Change in citizenship rules for 3.77 million overseas Indians

By Sheena Amos

DUBAI 19 April 2021: In rule changes which will make it easier for Indians living abroad to connect with the country of their origin, Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) will no longer have to apply for renewal of their status periodically when their passports are renewed and re-issued.

The change is rules announced today by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs will benefit 3.77 million people who have OCI status, including many such people living in Gulf countries.

OCI status gives holders of passport-like cards issued by the Indian government all the benefits of Indian citizenship except voting rights and the right to own agricultural land while retaining their foreign passports. OCI cards serve as multiple entry, life-long visas for such cardholders to enter or live in India.

The change in rules do not affect Indian passport-holders living in the Gulf. However, the new rules are beneficial for foreign nationals who are married to Indian citizens and living the GCC countries, of whom there is a sizeable number.

“Presently, the OCI card is required to be re-issued each time a new passport is issued up to 20 years of age and once after completing 50 years of age, in view of biological changes in the face of the applicant,” the Ministry noted in its announcement. “With a view to facilitate the OCI cardholders, it has now been decided by the government of India to dispense with this requirement.”

Henceforth, a person who became an OCI cardholder prior to the age of 20 years will have to get the OCI card re-issued only once when a new passport is issued after completing 20 years of age, so as to capture his or her facial features on attaining adulthood. If a person has obtained registration as an OCI cardholder after attaining the age of 20 years, there will be no requirement of re-issue of OCI card ever.

For those OCI cardholders of foreign origin, who are spouses of a citizen of India or an OCI cardholder, the person concerned will have to upload on the system, a copy of the photo page of their new passport and a latest photo along with a declaration that their marriage is still valid each time a new passport is issued.

This is a simple, automated process and an automated acknowledgement through e-mail will be sent to such OCI cardholders informing them that the updated details have been taken on record. All these services will be provided free of charge to all OCI cardholders.

Dubai Gazette