Merger of PIO and OCI cards becomes a distressing task for embassies abroad



By NewsGram Staff Writer

The merger of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) schemes, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has become a cause of headache for the Indian embassies situated abroad.

As reported by an English newspaper, a top Home Ministry official said that the ministry has now “advised” the Foreign Ministry that the PIO card holders should get their cards converted to machine friendly OCI cards at a nominal fee, as the existing PIO document, which is a paper document, will not be compatible with the card reading machines to be installed at Indian airports.

“We have advised that PIO cardholders to apply and get their cards changed to OCI at the respective embassies so that they do not face any difficulty as authorities in different countries or Indian immigration ports may be confused regarding the PIO-OCI merger,” the top ministry official said.

Earlier in January 2015, the Union Home Ministry had notified that all existing PIO card holders shall be deemed to be OCI card holders, and that there would be only one OCI card with enhanced benefits. But it was not specified whether the cards will need to be changed or not.

Due to lack of clarity on the issue, the embassies have been overburdened with complaints. As per the report, Foreign Ministry officials are now alleging that the lack of homework on part of the Home Ministry has led to serious implementation issues regarding the PIO-OCI merger.

“We may issue FAQs (frequently asked questions) soon to clear the air,” the top home ministry official told The Economic Times.

The official reportedly said that the Home Ministry has scrapped its earlier order that said all PIOs must convert their cards to OCI within three months and the deadline of April 9 has been extended indefinitely.

But the confusion still prevails at Indian embassies abroad. ET reported that the Indian embassy in Germany says that with effect from April 9, 2015, it is “mandatory” for all PIO card holders to have OCI cards. However, the Indian embassy in UK says transfer of PIO card to OCI card is “optional” and existing PIO cards are valid for life for travel to India where an endorsement could be made in the existing PIO cards at the first immigration point of India.