In a significant step toward granting dual citizenship to overseas Indians, the Government of India announced a scheme for issuance of a Person of Indian Origin Card acknowledging the sentiments of the people of Indian origin and the need to help them reconnect with their roots.
The PIO Card is a tool to increase and facilitate the participation of non-resident Indians (or NRIs) in the development of their country in simpler, easier, flexible and hassle-free ways. There is a prescribed system to apply for the PIO card.
Who is eligible for PIO Card?
Before applying for a PIO card a person has to be eligible for it. The criteria for eligibility for a PIO card are:
- Any person who at any time has held an Indian passport.
- He/she or either of his/her parents or grandparents or great grandparents were born in and permanently resided in India as defined by the Government of India Act, 1935.
- Any person who is a spouse of a citizen of India or a person of Indian origin as mentioned above.
- Persons of Indian origin up to four generations back can apply for the PIO card. The exception applies for citizens of China, Bhutan, Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Benefits to a PIO Card Holder:
- No separate tourist visa, student visa, or employment visa is required for visiting India.
- The card holder will be exempt from the requirement of registration if the stay during a single visit to India does not exceed 6 months. In the event of continuous stay exceeding 6 months, registration will be required within 30 days of the expiry of the 6 month period with the concerned Foreigners Regional Registration Officer/Foreigners Registration Officer.
- Parity with Non-Resident Indians with respect to the facilities available to the latter:
- All facilities in the matter of acquisition, holding, transfer and disposal of immovable properties in India except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural/plantation properties.
- Facilities available to children for getting admission in educational institutions in India including medical colleges, engineering colleges, Institutes of Technology, Institutes of Management etc. under the general category quota for NRIs.
- Facilities available under the various housing schemes of Life Insurance Corporation of India, State Governments, and other Government agencies.
- No parity shall be allowed in the sphere of political rights.
Limitations for a PIO Card Holder:
- PIO card holders cannot exert their political rights in India
- PIO card holders will have no voting rights in India.
- PIO card holders cannot buy property in Jammu & Kashmir.
- Prior permission is required from Government of India for activities like missionary trips, mountaineering trips, access to Restricted/Protected areas in India
What is the validity of the PIO Card?
A PIO Card shall be valid for a period of 15 years from the date of issuance but is subject to the validity of the passport of the applicant.
Remember that the PIO Card will be valid only when accompanied with a valid passport.
Is there an Appointment required for PIO Application?
The appointment is required only for applicants applying in person. If applying by post send the envelope with the required documents regardless of the appointment generated.
What is the processing time for a PIO card?
The regular processing time for a PIO application is 4 weeks and 6 weeks for the San Francisco center from the time it is received at the office. It may take 45 days for the processing if there is some adverse information found against the applicant. The processing time excludes the time for courier service. Incomplete application or not following the photograph requirements further delays the PIO application process.
What are some of the reasons PIO card application may be rejected?
If the PIO application is rejected then the application is returned to the applicant and the service fee of $4.70 along with the shipping charges may be charged to the applicant. There are some common errors found in the PIO application that might delay or stop the process of PIO application altogether. Some reasons are:
Missing or incorrect signature
The applicant is required to sign in multiple places in the PIO application. The adults have to sign in all the 3 boxes on the signature line. Children above the age of 5 have to provide a signature. Minors who are too young to sign have to give thumb impression in the boxes and the father and mother have to sign in the designated lines for them.
Missing Original US or Non-Indian Passport
The original US or Non-US passports have to be submitted and there are no exceptions to the rule.
Missing/Wrong Proof of Address
Sometimes the applicants provide wrong Proof of Address in the PIO application like Cell Phone bill, credit card, or bank statements that are not acceptable. Depending on the jurisdiction photocopies of the state issued ID, Major Utility bills, or a copy of lease that contains signatures of landlord and tenant are acceptable.
Missing/Wrong Pre-paid Return Shipping Label
The applicant should use a traceable method of shipping like FedEx or UPS to get the documents back. The prepaid shipping label is an important part of the application process. The applicant cannot use a credit card number while filling out the billing information on the label. The applicant should provide a pre-paid air bill.
Can the PIO Card be Cancelled?
The Central Government may by order cancel the PIO Card for reasons valid to them. The reasons can be that the PIO card was obtained through fraudulent means, or the card holders involve themselves in act of terrorism or aggression against the country, or they act against the constitution of India and its laws, or if further possession ofÂ their PIO card is against public interest and so on. The card will be cancelled and no reasons will be given for the cancellation.