A 2017 survey found that an estimated 17 million Indians were living abroad at the time. With such
a large chunk of Indian overseas citizens abroad, it was only a matter of time before they applied
for nationality in the country that they lived, to avail of the benefits that come with living in
another country. The Indian Government had to come up with a system allowing these people to
travel back and forth to India, where they have origins without any issues, especially since the
visa process was quite tedious and unbearable.
They created a system that served the purpose and provided cards to people who travelled back
and forth from India to the country that they resided called POI Cards( Person of Indian Origin
cards). With several changes made to the cards, the POI cards were upgraded to OCI cards.
The OCI was introduced in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora,
residing in multiple developed countries around the world. It was introduced by The Citizenship
(Amendment) Act, 2005 in August 2005 and provided easy access to foreign nationals into India
if they could prove their roots to the country. In 2019, the Home Ministry reported that they issued
over two lakh OCI cards to various people around the world.
What are the changes to the OCI card?
To create and dispatch such a large number of OCI cards, the Government relaxed some of the
rules relating to them. Cardholders were now eligible to be appointed as teaching faculty at
multiple institutions around the country. Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and the new
AIIMS set up under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) began leading by
hiring OCI cardholders as their faculty. The MHA also granted powers to FRRO, Ahmedabad, to
accept OCI applications from foreigners residing in Gujarat. Earlier, these applications were
processed at FRRO, Mumbai.
A total of 32,53,912 foreign nationals registered as OCI cardholders and 4,14,906 OCI cards have
been issued instead of person of Indian origin (PIO) cards till March 2019, according to the home
ministry’s annual report for 2018-19.
Can a person be denied an OCI card?
After the OCI Application, the forms, certificates and supporting documents were sent to the
Ministry of Home Affairs, they scrutinise every application, holding the right to reject any of them.
They can reject an application for lack of adequate security clearance, incorrect documentation
and several other reasons.
They can cancel or blacklist OCI cards if the applicant receives them through unfair means, fraud,
or by concealing information. If a person is proven to have disrespected the Indian Constitution,
they can immediately cancel their OCI card.
Foreign nationals from almost all countries around the world can receive an OCI card if they can
prove their roots to India. The only exception to this rule refers to people from Pakistan and
Bangladesh who are not allowed to register as an Overseas Citizen of India. Additionally, people
who served as a member of any foreign military would also not be able to get a card.
Since India does not allow dual citizenship, a person of Indian Origin is not an Indian citizen.
However, a person who is registered as an OCI cardholder can apply for a grant of Indian
citizenship five years after being granted their OCI status. In addition to this, the person should
have been a resident in India for twelve months before applying for the change. Furthermore,
they would have to cancel their foreign nationality as well.