Following the merger of the Person of India Origin (PIO) card and the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card in January 2015, PIO card holders are advised to apply for OCI in lieu of PIO cards prior to March 31, 2016 in the absence of clear guidelines from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Benefits of the OCI in Lieu of PIO Card
The MHA has confirmed that PIO card holders are deemed to be OCI card holders, but has advised PIO card holders to apply for OCI in lieu of PIO cards so they can be eligible for various benefits, including the following:
- Faster immigration clearance processing at airports, as OCI status offers a smart card;
- Access to consular services from Indian consular posts abroad; and
- Eligibility for various services for OCI card holders.
PIO card holders who seek to switch to the OCI in lieu of PIO card can visit an Indian consular post in their country of residence or the Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office in India that corresponds to their jurisdiction of residence.
The application process and documentation requirements for PIO card holders to apply for OCI in lieu of PIO cards is equivalent to that of a new OCI card application, as is the three- to four-month processing time.
Applicants awaiting the approval of their OCI in lieu of PIO card applications can travel under their PIO card.
What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals
Although airport immigration authorities still recognize the PIO card as a valid document and allow PIO cardholders to travel into and out of India without any restrictions, PIO card holders are advised to contact their immigration professional to apply for the OCI in lieu of PIO card before March 31, 2016.