The benefits (and costs) of an OCI card

If you are an entrepreneur or investor of Indian descent living outside of India, I would strongly encourage you to consider applying for an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card from the Government of India (GoI). As some of you may have learned the hard way, as a result of the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the government has made some changes to its immigration and visa policy where someone like me who holds a 10-year visa is now only permitted to re-enter after a 2-month break. And, this new rule does not play favorites; I know of a major scientific adviser to GoI who lives in the U.S. who was invited to Delhi by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who could not re-enter because 2 months had not passed since his most recent visit.

The bottom line is that if you travel to India more than 3-4 times per year, you should begin an application for OCI. Furthermore, some of your immediate family members, even if they are not of Indian descent, can also apply for a slightly different status, a “Person of Indian Origin” (PIO) card.

The benefits of OCI are numerous, though note that it is not considered “dual citizenship.” With an OCI card, you get unlimited, lifetime entry to India. The ability to own property and securities. If you are forming businesses that receive grants from state or central governments, you can also satisfy the indigenous ownership rules that those monies are tied to.

As with anything with India, the GoI, and immigration, brace yourself for a 3-4 month wait. You’ll have to prove documentation of your parents’ and grandparents’ lineage, dates of birth, etc. You’ll have to spend about $300, and because the process is so cumbersome, I would recommend hiring someone in NYC to take care of some of the details. Here is the link where you can apply: