Bharti Jain,TNN |
NEW DELHI: A day before the Pravasi Bharatiya meet opens in Gujarat, the President is said to have cleared an ordinance amending the Indian Citizenship Act to merge the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes. This will ensure life-long Indian visa to PIOs, besides exempting them from police reporting.
The President has signed the Citizenship Ordinance, President’s press secretary Venu Rajamony was on Tuesday quoted by the agencies as saying. Home ministry officials contacted by TOI too confirmed the development.
The amendments to the Citizenship Act will benefit PIOs and will give them benefits like life-long visa and exemption from registering with the FRO/FRRO if their stay here exceeds six months. This is in line with an Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance to the Indian diaspora at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where he announced life-time visas for PIOs as well as merger of the PIO and OCI schemes.
The decision to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 was taken after large number of representations were received from PIOs, complaining about police reporting required beyond 180 days of stay, within the next 30 days. Also, PIO cardholders were eligible for only 15-year visas, as against lifelong visas provided to those OCI card-holders.
The ordinance rolling PIO and OCI schemes into a single Indian Overseas Cardholder scheme will drop the clause requiring foreigners married to Indian citizens to continuously stay in the country for a period of one year before they can apply for Indian citizenship. The amendment will allow foreigners breaks not exceeding 30 days, to travel abroad during the mandatory one-year stay in India.