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New rules for Overseas Citizenship of India cardholders notified by GoI – Indian Diaspora

New rules for Overseas Citizenship of India cardholders notified by GoI – Indian Diaspora


  • GS 2 || Polity || Constitutional Framework || Citizenship

Why in the news?

Recently, the Home Ministry has issued a notification under Section 7B of the Citizenship Act 1955 pertaining to the rights of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders introducing some radical changes in the provisions.

Constitutional provisions of Citizenship:

  • The Indian constitution doesn’t prescribe a permanent provision relating to citizenship in India.
  • It simply describes categories of persons who are deemed to be citizens of India on the day the Indian constitution was promulgated on January 26, 1950, and leaves citizenship to be regulated by law made by the parliament.
  • Article 11 of the constitution confers power on the parliament to make laws regarding citizenship. The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 was enacted in exercise of this provision.

Benefits of Citizenship of India:

  • Exclusive fundamental rights: Under the Indian constitution, certain fundamental rights are available only to the citizens, namely: Right against discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15); right to equality of opportunity in matter of public employment (Article 16); freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, residence and profession (Article 19); cultural and educational rights (Article 29 and 30); and right to vote and become members of the union and state legislatures.
  • Exclusive occupation of certain high offices: Constitution under its various Articles mandate that certain high posts can be occupied by the Indian citizens only which includes the President (Article 58(1)(a), Vice-President (Article 66(2)), judges of the Supreme Court (Article 124(3)) and high court (Article 217(2)), governor of a state (Article 157), Attorney General (Article 76(1)) and Advocate General (Article 165), etc.

Classification of Citizenships in India:

According to the powers given in Article 11, the Parliament enacted the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Act outline Indian citizenships of following types:

  • Citizenship by birth: Anyone born in India on or after January 1, 1950, would be deemed a citizen by birth. This limit was further amended to include those born between January 1, 1950 and July 1, 1987.
    • By the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2003, persons born after December 3, 2004, would be deemed to be citizens of India if either of the parents is Indian or one of the parents is a citizen of India and the other was not an illegal migrant at the time of the person’s birth.
  • Citizenship by descent: A person born outside India shall be deemed to be a citizen of India if either of the person’s parents was a citizen of India at the time of his/her birth provided that the birth is registered within one year of its occurrence or commencement of the Act, whichever is later, at the Indian consulate.
  • Citizenship by registration: A person may be registered as a citizen of India, if the person is married to a citizen of India or has been a resident of India for five years immediately before making an application for registration.
  • Citizenship by naturalisation: A person is granted a certificate of naturalisation if the person is not an illegal migrant and has resided in India for 12 months before making an application to seek the certificate. Of the 14 years preceding this 12-months duration, the person must have stayed in India for 11 years.
  • Citizenship by incorporation of territory: If any new territory becomes a part of India, the government of India shall specify the persons of the territory to be citizens of India.
  • Power of executive to grant Citizenship for exceptional contribution to the development of the country: In addition of above provisions, if the central government is of the opinion that an applicant is a person who has rendered distinguished service to the cause of science, philosophy, art, literature, world peace or human progress generally, it may waive all or any conditions specified to attain Indian citizenship.

Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI):

  • Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is a form of permanent residency available to people of Indian origin and their spouses which allows them to live and work in India indefinitely.
  • Multi-purpose and life-long visa are provided to the registered Overseas Citizen of India for visiting India and are also exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India.
  • Despite the name, OCI status is not citizenship and does not grant the right to vote in Indian elections or hold public office. The Indian government can revoke OCI status in a wide variety of circumstances.
  • The OCI scheme was introduced by The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora. It provides Overseas citizens many of the rights available to resident citizens. This was done on the recommendations of a High-Level Committee on Indian Diaspora.
  • OCI status is not available to anyone who has ever been a Pakistani or Bangladeshi citizen, or who is a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of such a person.
  • Prior 2015, travellers holding OCI cards were required to carry the passport which contained the lifetime visa while traveling to India but this is not required now.

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI): Eligibility:

A person must meet the following eligibility criteria before applying for the OCI scheme:

  • He/She is a citizen of another country having an Indian origin. He/She was a citizen of India on or before the commencement of the constitution; or
  • He/She is a citizen of another country, but was eligible for the citizenship of India at the time of the commencement of the constitution; or
  • He/She is a citizen of another country and belonging to a territory that became a part of India after the 15th August 1947; or
  • He/She is a child/grandchild/great grandchild of such a citizen; or
  • He/She is a minor child, whose parents are both Indian citizens or one parent is a citizen of India and
  • Is a spouse of foreign origin of an Indian citizen or of an OCI cardholder

Revoking of OCI Card:

  • Previously, the government could cancel OCI status of people who obtained it by fraud, showed acts of unpatriotism, or broke a law punishable with at least two years in jail before five years of having issued OCI.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 gives the government additional power to strip people of their Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status if they violate any local law, whether it is a petty offence or a serious felony.
  • The new act makes the rules much more strict for OCI card holders.

Rights and privileges of OCI card holders:

While the OCI cardholders enjoys similar rights as normal citizens of India, OCI are NOT entitled of following privileges:

  • they do not have the right to vote
  • they do not have the right to hold the offices of Prime Minister, President, Vice-President, Judge of Supreme Court and High Court, member of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assembly, or Council.
  • they do not have the right to any public services (government jobs).
  • they do not have the right to invest in farmland (agricultural property). However, they can still inherit farmland.
  • In order to visit certain areas in India, the Overseas Citizens of India are needed to apply for a protected area permit unlike citizens of India who need to apply for Inner Line Permit (ILP) only.


Overseas citizens have played significant roles in strengthening India’s interest abroad. They have also been playing very important roles in domestic socio-economic development of the country.. Their roles must be recognised by the government and the procedure related to registration, physical verification, etc. must be simplified for their ease to connect with the country.

Model Mains Question:

  1. Discuss the statutory status of the ‘Overseas Citizenship’ in India. Compare OCI vis-a-vis dual citizenship as prevalent in several countries.