India Withdraws PIO Facility, Long-Winded Process of OCI Card Steps in

Person of Indian Origin Card

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Washington, DC – The Indian Embassy here announced this weekend nullification of all PIO (Person of Indian Origin) applications and the office is returning them, adding to already chaotic visa application process in the field. The lengthy cumbersome process of applying for Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) replaces the easier PIO application process. India doesn’t allow dual citizenship so the very name “Overseas Citizen of India” is misleading.

“All PIO applications, pending with the Mission for processing, are being returned to the applicants with a request to apply for OCI card on the same fee prescribed for the PIO card. Henceforth, applicants may apply for OCI card ONLY, as PIO card scheme is no longer in existence,” said a statement posted on the website of Indian Embassy in Washington, DC. The statement added, “All PIO cards issued till 09.01.2015 (read January 9, 2015) are deemed to be OCI card. PIO Card scheme has been withdrawn … In case the PIO card holder has new passport then he/she can travel to India on their new passport with the valid PIO card and old passport endorsed on the PIO card.”

The hassles of dealing with Indian consulates across the globe to get visas to India were termed nothing short of a nightmare by most applicants as they had to face long queues, out-dated procedures, and rude staff, among other inconveniences. Then the government of India introduced the PIO card scheme on September 15, 2002, with the purpose of allowing non-resident Indians (NRIs) to travel freely to and from India without a visa. The PIO card scheme was available to every person of Indian origin who was a citizen of another country (not a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, China and Nepal).

Earlier with the aim of further encouraging those NRIs who had adopted foreign citizenship to invest in Indian industry and perhaps even return permanently to India, the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card scheme was created on December 2, 2005, giving holders a lifelong visa and shortening the waiting period to seek Indian citizenship from seven to five years.

The benefits touted were a multiple entry, multi-purpose, life-long visa for visiting India, exemption from registration with the local police authority for any length of stay in India, and parity with NRIs with respect to economic, financial and educational fields, except in relation to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

The promise of a life-long visa has now evaporated and the nightmare scenario returned with the addition of a new requirement that the OCI be reissued each time the passport is renewed until the age of 20 and once over the age of 50. Those in the age group of 20-49 need only to carry the old passport with the U-visa along with their new passport. The arbitrary changes announced earlier and the failure on the part of the government and their diplomats to inform OCI card holders resulted in much confusion then.

Commenting on the application for OCI card, V.S. Raghavan, a former World Bank Director and who is also associated with several non-governmental and community service organizations in the greater Washington area lamented, “The rub is that these applications have to be sent to India, and the processing time would be ninety days for Washington and sixty days for all other centers. Add about 15 days for other handling.” Raghavan added, “In other words, a OCI cardholder (applicant) is without an Indian Visa for three to four months.”

Most of the people India America Today spoke to agreed the government needs to update the visa rules as required, but all of them could not understand the lack of information and additional processing time and effort to reissue the visa stamps on new passports for certain age groups. Another pertinent question that was repeatedly raised was why can’t the Indian diplomats abroad be given the responsibility to reissue U visas of OCI cards on new foreign passports instead of sending those back to India again.

Applicants are not always made aware of the procedures they need to follow, and the Indian diplomatic services are found lacking in the dissemination of information, especially where the rules are changed frequently.

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