Becoming an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) is a route many Indian-born Canadian citizens may look to pursue because India does not allow dual citizenship.
Upon coming to Canada, many immigrants desire to eventually obtain citizenship due to the benefits it provides, including being able to vote in federal elections and hold a Canadian passport.
However, when an immigrant becomes a Canadian citizen, some foreign nationals will be required to forfeit their original citizenship because of the laws in their home country.
This is true of many countries, including India, the top source country of Canadian immigrants in 2022 (118,095 new permanent residents). Appropriately, many Indian nationals who become Canadian citizens may want to explore obtaining OCI status.
What is an OCI? What are the benefits of an OCI?
An OCI is someone who holds a foreign (non-Indian) passport and is not a citizen of India but applies for a card that provides them with a “multiple entry, multi-purpose, life-long visa for visiting India, exemption from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India, and [the right] to general parity with Non-Resident Indians.”
Note: Parity as it relates to being an OCI depends on the matter at hand. For example, it is understood that a registered OCI will have “parity with non-resident Indians [to practice certain] professions in India” but they will not be given the same mobility with respect “to the acquisition of agricultural land, [farm or plantation] properties.” Read more here.
An OCI is not…
It is important to distinguish that an OCI, despite the name, is not entitled to the same rights and freedoms as naturalized Indian citizens. For example, an OCI cannot apply for and obtain an Indian passport, which is only given to Indian citizens.
In addition, the following list includes further restrictions imposed on OCI cardholders. An OCI cannot:
- Be a member of the Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council or Parliament
- Hold positions such as President, Vice President, Judge of Supreme Court or High Court
- Be appointed to public service positions unless approved and granted by the Central Government
- Acquire agricultural land or farmhouse or plantation properties in India
Who is eligible for an OCI card?
Canadian citizens of Indian origin can apply to become an OCI if they:
- Were an Indian citizen when or after the Constitution of India took effect on January 26, 1950
- Were eligible to become a citizen of India on the day the Constitution of India took effect (see above)
- Are a citizen of another country but “belonged to a territory that became part of India” after August 15, 1947
- Are minor child, child, grandchild or a great-grandchild of someone who meets the above criteria*
- Are a minor child with at least one parent who is an Indian citizen
- Are the spouse (themselves of foreign origin) to an Indian citizen or an OCI cardholder registered under section 7A of India’s Citizenship Act, 1955**
*This criterion involves certain restrictions, which will be explained below
**To be eligible, the marriage of a spouse and their Indian citizen/OCI cardholder partner must have been registered and lasted for at least two years prior to the CI application submission
You are not eligible for an OCI card…
In accordance with the eligibility criteria above, “no person … who [has at least one parent, grandparent or great grandparent that is or has ever] been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or [any] other country [identified by] the Government of India” is eligible for an OCI.
More details about applying to become an OCI
The following outlines more key information about OCI applications:
- A list of supporting documents required alongside an OCI application can be found here
- All OCI applications include a fee that depends on the service type and where the application is submitted from — $275 USD (or the equivalent) if submitted abroad and Rs. 15,000 if submitted in India*
- Persons found to have obtained an OCI card fraudulently (false representation, concealment of information etc.) will have their OCI cancelled and be banned from future entry to India
*Fees will be partially refunded (minus processing costs) if an OCI application is refused
To learn more about becoming an OCI, click here to read a Frequently Asked Questions prepared by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs.