New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved amendment to the Citizenship Act, paving the way for its introduction in the budget session of parliament begining next week.
Official sources said the Cabinet, at its meeting held here today, cleared the draft bill and the Act, once enacted, will replace the Ordinance issued by the government in this regard on January 6.
The Ordinance was promulgated to mark the meeting of Indian diaspora in Gujarat during the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) and it sought to merge Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes, by which PIOs will also get life-long Indian visa.
The Citizenship Act aims to benefit PIOs and give them benefits like life-long visa and exemption from appearing before the local police station on every visit.
The Act, when enacted, will fulfill Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurance in New York last year to Indian diaspora where he had promised a merger of the two schemes.
He had also announced grant of lifetime visa to PIOs.
Subsequently, Modi had said the Home Ministry was working on the new programme that will merge the PIO and OCI schemes and that instructions had been issued to embassies and consulates that apart from special circumstances, US nationals should get visas for 10 years.
The decision to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 was taken after a large number of complaints were received from PIOs, who often complained of visits to local police stations and stringent visa norms that debarred them from buying property in India, in comparison to those holding Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card.
PIO cardholders are now eligible for only 15-year visa in comparison to lifelong visa given to those having OCI cards.
It will also do away with the clause of foreigners who marry Indians to continuously stay in the country for a period of one year before they get Indian citizenship.
The amendment will give foreigners a relief of 30 days in a year when they can travel outside the country.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill of 1955 was first introduced by the UPA government in 2013.