Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme: Privileges and advantages

By Staff Reporter

In response to persistent demands for “dual citizenship” particularly from the Diaspora in North America and other developed countries and keeping in view the Government’s deep commitment towards fulfilling the aspirations and expectations of Overseas Indians, the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme was introduced by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955 in August 2005. The Scheme was launched during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention 2006 at Hyderabad. The Scheme provides for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) of all Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) who were citizens of India on 26th January, 1950 or there after or were eligible to become citizens of India on 26th January, 1950 except who is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify.

OCI is not to be misconstrued as ‘dual citizenship’. OCI does not confer political rights. The registered Overseas Citizens of India shall not be entitled to the rights conferred on a citizen of India under article 16 of the Constitution with regard to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. Detailed instructions and procedures on the OCI Scheme are available on the MHA’s website: www.mha.nic.in.

A registered Overseas Citizen of India is granted multiple entry, multi purpose, life-long visa for visiting India, he/she is exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India, and is entitled to general ‘parity with Non-Resident Indians in respect of all facilities available to them in economic, financial and educational fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of Agricultural land or Farm house or Plantation properties. Specific benefits/parity is notified by the Ministry from time to time.

The Ministry has issued notifications granting registered OCIs further benefits as under:

  • Parity with Non-Resident Indians in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children.
  • Parity with resident Indian nationals in matters of tariffs in domestic air fares.
  • Parity with domestic Indian visitors in respect of entry fee for visiting national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India.
  • Parity with non-resident Indians in respect of
    • Entry fees for visiting the national monuments, historical sites and museums in India.
    • Practicing the following professions in India, in pursuance of the provisions contained in the relevant Acts, namely:
      • Doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists
      • Advocates
      • Architects and
      • Chartered Accountants
    • Entitlement to appear for the All India Pre-Medical Test or such other tests to make them eligible for admission in pursuance of the provisions contained in the relevant Acts.

As on-line OCI Miscellaneous service is now available for re-issuance/issuance of duplicate OCI document, where applicable, change of personal particulars, viz, nationality, name, change of address/occupation, ets. And loss/damage of OCI registration certificate/visa.

The GoI, further relaxed the OCI guidelines by dispensing with mandatory requirement of re-issuance of an OCI card each time new passport is issued to a foreigner upto 20 years of age and once after completing 50 years of age. Now, OCI cardholder is required to get the OCI card re-issued only once when a new passport is issued after completing 20 years of age. However, OCI cardholder is required to upload Online a copy of the new passport and a latest photo each time a new passport is issued upto 20 years of age and once after completing 50 years of age. Considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Timeline for re-issuance of OCI cards. were necessary, has also been temporary extended until 31st December, 2022.

As on 31st January, 2022 40.68 lakh OCI registration cards are issued.

FEMA: Crypto exchanges get ED notices over FEMA violation

By Fiona Mehta

 

The cryptocurrency exchange companies, CoinSwitch and CoinDCX, have received letters from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is continuing its investigation into cryptocurrency businesses, after it was claimed that they slipped past the central organization’s radar. According to News18 sources, summonses have been sent to the officers of each cryptocurrency company. This comes one year after ZebPay was cited by the investigating division for breaking international money transfer laws.

According to the aforementioned sources, the ED has issued notices against CoinSwitch and other companies for allegedly violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). The investigation firm is aiming to ascertain whether these businesses are infringing on FEMA regulations and whether they are involved in transnational environmental crimes. Despite this, CoinDCX stated that there have been no complaints filed against the platform.

Following preliminary investigations, ED investigators have sent summonses for interviews to each of the cryptocurrency exchange companies. The sources also mentioned that the central corporation asked each business for information on a number of occasions. The investigating team at the ED has also requested other papers from these crypto international money exchange organisations. The investigation company’s Bengaluru department has sent out the summons.

“We get inquiries from different governmental organisations. We have always taken a transparent approach. We always communicate with all stakeholders because cryptocurrency is still in its infancy and has a lot of potential, a CoinSwitch spokeswoman said, confirming that they, too, had received letters.

The ED has sent notifications to important exchanges in India demanding information and data on how platforms work, according to a press release cited by IANS from a cryptocurrency exchange. We have provided the department with the relevant information as requested, and we have no further action scheduled.

The ED asked the cryptocurrency exchange WazirX in June of last year to explain an alleged breach of the Foreign Exchange Management Act with cryptocurrency offers worth Rs 2,790.74 crore. “In the period under investigation, users of WazirX via its pool account have received incoming cryptocurrency worth Rs 880 crore from Binance accounts and transferred out cryptocurrency worth Rs 1,400 crore to Binance accounts. None of these transactions are available on the blockchain for audit or investigation,” the ED had alleged on the time.

FEMA: ED registered the most money laundering cases in fiscal year 2021-2022

By Fiona Mehta

 

In the last 10 years, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) registered the highest number of money laundering and foreign exchange (FEMA) violation cases in the 2021-22 financial year at 1,180 and 5,313 complaints respectively, according to government data provided to Parliament on 25th July 2022.

The Centre took pride in the fact that it has carried out more raids and searches of individuals suspected of breaking the 2002 Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (c) than the Congress-led UPA administration.

Giving its rationale behind the spike in the number of searches by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the government said this showed its “commitment to preventing money laundering and improved systems for gathering financial intelligence through use of technology, better inter-agency cooperation and exchange of information both domestically and internationally”.

During the financial years between 2012-13 to 2021-22, the federal probe agency filed a total of 3,985 criminal complaints under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and 24,893 under the civil law of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

Overall, the minister said, till 31 March 2022, the ED recorded 5,422 cases under the PMLA, attached proceeds of crime of Rs. 1,04,702 crore (approximately), and filed prosecution complaints (charge sheets) in 992 cases resulting in the confiscation of Rs 869.31 crore and conviction of 23 accused.

Similarly, a total of 30,716 cases were filed under FEMA till March 31, 2022, of which 72 per cent were registered in the last eight years. It is pertinent to mention here that after taking up a case for investigation under FEMA, necessary action as per provisions of FEMA is taken which resulted in issuance of 8,109 Show Cause Notices (SCNs). Further, 6,472 SCNs were adjudicated under FEMA, thereby imposing penalty of around Rs 8,130 crore. Further, assets to the tune of Rs 7,080 crore (approx.) have been seized under FEMA.