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FAQs on MHA notification of 4.3.2021 on OCI cardholders

FAQs on MHA notification of 4.3.2021 on OCI cardholders

(MHA notification of 04.03.2021 can be seen at

Q-1.     Have rules for OCI cardholders changed recently?

Yes.  New rules have been announced recently by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (MHA) for Overseas Citizens of India cardholders (OCI cardholders) vide MHA notification of 4 March 2021 (OCI Notification 2021). This Notification is more of a consolidation of the previous notifications issued on the subject.

As background, Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (CZ Act) classifies OCI cardholders as people of Indian origin who are allowed to travel, live, and work in India indefinitely, while still holding a foreign citizenship. While OCI cardholders are not citizens of India, they do enjoy certain benefits courtesy Section 7B of the CZ Act. It is pursuant to powers granted under Section 7B that the MHA has now promulgated the OCI Notification 2021 further clarifying the norms for OCI cardholders.

Q-2.     What do new OCI rules imply?

In a nutshell:

  • OCI cardholders can still enter and exit India freely.
  • Some very specific employment opportunities would be impacted, like employment in university / establishment / organisation engaging OCI cardholders as research scholars, in journalistic activities, as interns or employees in foreign diplomatic missions / foreign government organisations in India. In these cases, the cardholders concerned would need to have the necessary permit in place prior to their engagement date.

Q-3.     What are the specific changes following the OCI Notification 2021?

  1. OCI cardholders continue to be permitted lifelong multiple entries in India for any purpose, and can freely enter and exit India. They would however need to procure a special permission (or a special permit) to undertake activities listed below: 
  • Research activities; 
  • Missionary / Tabligh / Mountaineering / Journalist activities; 
  • Internships or Employment with any India-based, foreign diplomatic missions or foreign government organisations; and
  • Visits to any areas or places notified by the Central Government (or by any relevant authority) as protected / restricted / prohibited space.
  • The special permission / permit will be granted by a specified competent authority, or the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or the  Indian Mission concerned.
  1. No registrations required for period of stay in India, only intimation to FRRO for address change: 
  • OCI cardholders need not register with the FRRO any more for any length of their stay in India, but they do need to intimate the FRRO by email about any change in their permanent residential address or occupation.
  1. OCI cardholders to be treated at par with Indian nationals for the following specific purposes:
  • Indian domestic sectors air fares.
  • Applicable entry fees to visit Indian museums, national parks, national monuments, wildlife sanctuaries and historical sites.
  1. OCI cardholders to be treated at par with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs)

(Where NRI defined under Section 6 of the Income Tax Act) for the following:

  • Inter-country adoption of India born children (subject to adherence and compliance with adoption procedure laid down under applicable laws and regulations);
  • Appearing for all-India entrance examinations, such as, JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) Advanced and Mains, NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test), or other tests that makes an OCI card holder eligible for admission to any NRI seat or any supernumerary seat (to clarify, OCI cardholders are not eligible to get admission for seats reserved exclusively for Indian citizens);
  • Purchase or sale of immovable properties, except agricultural land, farmhouses, or plantation properties; and
  • Pursuing specific profession of a doctor, dentist, nurse and pharmacist, lawyer, architect, or a chartered accountant in India (subject to stipulations under applicable laws and regulations).
  1. OCI cardholders to be treated at par with other foreign nationals in the following cases:
  • Educational, economic, or financial fields or aspects not categorically listed in the OCI Notification 2021
  • Rights and privileges not covered under any notification issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (FEMA).