New Delhi: Ahead of the three-day meet of Indian diaspora in Gujarat, government today promulgated an ordinance that seeks 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 President has signed the Citizenship Ordinance, President's press secretary Venu Rajamony said in response to queries.
The amendments through the ordinance to the Citizenship Act will benefit PIOs and will give them benefits like life-long visa and exemption from appearing before the local police station on every visit.
The ordinance fulfils Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurance in New York 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 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 were now eligible for only 15-year visas in comparison to lifelong visas 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 an 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.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is being held in Gandhinagar in Gujarat between January 8 and 9 to be addressed by among others Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This is the ninth ordinance promulgated by the Modi government since it came to power over seven months ago.