The Indian government has once again extended for six months the last date for applying for conversion of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards to December 31 this year. Earlier, the facility was available till June 30, 2017.
“The Home Ministry has decided to extend the date for submission of the application for registration as OCI card holder by the erstwhile PIO cardholders until December 31, 2017,” an official said.
This was the fourth time the date for conversion of PIO cards to OCI cards has been extended since the original deadline of March 31, 2016. The PIO card was first implemented in 2002 as a benefit to foreign nationals who could establish at least a third-generation tie to India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had personally pushed the status conversion initiative during the last Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) held at Bangalore in January this year for more inclusive engagement and bonding of the Indians who left their homeland, but need an identity token from their homeland.
Modi had announced in 2014 that the PIO and OCI cards would be merged and the Indian diaspora would be given the maximum possible benefits. The simultaneous existence of PIO and OCI cards led to confusion among People of Indian Origin residing abroad, officials said.
The PIO card was valid for travel, work, and residence in India for a period of 15 years. The OCI card was implemented in 2005, carried more expansive benefits than the PIO card, and was valid for the holder’s lifetime.
OCIs are entitled to a multipurpose, multiple entries, a lifelong visa allowing them to visit India at any time, for any length of time and for any purpose. They are exempted from police reporting for any length of stay in the country. They have also been granted all rights in the economic, financial and educational fields in parity with NRIs except, the right to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.
Among 30 million plus overseas Indian, 17,835,407 are PIOs and 13,008,012 are NRIs, according to official records with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). All valid PIO cardholders can register for their OCI cards here.