India: Renewal of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards

February 13, 2020

Summary of the Issue: In recent times, there has been much confusion with respect to the renewal of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards. Airlines have on many occasions not allowed passengers to board flights to India if their OCI cards were not renewed when their passports were renewed. The OCI, which is given to persons of Indian origin who have the citizenship of another country (other than Pakistan and Bangladesh), allows the card holder to live and work in India indefinitely. The OCI also exempts from reporting to police authorities for any length of stay in India. The OCI also provides parity with Non-Resident Indians in financial, economic, and educational fields, except in the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties. A person registered as an OCI is eligible to apply for grant of Indian citizenship under section 5(1)(g) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, if he or she is registered as OCI for five years and has been residing in India for one year out of the five years before making the application.

Guidelines: According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the following guidelines have been in force since 2005 with respect to OCI renewals:

    • The OCI card must be reissued each time a new passport is acquired by the cardholder up to the age of 20 years.

    • The OCI card must be reissued once upon acquiring a new passport after completing 50 years of age.

    • Reissuance of the OCI card is not required each time a passport is issued to a cardholder between the ages of 21 and 50.

However, these guidelines were relaxed in recent years. Even if the OCI was not renewed in the event of obtaining of a new passport, the OCI was accepted as a valid lifelong document with no expiration date especially after the Indian government stopped issuing the U visa sticker in the person’s passport. It seems that the Indian government began to enforce its 2005 guidelines more strictly in late 2019, resulting in many instances of people having difficulty boarding flights if the OCI was not renewed in accordance with these guidelines.

Age-based Relaxation of Guidelines: The MEA, as a result, has issued the following relaxation of its guidelines until June 30, 2020, in the following cases:

    • In case an OCI card holder below the age of 20 years has not gotten the OCI card re-issued on change of passport, he or she may travel on the strength of his or her existing OCI card bearing the old passport number, subject to the condition that along with the new passport, the OCI cardholder carries the old passport mentioned in the OCI card.

    • In case an OCI card holder who has attained the age of 50 years and has gotten his or her passport renewed subsequently but has not gotten his or her OCI card reissued on renewal of his or her passport, he or she may travel on the strength of the existing OCI card along with the old and new passports.

Notwithstanding the relaxation in guidelines, the MEA advises OCI cardholders to renew their cards per the 2005 guidelines. Anecdotal evidence suggests that airlines are following the relaxed guidelines unevenly.

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By | 2020-02-13T01:53:21-08:00 February 13th, 2020|Comments Off on India: Renewal of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards

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