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PIO card: A welcome change

Smita Tripathi | August 09, 2003 12:09 IST

In his Budget speech of 1999, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha announced the launch of the People of Indian Origin card, which allowed visa-free entry to people of Indian origin living abroad and gave them all the rights enjoyed by Non-Resident Indians including the right to buy non-agricultural land.

The card was meant to benefit 15 million people of Indian origin living abroad.

However, the fee of $1,000 inclusive of $250 (non-refundable) chargeable as processing fee acted as a major deterrent. In case of rejection of the application, only $750 was refunded to the applicant.

Now the fee has been brought down to $310 for adults and for children below the age of 18 years, it is $155. The new PIO card is valid for 15 years from the date of issue. The earlier card was valid for 20 years.

Who can apply for the card?

Under the scheme, you can apply for a PIO card if you are a citizen of any foreign country except Pakistan and Bangladesh and

(i) if you at any time held an Indian passport; or

(ii) if you or either of your parents or grand parents or great grand parents were born in and permanently resident in India as defined in the Government of India Act, 1935.

So basically if you or any person in your family up to the fourth generation was a resident of undivided India (that means India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) provided that after independence he did not become a citizen of either Pakistan or Bangladesh; or

(iii) you are a spouse of a citizen of India or a person of Indian origin covered under (i) or (ii) above.

Benefits of holding a PIO card

As a PIO card holder you enjoy parity with NRIs in respect of all facilities available to them in the economic, financial and educational fields except that you do not have voting rights.

The benefits include:

(i) You do not require a visa to visit India,

(ii) If your continuous stay in India does not exceed 180 days, you do not need to register yourself with the Foreigners Registration Officer.

However, if you continuously stay for more than 180 days, then you are required to register yourself within a period of 30 days of the expiry of 180 days,

(iii) You can acquire, hold, transfer and dispose of immovable property in India except for agricultural and plantation properties. Also, you cannot buy property in Jammu & Kashmir,

(iv) You or your children can take admission in educational institutions in India under the general category quota for NRIs -- including medical and engineering colleges. The Indian Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Management have reservations for NRIs.

(v) You are also eligible for various housing schemes of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, state governments and other government agencies.

What's more, all future benefits that are extended to NRIs will also be available to PIO card holders.

Where to apply

You can apply for a PIO card to the Indian embassy or the Indian consulate in the country of which you are ordinarily resident. In case you are already in India on a long-term visa (more than one year) then you need to apply to the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer.

You need to fill an application form and provide documentary evidence to show that you are a person of Indian origin. In most cases birth certificates or passports of your parents, grandparents or great grandparents are required to prove that you are a person of Indian origin.

The PIO card is issued within six to eight weeks. It is valid for 15 years after which it can be renewed.

The PIO cards issued under the PIO Card Scheme (1999) for $1,000 continue to remain valid; however, no refund will be given. But the validity of such cards has been extended by 10 more years without charging any fee.

A PIO card definitely makes sense if you wish to have any financial or economic interests in India. And now that the fee has been reduced, a large number of people will benefit from the scheme.

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