Opening the doors for life-long visa-free travel for foreigners of Indian origin and other benefits, the government is set to amend the Citizenship Act to merge the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and the Overseas Citizen of India (PIO) schemes.
The PIO scheme was launched by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 1999, made affordable in 2002 and formed the basis for the improved 2005 Overseas Citizens of India scheme by the Congress-led coalition.
But the two schemes – aimed at similarly placed Indians who had taken foreign citizenship – entitled them to different benefits, depending on which scheme they opted for.
It was to end the confusion that emanated due to the two schemes that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced the decision to merge the two, OCI and PIO cards, into a single facility, at the Pravas Bhartiya Divas in January this year.
On Tuesday, he will chair the meeting of the Union Cabinet that will consider the amendment of the Citizenship Act proposed by home minister P Chidambaram.
For one, a senior official at the ministry of home affairs said, an OCI card entitled the holder to life long travel to India without visas. In case of PIOs, this facility was limited for 15 years. Similarly, OCI card-holders did not need to regiser with the local police while PIO card holders would have to report if their stay exceeded 6 months.
Again, the Citizenship Act requires PIOs to live in India for at least 7 years before they can request for Indian citizenship. Registered overseas Indians can be granted citizenship after 5 years of being registered as an OCI provided they stay in the country for one year.