Indian-Americans have welcomed the Indian government's decision to simplify the process of maintaining Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards, saying more overseas citizens will now opt for this form of residency.
OCI cardholders will now be required to get their document re-issued only once at the age of 20 instead of multiple times needed to be done currently, according to the Indian Union Home Ministry.
"This will remove the confusion to many OCI cardholders on the process of renewing the card at the age of 20 and 50 and one doesn't have to go through the whole OCI card renewal process again," Dr Thomas Abraham chairman of the Global organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) told PTI on Thursday.
"This will also encourage more overseas Indians to become OCIs and it will benefit India, through their travel, business and investment in India," he said.
Highly popular among overseas Indians, the OCI card provides long term visa free travel and stay in India and gives the cardholders a host of privileges normally not given to a foreign national. So far India has issued about 37.72 lakh OCI Cards.
The previous provision of OCI card holders below 20 years of age and above 50 years of age requiring to re-apply for a fresh OCI card every time their passport was renewed was causing a lot of anxiety and travel turbulence to people of Indian origin.
"With a view to facilitate the OCI cardholders, it has now been decided by the Government of India to dispense with this requirement," the Union Home Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
A person who has got registration as OCI cardholder prior to attaining the age of 20 years will have to get the OCI card re-issued only once when a new passport is issued after his/her completing 20 years of age, so as to capture his/ her facial features on attaining adulthood.
If a person has obtained registration as OCI cardholder after attaining the age of 20 years, there will be no requirement of re-issue of OCI card.
"With a view to update the data regarding new passports obtained by the OCI cardholder, it has been decided that he/she shall upload a copy of the new passport containing his/her photo and also a latest photo on the online OCI portal, each time a new passport is issued up to 20 years of age and once after completing 50 years of age. These documents may be uploaded by the OCI cardholder within 3 months of receipt of the new passport,” the government statement said.
"OCI process simplification guidelines, issued today (Thursday), truly make OCI a life-long visa. Previously, it was just a long-term visa," New York-based social activist Prem Bhandari said.
"Travellers with valid OCI, but renewed passports were denied boarding. The excruciating difficulties NRIs have gone through due to the tedious OCI renewal process after getting a passport renewed, are resolved once for all," Bhandari said.
At the same time GOPIO urged the Indian Government to take steps to address other issues of the overseas Indian community as well.
"GOPIO strongly urges the government to treat OCI Card holders who have invested in business and creating jobs in India at par with Indian citizens and they shouldn't be termed as foreign nationals by various govt. agencies while doing business including manufacturing and research in India," Dr. Abraham said.