India’s Prime Minister recently gave an encouraging speech on India’s immigration policies to a crowd of Indian-Americans at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Prime Minister promised immediate reforms for individuals who wish to become Indian citizens by allowing for increased access to the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card. Individuals who wish to register themselves as overseas citizens of India, as long as they were eligible to become or were an Indian citizen during or after 1950, are able to become OCI cardholders to allow for lifelong visa-free travel and exemption from police registration in India. The OCI cardholder’s family members, including spouses, parents, grandparents who were citizens of India during or after 1950, are eligible to apply for the card as well. After five years, the OCI cardholder may apply for Indian citizenship as long as the individual was in India for at least one year during the five-year time period.
On the other hand, individuals who once had Indian citizenship, but have since given it up, are able to become PIO cardholders, which allows for visa-free travel to India. However, the PIO card is valid for only 15 years, is limited to certain immediate family members, and requires that the PIO cardholder live in India for at least seven years before they can request Indian citizenship.
The Prime Minister has now called for PIO cardholders to be eligible for the OCI card as well. This is a promising development for PIO cardholders because they will now be entitled to the same benefits as OCI card holders, which includes a faster path toward Indian citizenship and more encompassing immigration benefits for the families.