Applying for an OCI card abroad to travel back and  forth to India

For people who immigrated abroad but have roots in India, they usually have a lot of family in the country. While many of them travel abroad with their family, their extended family is in the country, which is one of the main reasons why they visit often. However, getting back and forth from India to most other countries around the world can be quite tedious. Furthermore, there is a tonne of paperwork they need to complete to make this happen, and visas do not come easily.

What did the Indian Government do to assist people travelling back and forth?

The Government introduced the Overseas Citizen of India card in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora in developed countries. The Indian Constitution does not allow for dual citizenship which meant that the Government had to come up with a new idea.

Through the introduction of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 in August 2005, the
Government created a card that Indian who were abroad could apply for, allowing them to travel back and forth without regularly applying for a visa each time it expired.

With changes made to some rules, OCI cards now have validity but unlike visas that are valid for a shorter duration, the OCI card is valid for as long as the passport is usable and when renewing the passport, the OCI card has to be applied for again.

What is the process of registering for an OCI card?

Before the OCI card, was the PIO, Person of Indian Origin card which was not as effective as the current OCI card and at the launch of the OCI card, received a lot of criticism. Initially, they were accepted, but later they were found to be more expensive to apply for so people switched to the new OCI card.

Currently, 32,53,912 foreign nationals are registered as OCI cardholders, however, all have not been granted since some are currently being processed. There are currently about 1,372,624 Indian Overseas Citizens Abroad​. 4,14,906 OCI cards have been issued instead of person of Indian origin (PIO) cards till March 2019, according to the 2018-19 annual report by the Home Ministry.

To get an OCI card, the applicant needs a foreign passport and should be able to prove their roots to India. There are a few exceptions to the rule with India now allowing people from Pakistan and Bangladesh to apply for an OCI card. The country stated that people who served as members of any foreign military were not eligible for the card either.

People applying for their cards have to fill out an ​OCI application​. Along with the documents, they should submit:
1. Proof of current citizenship
2. Evidence of self, parents, grandparents, or great grandparents being Indian citizens
3. Evidence of parents, grandparents, or great grandparents being Indian citizens if they claimed their origins to India based on their ​OCI card
4. Evidence of being the spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin,OCI cardholder.
5. Passport size photograph
6. Thumb impression

Applicants have to pay a fee at the time of going through the application.
The fee is approx $275 or Rs. 15,000 and can be paid through Indian Missions abroad or when submitting the applications in India.

Applicants can submit a filled application form and fee challan at Foreigners Regional Registration Offices or Indian Missions abroad. An OCI card is usually issued in 30 days after receiving an acknowledgement from the Bureau stating that the applications and documentation are all verified.