Guide to the New OCI Rules

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • OCI stands for Overseas Citizenship of India, offering permanent residency to people of Indian origin and their spouses.
  • Introduced in 2021, new rules require OCI cardholders to seek permission for certain activities.
  • Violating rules may result in penalties and potential blacklisting.
  • Despite restrictions, OCI cardholders enjoy benefits like lifelong visa, property ownership, healthcare professions, and service discounts in India.

An announcement brought to the light some new rules and benefits for OCI. The missive was released by the Home Ministry of India, and OCI cardholders should get familiar with what the new rules are. So, what did the Home Ministry of India introduce for OCI? Let’s look into it.

What Is OCI?

OCI refers to Overseas Citizenship of India. This is a permanent residency form that people of Indian origin and their spouses can obtain. Those owning this type of visa will be able to work and live in India indefinitely.

Despite the availability of the residency and the benefits it brings to the table, it’s important to know that OCI is not citizenship. So, even though one can live and work in India with this visa, they will not be able to hold public office or vote in the Indian elections.

OCI was introduced back in 2005, by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. As of 2020, 6 million people are OCI cardholders among the diaspora of Indians in other countries. Also, this status is not available to anyone who has been a Bangladeshi or Pakistani citizen. The same applies to relatives of such a citizen, whether it’s a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild.

Many rights were granted to people who held this status, yet there were some changes made in the new rules. In March 2021, the Indian government decided it was time to make some revisions.

What Are the New Rules for OCI Holders?

The Indian Government came up with some changes to the OCI rules. In certain activities for religious and journalistic gatherings or research, there will be new permissions that an OCI cardholder will have to ask. The Foreign Regional Registration Office will be where OCI cardholders can request special permissions before engaging in specific activities.

All the activities that require permission are mentioned in the official brochure that the Ministry of Home Affairs published. In the same brochure, it is mentioned that OCI cardholders are considered “foreign nationals”. Therefore, they will receive the same treatment as foreign nationals do.

So, before an OCI holder can engage in certain activities, permission will have to be requested. Apart from that, one can get a special permit from the Indian Mission abroad for these activities. Some of the operations that require permission are:

  • Tabligh or missionary activities
  • Research activities
  • Foreign missions internship
  • Mountaineering expeditions
  • Visiting any restricted, protected, or prohibited areas that the central government marked as such
  • Any type of journalistic activity

Apart from that, if there are any address changes, the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (PRO) should be notified. So, you should make sure you notify them, whether the address change was local or in the residence country. You should also let them know if there has been any change of profession.

What Are the Penalties for Violating the New Rules?

Although getting accustomed to new rules can be daunting, all OCI cardholders should make sure they follow them. Those who do not agree to the new rules and go against them will be penalized.

So, bear in mind that the new rules and restrictions apply to all OCI cardholders. They apply when the OCI holder visits India, or when he/she wants to participate in any of the activities abroad that are under the India Mission. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the OCI cardholder is not an Indian citizen. Instead, OCI cardholders are foreign nationals who possess a passport for a foreign country.

Failure to respect the new rules and restrictions will result in the foreign national being blacklisted from India, without having the possibility to return. On top of that, the passports will be seized in this scenario, while there will be a release through a Consular intervention. If the competent authority determines it’s appropriate, a designated authority from India will be allowed to make arrests in the specific cases.

Therefore, OCI card holders mustn’t violate any of the new policies.

Benefits for OCI Holders

Even though these new rules might be overwhelming to some people, they also bring some benefits. They became effective immediately and here are some of them:

Current Benefits

At the moment, OCI cardholders are allowed to receive multi-entry visits when they want to get to India as long as the activity intended is not one outlined in the new announcement. People who have an OCI card will have it as a lifelong visa.

Apart from that, OCI holders have the right to buy or sell any immovable properties if they want to, as long as they are not agricultural land properties such as plantation properties or farmhouses.

Lastly, people who own an OCI card will be able to keep aiming for and pursuing various professions in the health industry. This includes pharmacists, nurses, dentists, and doctors. The path to working in Indian healthcare is still open.

New Benefits

Some new benefits have been announced as well.

For instance, people with OCI cards will gain access to very similar entry fees when they go to historical sites, national monuments, national parks, museums, wildlife sanctuaries, or parks in India. Similar prices will apply when it comes to domestic airfare. OCI cardholders will have access to very similar rates as those for Indian nationals when they want to fly.

In terms of adopting Indian children, OCI cardholders will be able to have the same privileges as NRI people. At the same time, they will have to comply with every adoption procedure that applies for inter-country adoptions. It will be possible to get academic admissions similar to those of NRI as well.

Furthermore, OCI cardholders will be allowed to show up in every entrance test for India. So, people with a card will be eligible for Joint Entrance Examination, National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test, and so on.

Lastly, owners of an OCI card will be free from registering with FRO, aka Foreigners Registration Officers. This is possible no matter how much you stay in India.

Before this, an OCI holder had to go to the Police station and report whether they intended to stay in India for long periods. This referred to a period over 179 days throughout 12 months. Luckily, this limitation doesn’t apply now, and that is good news for OCI cardholders who wish to stay in India for longer.

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The Indian Government made some significant changes to the OCI rules, and people with this status should be aware of what’s going on in order to avoid violating any rules. Going against any of the new rules will lead to serious penalties.

Thankfully, some new benefits have been added too, which helps OCI holders stay in India for longer periods, show up in all entrance tests and have the same privileges as NRI. All OCI holders should consider the new changes.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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