Since India does not permit dual citizenship or dual nationality there are alternative solutions. These are either the OCI or PIO Card. Both entitle you to visit the country at any time for any length of time and for any purpose.
Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)
The OCI Card provides its holders with the same rights and privileges available to Indian nationals living abroad, excluding the right to invest in agriculture and plantation properties. Entering the country, opening a bank account and getting school admission for children becomes significantly easier with an OCI Card.
However, Overseas Citizenship is not considered a full citizenship of India. Holders of an OCI Card do not have the right to vote, to hold any public office and cannot be appointed to public services. You also need to apply for a Protected Area Permits in the event you want to visit restricted areas in India.
If you want to apply for an OCI Card there are certain conditions to fulfil. You must be a citizen of any country other than India and
- have been citizen of India on 26 January 1950 or at any time thereafter
- or have been eligible to become a citizen of India on 26 January 1950
- or have belonged to a territory that became part of India after the 15th day of August, 1947
- or are the child or grandchild of a person described above
Note that your home country needs to allow dual citizenship. In addition, people who are or have ever been citizens of Pakistan or Bangladesh cannot apply for an OCI Card.
You can apply for Overseas Citizenship of India at the Indian embassy or consulate in your home country. The process is straightforward and you need only fill in the application form online and send it to your respective embassy or consulate. However, it takes up to four months to process your application.
After everything is done you get your OCI Card. When picking up the OCI Card, you should also bring your passport to receive a so-called U-Visa. Your OCI Card is only valid in connection with your passport and your U-Visa.
Persons of Indian Origin (PIO)
PIO Card holders generally have the same rights as OCI Card holders. However, PIO Cards are only valid for 15 years and have then to be renewed. Application requirements are not as strict as for Overseas Citizenship of India. You have to prove your Indian origin up to three generations before. Spouses of Indian citizens or of persons of Indian origins can also apply for a PIO Card. The application process takes between two to four weeks.
Note that nationals of Pakistan and Bangladesh cannot apply for a PIO Card.