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India updates guidelines for OCI, PIO cardholders

Terminal 3 of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport. (file) Source: Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images

Indian High Commission in Australia advises the Indian community not to delay their Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) applications.

Members of the Indian diaspora can continue to use their handwritten Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards for travel to India until 31 December 2022. Earlier, the relaxation was until 31 December 2021.

The Indian government has also extended the deadline for the re-issuance of OCI cards until 31 December 2022.


Highlights

  • Indian diaspora can travel with their handwritten PIO cards until 31 December 2022
  • International Civil Aviation Organisation, however, can declare these PIO cards invalid anytime
  • OCI cards can only be reissued in three circumstances

Officials at the India High Commission in Australia are advising members of the Indian community to convert their PIO cards into OCI cards without further delay.

Varun Chikkara, Attaché (Consular), said PIO cardholders might face difficulties travelling to India in future.

"International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) issues specific travel guidelines and documents related to international travel. So if ICAO declares PIO cards invalid, then members of the Indian diaspora won't be able to use them for their travel to India," Mr Chikkara told SBS Hindi.

"PIO cardholders will then have to apply for an Indian visa," he said, adding the Indian government had been encouraging PIO cardholders to get an OCI card after it merged both PIO and OCI schemes in 2015. 

Indian High Commission has issued a press statement ib 10 January 2022.
Indian High Commission issued a press statement on 10 January 2022.
Indian High Commission

Mr Chikkara said the PIO cards are valid for 15 years, whereas OCI cards have lifelong validity. 

"PIO cardholders are also required to inform the Foreigner Regional Registration Offices in India if they stay in the country for more than 180 days. But OCI cardholders are exempted from this," Mr Chikkara said.

Last year, the Indian government removed the mandatory requirement of getting a new OCI card for those aged up to 20. Earlier, such people were required to seek a new OCI card every time they received a new passport.

The same requirement has also ended for those aged 50 and above.

All they have to do is upload their new passport details and their latest photo on the OCI portal. They will receive a system-generated acknowledgement email that their details have been updated 

Mr Chikkara said OCI cards are reissued in case of loss or damage to the previous card, those getting a new passport after the age of 20, and changes to a person's particulars such as a change in name and nationality. 

On 10 January, the Indian High Commission informed that the Indian government has extended the deadline for reissuing a new OCI card until the end of the year.

"OCI card is required to be reissued once a new passport is issued after completing 20 years of age. To avoid inconvenience to such OCI cardholders in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been decided to further grant of time till 31 December 2022 to get their OCI cards reissued," it said in a statement.

"Such OCI cardholders will be allowed to travel bearing their old passport and their current valid passport." 

Mr Chikkara advised people travelling to India to check the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare website for the latest travel requirements and conditions.

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