The government of India in March 2021 highlighted some new rules and regulations for OCI cardholders (Overseas Citizens of India), implementing the November 2019 guidelines it had issued regarding the privileges enjoyed by the OCI cardholders.
The Ministry of Home Affairs announced the rules on March 4, 2021.
OCI Cardholders | Overview
Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (CZ Act) defines OCI cardholders as people of Indian origin who can travel, live, and work in India indefinitely, without surrendering foreign citizenship. Though OCI cardholders are not Indian citizens, they are still eligible to enjoy some benefits as per Section 7B of the Citizenship Act. It is under powers granted under Section 7B that the MHA has now promulgated the OCI Notification 2021, further clarifying OCI cardholders’ norms.
OCI Cardholders- What are the Key Changes?
While the notification restricts OCI cardholders from availing certain benefits from now, such as undertaking specific activities without prior permission, it also grants them rights to additional privileges, such as admissions in professional institutions.
OCI cardholders are now also required to notify changes in their residential address and occupation. The circular also highlighted that the OCI cardholders must also get a special work permit to undertake ‘missionary, journalist, or mountaineering activities.’ They must also obtain a work permit while applying for internships or employment with foreign nations’ offices in India. It includes diplomatic missions or foreign governments’ offices in India, etc.
They must also obtain a special permit to visit any areas or places notified by the Central Government (or by any relevant authority) as protected/restricted/prohibited space.
What will be the visa requirements for the OCI cardholders?
OCI cardholders do not need a visa to visit, live and work in India.
Who is eligible to apply for OCI?
As per the Ministry of Home Affairs, the following categories of persons (except Pakistan and Bangladesh) are eligible to apply under the OCI scheme:
- Citizen of another country, but was a citizen of India at the time of, or at any time after, the commencement of the constitution; or
- Citizen of another country, but was eligible to become a citizen of India at the time of the commencement of the constitution; or
- Citizen of another country, but belonged to a territory that became part of India after the 15th day of August 1947; or
- Child or a grand-child or a great-grandchild of such a citizen;
The PIO scheme, which was withdrawn in 2015 by the Government of India. Now, what will happen to people who are registered under the PIO scheme?
The PIO scheme was withdrawn on January 9, 2015, after which the government merged both PIO and OCI schemes. The government announced the decision while issuing a notification indicating that all existing PIO card holders registered under the new PIO card scheme of 2002 are expected to apply for an OCI card.
What are the reporting requirements for OCI Holders?
OCI cardholders can notify about the changes in their residential address and occupational changes to FRRO or FRO via email.
Are OCI holders allowed to buy agricultural land in India?
No, OCI holders are only allowed to buy immovable properties in India. They are prohibited from purchasing any agricultural land or a farmhouse or in India. They are at par with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in this area.
Can OCI holders vote in India?
OCI holders are not eligible to vote in India, nor can they run for government offices or jobs in India.
Does an OCI Cardholder lose his OCI status when divorced from an Indian national?
Yes. A foreigner registered as an OCI in India can lose their status when divorced from an Indian national. Such OCI holders must surrender their cards once their marriage with a person of Indian origin ends.
Are OCI holders eligible to undertake entrance exams for colleges or institutions?
Yes. OCI holders are considered par with NRIs permitted to sit in entrance examinations for admissions into higher institutions. They are also eligible for a supernumerary seat. Please note that OCI cardholders cannot apply for seats reserved exclusively for Indian nationals.
The March 4 notification has permitted OCI cardholders to appear for all-India entrance tests such as NEET for medical courses, JEE — both Main and advanced — for engineering, or any other tests.
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