In our last post, we have motioned that if you do not convert your PIO cards to OCI then you may have to apply for the VISA to travel back to India. Many Indians work in the gulf countries and most of them do not have the OCI cards made as yet. The deadline of 31st March is nearing and minimum time needed to convert the PIO to OCI is 30 days. Now if you have not yet applied for the one, what next?
Based on the available information from the reliable sources, the report of people with PIO cards will not be able to travel back to India without VISA has amounted into creating the anxiety amongst the PIO card holders. Earlier people with family roots in India would manage to travel back to the country without the need to VISA and as the rule has become defunct it became very much necessary to apply for the OCI cards in a way to enable to come back to India without a visa.
This news was published in the major national and international media. But now there seems to be a little twist in the tale. According to the officials connected to the home ministry, the earlier story was an exaggeration of the facts. The matter became more serious due to the set deadline of 31st March for converting the PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) to OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) which actually allows the unlimited visa-free travel back to India that too without the need of police verification for the longer stay periods.
One of the senior officers working in the Indian Home Ministry has told the people to not to worry in case they have not yet made OCI cards. According to him, the existing PIO cards will be valid for some more time after the set deadline to travel back to India without the need for a visa. “The deadline was to encourage people to change to the OCI [Overseas Citizen of India] which are better cards actually,” the official said on the assurance of anonymity.
However the Indian primer, Narendra Modi has assured the Indian people working abroad that he will make sure that the transition will be made smoother to accommodate the millions of people with family links to his country to visit. According to the sources, the plans to merge the two travel documents were in process years before Mr. Modi came to power but his announcement caused great cheer among India’s huge Diaspora.
Based on the available information, PIO cards allows only 15 years of visa-free travel back to India and the card holders needed to register with the local police if they plan to stay in the country over 180 days. People with Indian heritage and foreigners married to Indians were eligible for the cards. According to Modi Ji, the conversion of the PIO cards to OCI will be valid for the lifetime.
The latest uncertainty has been created by the March 31 deadline, which appears to be something of a misnomer claimed the sources. The official at the Ministry of Home Affairs told the media that timeframe will likely be extended but even if it isn’t, the cards are still valid and will be considered to be OCI cards by immigration officials. More than 75,000 PIO card holders have made the switch to an OCI card, according to the official. Part of the reason the government wants to replace the PIO card is because the home ministry doesn’t know how many people hold them, the official added.