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Rights of Overseas Citizens of India

  • 08 Mar 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, the government has notified a consolidated list of rights of the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI).

  • The rights and restrictions are not new, they have been notified previously in 2005, 2007, and 2009. They were also mentioned in an OCI brochure published by the Ministry of Home Affairs in November 2019.

Key Points

  • Multiple Entry Lifelong Visa:
    • OCI cardholders will be entitled to get multiple entry lifelong visas for visiting India for any purpose.
  • Prior Permission:
    • OCI cards would need prior permission for a set of activities that include research, journalism, mountaineering, missionary or Tablighi work, and visits to restricted areas.
  • Parity with Non Resident Indians (NRIs):
    • OCI cardholders will enjoy parity with NRIs in adoption of children, appearing in competitive exams, purchase or sale of immovable property barring agricultural land and farmhouses, and pursuing professions such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and chartered accountants.
  • Parity with Indian Nationals:
    • They have parity with Indian nationals in the matter of domestic air fares, entry fees to monuments and public places.
  • Entrance Exams and Admissions:
    • OCIs can appear for all-India entrance tests such as National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Joint Entrance Examination (Mains), Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced) or such other tests to make them eligible for admission only against any NRI seat or any supernumerary seat.
    • The OCI cardholder shall not be eligible for admission against any seat reserved exclusively for Indian citizens.
  • Other Economic, Financial and Educational fields:
    • In respect of all other economic, financial and educational fields not specified in the latest notification or the rights and privileges not covered by the notifications made by the Reserve Bank of India under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999,  the OCI cardholder shall have the same rights and privileges as a foreigner.
  • Exemption:
    • They are exempted from registration with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) for any length of stay in India.
      • Foreigners visiting India who hold long-term visas (more than 180 days) are required to register their presence in India with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
  • Restrictions:
    • There will be no restriction in visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses.
    • However, preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, distribution of audio or visual display/pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies, spreading conversion etc. will not be allowed.

Overseas Citizen of India

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs defines an OCI as a person who:
    • Was a citizen of India on or after 26th January 1950; or
    • Was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950; or
    • Is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh. The category was introduced by the government in 2005.
  • The Government of India via Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015 merged the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) category with OCI category in 2015.

Non Resident Indian

  • A Non-Resident Indian (NRI) means a person resident outside India who is a citizen of India or is a person of Indian origin.
    • An Indian citizen residing outside India for a combined total of at least 183 days in a financial year is considered to be an NRI.
  • NRIs enjoy voting rights and are required to pay and file the income tax return on their Indian income like resident Indians.
    • NRI is more of a technical classification for taxation purposes and investment purposes.
  • However, in case an NRI wishes to take up foreign citizenship, he/she will have to give up Indian citizenship as the Indian constitution does not allow dual citizenship.
    • A person cannot hold Indian as well as foreign citizenship simultaneously.

Foreigner

  • As per the the Foreigners Act, 1946, foreigner means a person who is not a citizen of India.
  • The Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 20, 21, 21A, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 are available to all persons whether citizens or foreigners. The Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Articles 15, 16, 19, 29, and 30 are available only to citizens of India.

Source:IE

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