Expert Take: All your questions about the recent OCI changes, answered.

The Indian Government in March 2021 issued a circular delineating the privileges afforded to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders in India. The new circular consolidates the older notifications and circulars issued by the Government of India.

An important modification introduced by the March 2021 circular changes the reporting obligations of OCI cardholders in India. They now have to report changes is their residential address and changes in occupation.

Another noteworthy change was introduced a couple of years ago and it requires OCI cardholders to procure a special permit to undertake Tabligh activities. The older circulars and notifications indicated that OCI card holders must obtain special permits to conduct “missionary, journalist or mountaineering activities,” but did not specify any particular group.

OCI Card holders seeking an internship or employment with offices of foreign nations in India also need to procure a special permit. This is a new requirement under the March 2021 notification.

Does an OCI Cardholder need a visa to visit India?

OCI cardholders do not need a visa to visit, live or work in India.

Do they need any advance permission or clearance to visit India?

OCI card holders need to obtain a special permit to undertake:

  • Research related activities;
  • Missionary, Journalistic, Tabligh or Mountaineering activities;
  • An internship in any foreign Diplomatic Missions or foreign Government organisations in India or to take up employment in any foreign Diplomatic Missions in India; or
  • A visit any area in India that is notified as protected, restricted or prohibited.

Who is eligible to qualify for registration as an OCI?

Broadly speaking the following individuals qualify for registration as an OCI:

  • A person who at any time held an Indian passport;
  • A person whose either parent or grandparent or great grandparent was born in and was a permanent resident of India, provided neither was at any time a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh or any other country that may be specified by the Government from time to time;
  • A person who was a citizen of India or was eligible to become a citizen on or at any time after 26.01.1950 or
  • Any person who, or whose parents or grand-parents were born in India as defined in the Government of India Act, 1935 (as originally enacted), and who was ordinarily residing in any country outside India was eligible to become citizen of India on 26.01.1950
  • A minor child whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; or
  • A person of foreign origin who is a spouse of a citizen of India/OCI cardholder and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a minimum period of two years.
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The OCI program is not for individuals who are of Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent.

There was a Person of Indian Origin or PIO Scheme that was withdrawn in 2015. What happens to those individuals who were registered as PIOs?

On January 9, 2015 the Government of India issued a notification regarding the merger of the Persons of Indian Origin and Overseas Citizens of India Schemes. It stated that all existing PIO card holders registered under the new PIO card scheme of 2002 are expected to apply for an OCI card.

What is the deadline to convert the PIO Card into an OCI Card?

The deadline for the conversion of PIO cards has been extended several times since the merger of the two schemes to give more time to PIO card holders to submit their applications for registration as an OCI card holder. Most recently, the Indian Consulates abroad have issued press releases extending the deadline until December 31, 202, for PIO cardholders to convert their PIO cards to OCI cards.

Does an OCI Cardholder need to register with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office/ Foreigners Registration Office upon arrival in India?

OCI cardholders are exempt from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) for any length of stay in India. GPK Comments: Yes, covered in Notification issued by Ministry of Home Affairs dated 4th March, 2021.

Are there any reporting requirements for OCI card holders?

OCI card holders must inform the FRRO or FRO of relevant jurisdiction via email when their residential address changes or if there are any changes to their occupation.

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Are OCI Cardholders permitted to vote in India?

OCI cardholders are neither permitted to vote, nor are they eligible to run for public office nor hold government jobs in India, among a few other things. A detailed list of prohibited activities is provided under section 7 of the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 as amended from time to time.

Does an OCI Cardholder lose his OCI status when divorced from an Indian national?

Yes. A foreign national who is registered as an OCI by virtue of his or her marriage with an Indian national/person of Indian origin loses the OCI status after a divorce. Such foreign nationals must surrender their OCI cards after the dissolution of marriage.

Are OCI Cardholders permitted to purchase agricultural land in India?

No. While OCI Cardholders are permitted to purchase immovable property in India, they are not permitted to purchase agricultural land or a farmhouse or plantation property. They are on parity with NRIs in this matter.

As per the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 – Master Circular on Acquisition and Transfer of Immovable Property in India by NRIs/PIOs/Foreign Nationals of Non-Indian Origin, a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) is a citizen of India resident outside India.

Acquisition of immovable property by foreign nationals is now covered under the Foreign Exchange Management (Non-debt Instruments) Rules, 2019.

Who is a non-resident Indian under the Income Tax Act, 1961?

The status of a person as a resident or non-resident depends on his period of stay in India.

The period of stay is counted in number of days for each financial year beginning from 1st April to 31st March (known as previous year under the Income-tax Act). There are various ways in which a person is deemed to be a resident in India under this statute.

Further, date of arrival and date of departure is considered as one day each in India.

The Income Tax Act does defines the term non-resident as person who is not a resident and Section 6 of the statute contains detailed criteria of who is considered as Resident in India and provides that anyone who doesn’t meet these criteria is Non-Resident.

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Are OCI Cardholders permitted to sit for entrance examinations into institutes of higher education?

OCI cardholders are treated on par with Non-Resident Indians and are permitted to sit for All India entrance examinations or tests for admission into institutes of higher education. They may also be considered for any supernumerary seat. However, OCI cardholders will not be eligible for seats reserved exclusively for Indian citizens nor be eligible for selection processes reserved for Indian nationals.

Does an OCI Cardholder need to re-issue his OCI Card every time he renews his passport?

An OCI Card must be reissued each time a new passport is issued for an individual up to the completion of 20 years of age and once upon completing 50 years of age. Re-issuance is not required between the ages 21-50.

Are OCI Cardholders permitted to make investments in financial instruments in India?

An OCI card holder may, on repatriation basis, purchase or sell equity instruments of a listed Indian company and other securities in the manner and subject to the terms and conditions prescribed in the Foreign Exchange Management (Non-debt Instruments) Rules, 2019 and Foreign Exchange Management (Debt Instruments) Regulations, 2019.

An OCI card holder may, on non-repatriation basis, purchase or sell equity instruments of an Indian company or other securities or contribute to the capital of a limited liability partnership or a firm or proprietary concern, in the manner and subject to the terms and conditions specified in the Foreign Exchange Management (Non-debt Instruments) Rules, 2019 and Foreign Exchange Management (Debt Instruments) Regulations, 2019

An OCI Cardholder may also:

  • Purchase or sell units of domestic mutual funds (on both repatriation and non- repatriation basis)
  • Government dated securities (other than bearer securities), treasury bills (on both repatriation and non-repatriation basis)
  • Purchase or sell shares in public sector enterprises being disinvested by the Central Government/Bonds issued by Infrastructure Debt Funds or PSUs in India;(repatriation basis)
  • Subscribe to National Pension System, provided eligible to invest as per PFRDA Act(repatriation basis)
  • National Plan/Savings Certificate (non-repatriation basis)



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