Privileges Under India’s OCI Scheme Curtailed
The Indian Government drastically curtails the privileges granted to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders in India. This has come in the wake of several instances where OCI cardholders have approached the courts to exercise their privileges, especially with regard to admission into institutes of higher education, research and journalistic activities etc. A summary of the changes is provided below.
1. OCI cardholders still do not need a visa to visit, live or work in India. However, they must now obtain a special permit to undertake:
o Research related activities;
o Missionary, Journalistic, Tabligh or Mountaineering activities;
o An internship in any foreign Diplomatic Missions or foreign Government organisations in India or to take up employment in any foreign Diplomatic Missions in India; or
o To visit any area in India that is notified as protected, restricted or prohibited.
2. OCI cardholders continue to remain exempt from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) for any length of stay in India. However, they must now inform the FRRO or FRO of relevant jurisdiction via email when there is a change of residential address or occupation.
3. OCI cardholders will be considered as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) for All India entrance examinations or tests for admission into institutes of higher education. They may also be considered for any supernumerary seat but will not be eligible for seats reserved exclusively for Indian citizens.
4. OCI cardholders will be treated on par with “foreign nationals” with respect to all other economic, financial and educational fields not specified in this new notification or in other notifications issued by the Reserve Bank of India under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999. Earlier OCI cardholders were treated on par with NRIs rather than foreign nationals for the purposes of economic, financial and educational rights.
5. OCI cardholders continue to remain on par with Indian nationals with regard to tariffs in airfares in domestic sectors, entry fees to visit national parks, national monuments and museums in India.
6. OCI cardholders continue to remain on par with NRIs for the following:
o Inter-country adoption of Indian children subject to the compliance of the procedures as laid down by the competent authority;
o Purchase of sale of immovable properties other than agricultural land or a farmhouse or plantation property; and
o Pursuing professions such as doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists; advocates; chartered accountants and architects in India as per applicable statutes.
Individuals who have a lineage from Pakistan or Bangladesh continued to be excluded from the OCI scheme. OCI cardholders still cannot vote in government elections and continue to be ineligible for public office or government jobs.