What is the change? The Indian government has announced changes to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card application and travel procedures.

What does the change mean? Under a new rule, foreign nationals of Indian origin must have six months of continuous stay in India or their country of residence (if different than their country of citizenship) before they submit an OCI application. The government has also issued a reminder stating that rules require some OCI card holders to obtain a new OCI card if they obtain a new passport. Officials have said, however, that enforcement of these rules will be relaxed until June 30, 2020.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing. The requirement that applicants be in-country for six months took effect Nov. 15.
  • Visas/permits affected: OCI Cards.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals of Indian origin applying for an OCI card or traveling to India on an OCI card.
  • Impact on processing: No impact at this time.
  • Background: OCI cards allow foreign nationals of Indian origin to work and reside in India indefinitely. Before the recent changes, applicants could apply for an OCI card immediately upon arriving in India or in another country. Now they must have six months of continuous stay in India or their country of residence if their country of residence is different than their country of citizenship. If the applicant leaves the country for even one day, the time period starts over again from their date of return.

OCI card holders have faced issues recently, with officials stopping some of them from boarding flights to India because their passport numbers did not match the passport numbers on their OCI card. Officials recently circulated a reminder that:

  • OCI card holders 20 and under must obtain a new OCI card every time their passport is renewed.
  • OCI card holders between the ages of 21 and 50 do not need to obtain a new OCI card when their passports are renewed. They are advised, however, to travel with both their old and new passports.
  • OCI card holders over 50 must obtain a new OCI card when they acquire a new passport.

In a Dec. 18 statement, India’s Ministry of External Affairs relaxed rules up to June 30, 2020 for card holders 20 and under and over 50 who have obtained a new passport, but have not yet applied for or obtained their new OCI card. In these instances, card holders will be permitted to travel with both old and new passports.

Analysis & Comments: Foreign nationals interested in obtaining an OCI card should take note of the new “six months” rule and should plan their international travel accordingly. OCI cardholders 20 and under or 50 and above who require a new OCI card are encouraged to apply for one as soon as possible even though travel rules have been relaxed up to June 30.

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