If you or your parents were born in India but you now live in the United States, there’s a good chance that you hold either a Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card or an Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card. Both of these cards hold essentially the same benefits, helping people of Indian origin visit India with fewer obstacles in their way. However, until recently PIO cardholders had to renew their cards every 15 years and check in with the police if they stayed in India for longer than 180 days at a time. OCI cardholders were not subject to the same restrictions.
Thankfully, things have gotten easier for everyone. As of January the two categories have merged, essentially leaving everyone in the OCI category.
Changing Your Card from PIO to OCI
If you received your PIO card before January 8, 2015, you don’t have to do anything to update your card. Even though it still says PIO, it now has all of the benefits of an OCI card. More people hold PIO cards than OCI cards, but there’s literally no distinction anymore.
You’ll only run into trouble if you obtained your PIO card after January 8, 2015. If that’s the case, your PIO card is now invalid.
In order to remedy the situation, you’ll need to apply for a refund and reapply for an OCI card through Cox & King’s Global Services, the company that handles India visas in the United States. The process can take up to ten weeks according to the company, so you should get started as soon as possible.
If your PIO card is still valid but you would like to apply for an OCI card anyway, you can do that by filling out an online application here. There is a $45 fee for the new card, and you will need to register for the OCI program through the same regional hub where you registered for the PIO card. You will also need to submit your passport, a passport photo, your original PIO card plus a copy, and a copy of your birth certificate, among other items.
If you’re traveling to India soon and don’t have a valid PIO or OCI card, you can still apply for emergency India visas through Cox & Kings. The visa on arrival ETA visa can be applied for online or at your local Indian consulate during regular business hours.
As always, if you have any questions or need any help obtaining an expedited visa to India, contact Swift today for immediate assistance. Also, be sure to read our Travel Spotlight on India blog to get the inside scoop on places to see and things to do before you head overseas.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.