September 24, 2014

PM's US Visit: Narendra Modi likely to announce merger of OCI & PIO cards

Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau Sep 24, 2014, 01.57AM IST
NEW DELHI: The government has decided to make a decision taken by the UPA government into reality by merging OCI (overseas citizen of India) and PIO (persons of Indian origin) cards and the announcement is expected to be made by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visits the USA and addresses the Indian community.

The UPA government had decided couple of years back to merge the cards but could not make it a reality. ET has learnt that principal secretary to the PM Nripendra Misra had convened a meeting of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs officials on Tuesday to brainstorm the matter ahead of Modi's US trip.

It was decided that there will be a speedy implementation of the merger of the two cards to facilitate travel of Indians staying abroad and their participation in various activities here.

It has been learnt that Modi could make a concrete announcement regarding merger of the cards during his public meetings and engagements with members of the Indian American community in the US later this week and early next week.

Besides meeting a select group of top Indian Americans, he addresses the Indian community in Madison Square Park and will meet representatives of the Sikh community in North America. He will also attend a dinner reception at The Pierre, a luxurious heritage hotel owned by India's Taj hotels, hosted by the Indian Ambassador to the US, S Jaishankar, where members of the Indian American community will be present.

America houses largest number of Indians anywhere in the world and many of whom have grown in influence and stature over the years. Indian Americans comprise about 2.81 million people, about 1% of the US population, the country's thirdlargest self-reported Asian ancestry group after Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans, according to American Community Survey of 2010 data.

"The Indian Americans have contributed heavily to Modi's electoral success and presenting his case in the USA. They figure high on Modi's agenda and the PM would like to involve them more in India's growth story," a government source said.

PIO cards are issued to Indians who have been staying abroad for couple of generations while OCI cards are given to those who are more recent migrants and have taken citizenships in other countries. The OCI cards are practically visas that enable its holders to enter India for an indefinite period, while PIO card holders have to apply for separate visas. The merger of these two cards could make PIO card holders also eligible for the benefits that are enjoyed by OCI card holders.

It was envisaged that merger of the card would facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country.

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