Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 6
Ahead of the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Gujarat, the government today promulgated an ordinance that seeks to merge Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes.
The step will help PIOs get lifelong visas and exemption from appearing before local police station on every visit.
President’s Press Secretary Venu Rajamony said the President had signed the Citizenship Ordinance.
The Ordinance fulfils PM Narendra Modi’s assurance to the Indian diaspora in New York where he had promised to merge the two schemes. He had also announced grant of lifetime visa to PIOs.
Subsequently, Modi had said the Home Ministry was working on the new programme that would merge the two schemes and that instructions had been issued to embassies and consulates that apart from special circumstances, US nationals should get visas for 10 years.
Last month, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that the two schemes would be merged and a formal announcement would be made soon.
The decision to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, was taken after many complaints were received from PIOs, whose major gripes were visits to local police stations and stringent visa norms that debarred them from buying property in India, in comparison to those holding OCI card.
The PIO cardholders were now eligible for only 15-year visas in comparison to lifelong visas given to those having OCI cards.
It will also do away with the clause of foreigners who marry Indians to continuously stay in the country for one year before they get an Indian citizenship.
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