The Indian government has revoked author Aatish Taseer’s Overseas Citizen of India card (The Indian Express, November 7). An Overseas Citizen of India, or OCI, is a category introduced by the government in 2005. Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories as specified in the Citizenship Act, 1955 are eligible for being OCI cardholders. Some of the benefits for PIO and OCI cardholders were different until 2015, when the government merged these two categories.
The Ministry of Home Affairs defines an OCI as a person who was a citizen of India on or after January 26, 1950; or was eligible to become a citizen of India on that date; or who 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. This is the ground cited by the government in revoking the OCI card granted to Taseer, whose father was a Pakistani national. Taseer grew up in India, and holds a British passport and a Green Card in the US.
OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) no matter how long their stay.
If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship. At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters. OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, they can buy non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a driver’s license and PAN card. However, OCI cardholders do not get voting rights, cannot hold a government job and purchase agricultural or farm land. They cannot run for public office either, nor can they travel to restricted areas without government permission.