9 January 2015, converted all PIO holders on that date to OCI,
  3. That second order stopped further applications of the PIO card, and
  4. Free conversion of PIOs to OCIs was permitted until the extended deadline of 31 December 2017.

PIO cardholders must apply to convert their existing cards into OCI cards. The Bureau of Immigration stated that it would continue to accept the old PIO cards as valid travel documents until 30 September 2020.[33]

Physical appearance[edit]

The OCI document is a passport-like document (though it is not a passport). It has a blue cover with golden colored printing. The Emblem of India is emblazoned in the centre of the front cover. The words 'Overseas Citizen of India Card' are inscribed above the Emblem, and 'भारत गणराज्य' (Hindi) and 'Republic of India' (English) are inscribed below the emblem.

OCI Cards were formerly printed with a separate lifelong “U” Visa Sticker (which was pasted on the applicant's passport). The proof of lifelong visa is now just the OCI Card which has a “Life Time Visa” printed on it. The OCI Card is valid for travel but must be carried with a valid overseas passport. Airlines will, generally, ask to see both when traveling to and from India, as will Indian customs and police at Airport counters.

OCI contents[edit]

First page (identity) contents[edit]

  • Number
  • Surname
  • Given name(s)
  • Nationality
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Place of issue
  • Occupation
  • Date of issue
  • Photo of holder
  • Signature of the holder
  • The information page ends with the Machine Readable Passport Zone (MRZ).

Second page contents[edit]

The OCI certificate contains a note:

This is to certify that the person whose particulars are given in this Certificate has been registered as an Overseas Citizen of India under the provisions of Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955

The note bearing page is typically stamped and signed by the issuing authority.

Final page contents[edit]

  • Name of father or legal guardian
  • Name of mother
  • Address
  • Passport number
  • Date of Issue
  • Place of Issue
  • Visual distinguishing mark
  • File number

Persons of Indian Origin Card[edit]

Persons of Indian Origin Card
Issued by India
First issued15 September 2002
Expiration9 January 2015
(merged with OCI)
A stamped PIO Card making it de facto an OCI card

Persons of Indian Origin Card (PIO Card) was a form of identification issued to a Person of Indian Origin who held a passport in a country other than Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, made provision for acquisition of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) by the Person of Indian Origin (PIOs) of 16 specified countries. It also omitted all provision recognizing, or relating to the commonwealth citizenship from the principle Act. Later, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005, expanded the scope of grant of OCI for PIOs of all countries except Pakistan as long as their home country allows dual citizenship under their local law in case it recognizes OCI as a second citizenship of India. The OCI is not actually a dual citizenship as the Indian constitution forbids dual nationality (Article 9).

On 9 January 2015, the Person of Indian Origin card scheme was withdrawn by the Government of India and was merged with the Overseas Citizen of India card scheme.[34] All currently held PIO cards are treated as OCI cards. PIO card holders will get a special stamp in their existing PIO card, saying "lifelong validity" and "registration not required", thus making them equal to existing OCI cards.[35] An extended deadline was given where the card could be converted for free to an OCI until 31 December 2017.[32]

PIO card holders can use their PIO card to travel to India until 30 September 2020. Effective 1 October 2020, PIO card holders' entry to India will be refused.[36][37]


The conditions for issuing a PIO card to a person were:[38]

  1. Any person who has ever held an Indian passport, or
  2. The person's parents, grandparents or great grandparents were born in and were permanent residents of India and never moved to (i.e., were never nationals of) Bangladesh and Pakistan, or
  3. The person is the spouse of a citizen of India or of a PIO and has been so for two years or more, and
  4. The person and his/her parents, grandparents or great grandparents must not have been a national of Bangladesh or Pakistan at any point of time.

The PIO Card programme came into effect on 15 September 2002.


The various benefits available to a PIO cardholders were:

  • Visa-free entry into India during the period of validity of PIO Card.
  • Exemption from the requirement of registration if stay in India does not exceed six months. Should the continuous stay exceed six months, registration is not required even if their visit exceeds 180 days.
  • Parity with non-resident Indians in respect of facilities available to the latter in economic, financial and educational fields.
  • All facilities in the matter of acquisition, holding, transfer and disposal of immovable properties in India except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural/plantation properties.
  • Facilities available to children of Non-Resident Indians for getting admission to educational institutions in India including medical colleges, engineering colleges, Institutes of Technology, Institutes of Management etc. under the general categories.
  • Facilities available under the various housing schemes of LIC, State Governments and other Government agencies.

Persons with a PIO were not:

Registration/Residential Permit[edit]

Earlier, PIO card holders needed to register with the appropriate FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) if they were planning to stay in India for more than 180 days. This requirement was not applicable for minors.[39] However, on 30 September 2014, this requirement was removed.

The FRRO used to issue a "Residential Permit For PIO" which was typically valid till the expiry of the PIO card holder's passport. On 28 September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at Madison Square Garden (New York) that PIO card holders would be granted lifelong visas.[40]

It is important to note that while an Indian citizen can enjoy unlimited visa free visits to Nepal and Bhutan, this is not possible for a PIO/OCI card holders.

OCI related Incidents[edit]

  • OCI needs to be reissued, even though it is termed as lifelong [41]
  • OCI holders are not eligible for repatriation privilege from Government of India [42][43]

List of notable people with OCI status[edit]

A total of 1,372,624 people held OCI cards as on 31 July 2013.[44]

Name Profession Nationality References
Akshay Kumar Actor Canadian [45]
Akhil Akkineni Actor American [46]
Sunny Leone Actor Canadian/American [47]
Soni Razdan Actor British [48]
Alia Bhatt Actor British [49]
Imran Khan Actor American [50]
Tony Fernandes Businessperson Malaysian [51]
C. Mohan Computer Scientist American [52]
Shaun Tait Cricketer Australian [53]
Muttiah Muralitharan Cricketer Sri Lankan [54]
António Costa Politician Portuguese [55]
Salma Agha Actor British [56]
Stephen Alter Writer American [57]
Gita Gopinath Economist American [58]
Salman Rushdie Writer British/American
Anoushka Shankar Sitar player and composer British


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External links[edit]