Thursday, January 2, 2014

Merging of PIO and OCI cardholders turns out be confusing for overseas travellers

Indian government had notified in January that all PIO (persons of Indian origin) and OCI (overseas citizens of India) would be merged, which is a significant announcement for overseas Indian community as it means all PIO card holders will be deemed OCI card holders.

Nevertheless, there are some problems in the merged scheme, as it apparently seems confusion for PIO card holders when travelling to India. Some Indian high commissions and consulates overseas have established outreach programme to help Indians to address their complaints and problems.

All Indian consulates abroad are issued notification about the recent order to abolish the PIO scheme and all issued PIO cards before January 09, 2015 would be converted to OCI cards. In addition, OCI card holders now privileged  to have lifelong membership without any registration with abroad regional registration offices, if they stay for more than 180 days.

However, PIO card holders need to apply for their refund of fees and apply for an OCI card.

According to ministry of overseas Indian affairs (MOIA), PIO card was more convenient for people who wanted to travel to India at short notice. The card issued with a lower fee and usually processed within a week. Now, when the card is abolished, on one hand it will give privilege for Indian citizens, on the other hand, they have to wait long for the OCI card. OCI is a premier card demands rigorous security check for applicants. The process in fact is much longer than PIO, can take up 3 months time. However, the government has assured that they try to limit the time frame to 21 days to issue OCI cards.

Now the confusion part. The holders of OCI and PIO cards are confused about the implication of merger. The notification is also not cleared to the immigration officials at Indian ports of entry. Many people don't know that if they don't have valid PIO or OCI card, they have to first apply online to authorized confirmation of their travel before visa-on-arrival scheme.

Government of India has issued notice to many Indian missions to educate citizens about the new scheme.

Another confusion is the U-visa sticker that government has made mandatory on the foreign passport of OCI card holders with immediate effect. Also, the government has modified the OCI registration certificate in the form of booklet to furnish for the publicity 'visa validity-lifelong'. However, people are advised to carry their U sticker passport with the new one and OCI registration card. However, immigration officers have also been told not to implore on “U” sticker passport if the citizen produces the OCI card.


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