Millions of people of Indian origin in 71 countries will now have the chance to formally be recognised as Overseas Citizens of India entitling them to several benefits including multiple entry and lifelong visas.
Some of the countries, which are included in a new scheme are the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Israel and Sri Lanka.
However, citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh would not be covered.
The Citizenship Act, 1955, has been amended to extend the scope of the OCI to Persons of Indian Origin of all nationalities, other than the two South Asian neighbours, that allow dual citizenship under their local laws, a senior government official told reporters Friday.
The scheme, which would cover all those who had migrated from India after January 26, 1950, will be formally launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on January 7, celebrated as Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
All registered OCIs would be eligible for multi-purpose, multiple entry and lifelong visas for visiting India and exemption from registration with the Foreigners Registration Office for any duration of stay in the country, the official said.
They would also have parity with non-residentIndians with respect to facilities extended to the latter in economic, financial and educational fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural and plantation properties.
However, OCIs would not be entitled to the rights conferred on an Indian citizen under Article 16of the Constitution with regard to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and election to cnstitutional offices, the official said.
Everyregistered OCI would be issued a registration certificate,which would be printed like an Indian passport but in a different colour.
AnOCI visa sticker would be pasted in the person's foreign passport.
Applicationsfor grant of OCI would be received by all Indian missions and posts outside India and by some departments under the home ministry.
Applicants would have to submit proof that they, their parents or grandparents had migrated from India after January 26, 1950 or were residents of Goa, Pondicherry and Sikkim which were merged with the India Union after August 15, 1947.
The cost of each application, which can be also be made online, would be $275 payablein the local currency.