PM announces merging of OCI, PIO cards

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced merging of the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) cards into a single facility to simplify visa-free entry and participation of Indian diaspora in business and other activities here.

Singh also said that the government had decided to extended the facility of the Indian Community Welfare Fund to all the Indian Missions from the current 42.

Hailing the Indian diaspora, he pointed out that the Government had introduced the OCI and PIO cards to facilitate visa-free travel of NRIs and Indian Origin people to India as well as to provide them rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities.

"We have reviewed the functioning of these schemes, and have decided to merge the OCI and PIO cards into a single facility. We hope to iron out some of the problems that have arisen in the implementation of these schemes," he said addressing the 9th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here.

In a bid to encourage PIOs (Indians who have shifted migrated permanently to other countries over centuries) to visit and invest in India, such people were given PIO cards.

A PIO card holder does not require a visa to visit India and the card is valid for 15 years. A PIO card holder enjoys several economic and educational benefits.

On the other hand, the OCI card is a kind of lifelong visa and any India origin person can apply for it if his host country allows dual citizenship.

Talking about the Indians who emigrate for work, Singh said their welfare is "a matter of special concern for us".

To improve the conditions for migration, India has signed Social Security Agreements with 12 countries and finalised Labour Mobility Partnerships with two others, he said, adding a generic arrangement is also being negotiated with the European Union also.

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