While Indian citizens stranded around the world are being brought back home through the Vande Bharat and Operation Samudra Setu, Overseas Citizens of India or OCI cardholders have been left out of the evacuation plans.
Who Are OCI Cardholders?
India does not permit dual citizenship and when a person of Indian origin gives up Indian citizenship for citizenship from any foreign country, he/ she can get an OCI card. Children born in the USA to Indian citizens automatically get US citizenship and become eligible for an OCI card.
This card allows them visa-free multiple entries to India and allows them to stay in the country for as long as they want. However, since they are not Indian citizens, they cannot vote, cannot hold public office, apply for government jobs and cannot buy agricultural land.
Number Of OCI Card Holders
There are over 6 million OCI cardholders in the USA. This includes more than 750,000 students. Many of these students are currently abroad while their parents are in India. According to the Home Ministry’s annual report for 2018-19
- A total of 3,253,912 foreign nationals have registered as OCI cardholders
- 414,906 OCI cards have been issued in lieu of person of Indian origin (PIO) cards
OCI Card Issued From 2014-17
OCI Cardholders And The COVID-19 Lockdown
As the COVID-19 global pandemic spread in India, the country closed its borders. On March 18th, an announcement was made to suspend the OCI cardholder’s rights to visa-free travel to India till April 15th. By the time this deadline passed, international air travel to India was suspended.
Thus, OCI cardholders had no way to come back to India. This has been especially stressful for Indians abroad with children who have OCI cards.
Indians with an H1-B visa who have lost their jobs must return to India within the stipulated 60 days after having lost their jobs. While they can do so through the evacuation flights, their children cannot be accommodated on the evacuation flights.
OCI cardholders have now made an appeal to the Indian government to be included in the evacuation lists on humanitarian grounds.
The request to government of India is to treat OCI Card holders who are residents of India in par with Indian citizens in India.
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