There is virtually a rush among NRIs in Canada to acquire the Overseas Citizenship of India (OIC). Also, the number of people, mostly white Canadians, seeking work visas for India is also going up rapidly.
Since 2006 when the OCI scheme was introduced, the number of Indo-Canadian seeking the OCI card has almost doubled to more than 10,000 annually at the Indian mission in Toronto alone.
Apart from its high commission in Ottawa, India runs two consulate generals in Toronto and Vancouver. In fact, the Toronto consulate is the busiest Indian mission abroad after New York.
"Yes, more and more people from Canada are applying for the OIC card because it is for lifetime whereas the PIO (Person of Indian Origin) card is for 15 years. This trend (to acquire the OCI card) has really picked up during the last two to three years,'' Indian consul general Preeti Saran said in Toronto.
Except the right to vote, contest polls, seek government employment and buy farm land, the OCI card is as good as Indian citizenship.
"Whereas we issued 6,279 OCI cards in 2006, these numbers went up to 10,457 in 2009. We are very sure to cross this figure this year," says Saran.
Interestingly, the rush for ordinary visas have not dwindled even as more and more Indo-Canadians seek the OCI card. "We issued 72,527 ordinary visas last year, and this number will definitely go up this year as is the trend," says the Indian consul general.
Curiously, a growing number of people, mostly white Canadians, are seeking work visas for India is also going up rapidly, says Saran.
"This trend too has gone up in the past two to three years. While we issued 122 employment visas for India in 2009, this year we have already issued 146. As India grows at a high rate, even mainstream white Canadians are seeking work visas to join Indian companies or MNCs in our country," she says.
According to the Indian consul general, medical tourism to India too is picking up fast.
"We are getting very good response from mainstream Canadians because of very long wait periods (for surgeries, etc) here. Those who can afford are definitely going to India."