Who is an OCI? A simple explainer

OCI vs NRI vs PIO? Here is all you need to know about the different statuses


Ever wonder what happens to your legal standing and rights as an Indian citizen when you live overseas for a while? Or if you marry and have a family with someone who isn’t Indian–do your children have to get a visa to visit the country? Here is your explainer on the different immigration statuses India offers.
Who is an OCI and what is the OCI card? 
An Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) is a person who is technically a citizen of another country, but is granted several rights and freedoms enjoyed by Indians. An OCI card then, is a long-term visa available to such citizens of other countries who have familial links to India. It entitles them to a lot of the same benefits as NRIs and Indian citizens.
OCI vs NRI: what’s the difference? 
An NRI, or Non-Resident Indian, is anyone who holds an Indian passport but lives and/or works overseas. NRIs enjoy all the benefits afforded to any citizen living in India. OCIs don’t have many of these rights.
NRIs have full voting rights for all Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Legislative Assembly/Council elections. OCI holders cannot vote in any elections. 
NRIs can stand for public office. OCI holders cannot. 
NRIs can purchase agricultural land. OCI holders cannot. 
NRIs can conduct research work without any prior permission. OCI holders must get prior permission from the local Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRRO). 
NRIs can pay the same rate as other resident Indians when they visit national parks and monuments and can renew their Indian passport at any Indian mission overseas or in India. 
What is a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card and how is it different to OCI? 
PIO was another immigration status offered to foreigner with links to India. It was merged with OCI in 2015. 
Is OCI the same as dual citizenship? 
India does not allow dual citizenship. So OCI is the closest it comes to it. OCI is only available to citizens of countries that allow dual citizenship. Once you have had OCI status for five years, you can apply for Indian citizenship. But this would mean you would have to renounce any other citizenship you hold. 
So what rights does an OCI card get you? 
OCI is a lifelong visa to live and work in India as any other Indian citizen or NRI. But unlike visitors on other long-term visas (for example, work permits, student visas), OCI holders do not have to register with their local FRRO. OCI holders, just like NRIs, can open bank accounts and buy property in the country. They can adopt children in India and work in almost all professions including healthcare, law, architecture and finance. Your OCI card is also just as good as a piece of ID as an Indian passport. 


Who is eligible for OCI? 
You are eligible for this status if you used to be an Indian citizen but have since renounced your citizenship and are currently the citizen of another country. 
You can also apply if you were eligible for citizenship on 26 January 1950, the day the Constitution was adopted; or if you used to live in a territory that became part of India on independence in 1947. 
OCI is also available to spouses of Indian citizens who have been married for at least two years. 
OCI status is also available to the children who have at least one Indian parent or grandparents. 
Children and grandchildren of OCI holders are also eligible. 
Who is NOT eligible for OCI? 
Anyone who has a family member–parents, grandparents and even great grandparents – who currently are or used to be citizens of Pakistan or Bangladesh is not eligible for OCI. 
The Government of India could also choose to add other countries to this list and any additions will be announced in the Official Gazette. 
Even if you meet the criteria for OCI, you could be barred if you currently work for or have ever worked for a foreign military in any capacity. This also includes any work done as engineers and IT professionals for the ministry of defense of a foreign country. 
You also cannot apply for OCI if you are the foreign spouse of a partner who is now deceased or who you are separated from. 
Children of separated parents, one of whom is India, are also disqualified from getting an OCI card. 
Children are also ineligible if their one Indian parent is now dead. 
How do you apply for an OCI card? 
You can apply online here. The fee is US$275 if you apply at an Indian mission overseas and Rs15,000 if you apply in India. 



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