This post was originally published on 29 September 2014.
Amid cheers from thousands of Indian-Americans, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced several measures to ease travel to their motherland including life-long visas.
“Happy?” he asked as the crowd cheered his announcement with chants of “Modi, Modi” at the huge Madison Square Garden community reception for him.
“There is even more to come,” he said smilingly as he announced that People of Indian Origin (PIOs) in staying in India for long would not have to report to police. “There is no need for them to do that anymore.”
In addition, the Indian missions in the US would grant long-term visas to US citizens and US tourists would get visa on arrival in India. Online visas would be introduced and Visa outsourcing services expanded to reduce current problems.
Currently PIO cards, given to those who themselves, their parents or grandparents or their spouse, were one-time Indian citizens, allow for visa-free travel to and from India. However, a PIO card is only valid for 15 years.
Also, if one’s stay in India is going to exceed 180 days on any single visit, one needs to register within 30 days of the expiry of 180 days with the concerned Foreigners Regional Registration Officer/Foreigners Registration Officer or local police authorities.
On the other hand, the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card given to only those who themselves or their parents were one time citizens, has lifelong visa-free travel and does not require the holder to register with any office regardless of the length of their stay.
Eventually the PIO and OCI schemes will be combined in a new scheme and also cover spouses.
Reminding the audience that Mahatma Gandhi was an expatriate who returned to India to win freedom for India, Modi said the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas will be held in Ahmedabad next year to mark the event.