PIO card holders advised to convert to OCI cards by Sept. 30

30 Jun 15

INDIA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? India’s Ministry of Home Affairs is advising members of the Indian diaspora who have not already converted their Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards to submit an “OCI in lieu of PIO” application in the jurisdiction of their residence by Sept. 30.

What does the change mean? While the government did reaffirm that filing for conversion is voluntary, the consequences of missing the Sept. 30 deadline are unclear and therefore PIO cardholders should consider applying now.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: PIO cards, OCI cards.
  • Who is affected: PIO cardholders who have not yet applied for an OCI card.
  • Business impact: Business travelers should be aware that the Ministry’s policies regarding PIO cards are shifting and may change with little or no notice; conversion to an OCI card is therefore advised to avoid interruption of travel plans.
  • Next steps: PIO cardholders are advised to submit their “OCI in lieu of PIO” applications at their earliest convenience and preferably before Sept. 30.

Background: When India decided to phase out PIO cards, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that PIO cards would automatically be recognized as OCI cards from Jan. 9, 2015 onward and that PIO cardholders could apply to convert their PIO cards to OCI cards on a voluntary basis.

A recent government notice now advises PIO card holders to apply online by Sept. 30 and indicates that, in the meantime, border officers and airlines are being instructed to honor either PIO cards or OCI cards. OCI cards are smart cards that will speed up immigration clearance at Indian borders.

The notice also indicates that applicants may apply at the Indian consular post or Foreigner Regional Registration Office having jurisdiction over their current residence. Previously, the Ministry said that applicants were required to return to the location where the PIO was issued.

BAL Analysis: The Ministry’s notice could signal that a mandatory rule is forthcoming. Therefore, PIO cardholders should apply now for the conversion to avoid delays in obtaining OCI cards, which could interrupt travel plans. Because of regional differences, applicants should check with their local office or consulate to confirm procedures. BAL is closely monitoring policy changes regarding PIO card validity and will provide advice as new polices are confirmed.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in India. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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