Long time readers of my blog may remember me writing about my plans to apply for a Oversees Citizen of India (OCI) card for my husband and children, and a Person of Indian Origin card (PIO) for myself, prior to my last trip to India. I unfortunately started the process too late, so I promised I would do it when I got back from my last trip. That was almost 2 years ago.
For those unfamiliar with India’s complex immigration laws, India does not allow dual citizenship. And unfortunately, most every other nationality in the world needs a visa to enter India, including the US. However, there are certain designations that give ex-citizens of India more options. An OCI card is available to those born in India, or those who’s parents or grandparents are born in India. It allows the holder to go in and out of India, stay in definitely, hold non-agricultural property, and use it as identification to open a bank account in India. This card is for life, however, is a complicated, expensive process that takes 3-6 months to complete. In addition, we learned that not only do minors need to redo the several month process every time they have a new passport (which is every 5 years), adults have to redo the process once when they get a new passport after 50.
The PIO Card is available to all those who can get an OCI card as well as spouses of those who qualify for an OCI card (that’s me!). This gives you the same rights as the OCI (except as identification to open an Indian bank account), and is good for 15 years. This process is also less expensive and less time consuming. The website states it takes about 2 weeks.
Seeing how the OCI process is extremely difficult and expensive for children, and my husband has no desire to start a business in India, we decided it made more sense to go through the PIO process. While that made the process easier, it was in no way easy. We needed copies of everything, birth certificates for everyone, passports for everyone, proof of renunciation, old Indian passport, it goes on and on. Then, since my children were minors, we had to get their application notarized, with both of our signatures. And the in the case of marriage, applications required even more documentation. We had to get a copy of our marriage certificate notarized, as well as write a letter stating we were still married and get that letter notarized. Then, I had to sign a form declaring that should the marriage dissolve, I would inform the embassy right away. (Because, that will be my first call if my marriage is falling apart…).
But we gathered all the paperwork that was required (as stated online), and made our appointment with Cox and King, the agency that the Indian Embassy contracts with to process all their visa, PIO and OCI applications. We made an appointment as required, and showed up with duplicates of everything and originals, plus other documents that I didn’t think we needed, but wanted just in case. And we went to the San Francisco office 30 minutes before our appointment time and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Turns out, Cox and King feels that they can schedule 5 appointments in 1 hour, but only have 1 woman processing them. Each person at her desk was there at least 15-20 minutes. You do the math. Yes, that doesn’t work. We were the first 10 AM appointment she saw, at 11:20 AM.
Thankfully we had all the paperwork required, and all the notaries required. One poor family came with their toddler son and did not have their son’s application notarized. They had to get it notarized, then go to the back of the line, not being seen again until all the appointments were done. We left at 11:45, and there were at least 10 appointments behind us. I really felt for them.
About 1 week later, I got the email from Cox and King stating that our applications were processed and being sent back. I had no idea what that meant. Were we missing something? Why were they send it back? My husband was home and opened the packages. 1, 2, 3, 4 Person of Indian Origin Cards. We did it!!!
Some Tips if Applying:
- Make sure to read everything in the documents required section. A lot of people missed all the required notarizations and were sent away.
- If you are close to a center, make an appointment to have your application process, it will save you from sending an application and having it sent back.
- Bring all documents with you. Bring copies as well. If you are sending it in, send everything you think might be required and then some. Better to have more than less.
- If your passport is due to expire in the next 6-12 months, apply for a new passport first. Your card is endorsed for a passport, and if you get the card and then the passport, you will have to re-introduce your PIO or OCI card for your new passport.
- Make as early an appointment as possible and then come early to be first in line for your appointment time. The later the appointment, the more likely you will be delayed.
- Bring a fair amount of patience to the center. This is the Indian bureaucracy at it’s best. You will need all of it to get through the day.