A day before the Pravasi Bharatiya meet opens in Gujarat, the President is said to have cleared an ordinance amending the Indian Citizenship Act to merge the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes. The amendments seeks to relax the stipulation of one-year continuous stay in India by certain categories of applicants — including a PIO, a foreign national married to an Indian citizen and an OCI of 5 years — before they can seek Indian citizenship.The President has signed the citizenship ordinance.
The amendments to the Citizenship Act will merge the benefits of PIO and OCI schemes and rename the combined project as Indian Overseas Card Holder scheme. The PIOs would thus enjoy a life-long Indian visa, besides exemption from registering themselves with the FRO-FRRO if their stay in India exceeds six months.
This is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance to the Indian diaspora at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where he announced life-time visas for PIOs as well as merger of the PIO and OCI schemes.
The decision to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, was taken after a large number of representations were received from PIOs, complaining about police reporting required beyond 180 days of stay, within the next 30 days. Also, PIO card holders were eligible for only 15 year visas, as against lifelong visas provided to those OCI card holders.
The ordinance merging PIO and OCI schemes will drop the clause requiring PIOs, foreign nationals married to Indian citizens and OCI of five years to continuously stay in the country for a period of one year before they can apply for Indian citizenship.
The amendment will allow them breaks not exceeding 30 days, to travel abroad during the one-year period of stay here. According to the home ministry, with increased globalization, there is often an imperative need for people to visit abroad due to economic, social and medical needs.
The Pravasi Bharatiya meet is being held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat from January 7 and 9. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the inaugural session on January 8.