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There has been extensive coverage and hype over the Indian rules regarding dual citizenship in India. Especially under the scanner are politicians like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who often take flak for belonging to another country.
However, you should know that this idea of dual citizenship in India is a misconception. Under the Indian constitution, there is no recognition for dual citizenship in India. The PIO cardholders and OCI cardholders are often called “dual citizens” by the media. But this is a misconception. Both PIO and OCI cardholders enjoy certain benefits in India, but they are not citizens of India.
Despite any hype you may have heard in sections of the media, India does not allow dual citizenship. In other words, under no circumstances can you be a citizen of India and also be the citizen of another foreign country at the same time. You will have to surrender your Indian passport if you are accepting citizenship in any other country.
However, the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card scheme has been launched by the Government of India in the year 2005. The OCI card is different from a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card, and has certain benefits that you will not get under the PIO scheme. The OCI card was launched as a replacement for a PIO card. You should know that currently, there are no new PIO cards being issued, even though old PIO cardholders enjoy life long validity on their cards. You will have to apply for an OCI card.
An NRI is a Non-Resident Indian, who holds an Indian passport, but has been working or staying outside India for six months or more.
A PIO is a Person of Indian Origin, whose ancestors were Indian citizens. The PIO cardholder holds a foreign passport, not an Indian one. A PIO cardholder will require a visa for entry into India.
An OCI cardholder is considered an Overseas Citizen of India, but does not hold an Indian passport. An OCI cardholder does not require a visa for entry into India. It is similar to the “Green Card” or “Permanent Residency” schemes offered by foreign countries.
The following are the benefits that Indian citizens get, but not available to OCI cardholders:
Visa Requirements: A PIO cardholder will have to obtain a visa for each entry into India. An OCI cardholder is eligible for multiple entries with their lifelong visa.
Registration at FRRO: An OCI cardholder is exempted from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO), for any duration of stay in India. If a PIO cardholder wishes to stay in India for a 180 days or more, then he/she will have to register with the FRRO or other local authorities.
Buying Land/Property in India: An OCI cardholder is treated on par with NRIs when it comes to buying property or land in India. The only exception to this is the purchase of agricultural land, plantations and farmhouses, which is not allowed to OCI cardholders.
Acquiring Indian Citizenship: A PIO cardholder has to be an ordinary resident of India for 7 years. Only then will you be eligible to apply for an Indian citizenship. For an OCI cardholder, if he/she has had the OCI card for 5 years, and has been an ordinary resident of India for 12 months, then he/she is eligible to apply for an Indian citizenship.
You can apply online to get an OCI card here https://passport.gov.in/oci/
You will have to upload your photos and all other necessary documents as per the specifications you find in the page. The processing fee to be submitted at the time of application is INR 15,000 if you are applying in India or an amount of $ 275 outside of India.
However, there is no payments portal in the page. You cannot pay your processing fees online. Until the Government of India introduces an online payments portal, here are the steps you can take to complete your registration for an OCI card.
We hope this clarifies all your confusions regarding dual citizenship in India, and the different status accorded to NRIs, PIOs and OCI cardholders in India.
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