The Persons of Indian Origin scheme has been replaced by the Overseas Citizen of India card. Image Credit: Faisal Masudi/Gulf News

Dubai: The Consulate General of India (CGI) in Dubai has urged all holders of the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card to apply for conversion to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card by the March 31 deadline as the PIO card will not be valid for travel to India after the deadline.

Rahul Srivastava, Consul, Visa, CGI, said applicants who are UAE residents should visit the consulate early to avoid any last-minute rush or delays. It takes a scheduled time of a maximum of two months for the OCI card to arrive from India, but officials have managed an average turnaround time of 30 days.

Still, applicants are advised to complete the formalities in time. After the deadline, a visa will be required to travel to India if the passenger doesn’t have an OCI card, and the applicant will be considered as applying for a fresh OCI, which normally costs Dh1,020.

There is no fee to convert a PIO card into an OCI card, only a Dh6 Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) fee is charged in such cases.

More details are available on www.passport.gov.in/oci.

Applicants whose visas are issued from Abu Dhabi and Al Ain must visit the Embassy of India in Abu Dhabi. For those who visas are issued from any other emirate, they can visit the consulate in Dubai.

Around 10 to 20 applicants from Dubai and the northern emirates, mostly nationals of Western countries, visit the consulate to seek their OCI cards. Documentation requirements include three latest photographs, current passport copy, a copy of the surrendered Indian passport or a copy of the surrender slip, UAE residence visa, Emirates ID, parents’ or grandparents’ passport copies, and birth certificate.

As the name suggests, a PIO card was issued to citizens of other countries who are of Indian origin up to the fourth generation. Those who obtained passports of other countries had to surrender their Indian passports. The PIO card, along with the foreign passport, allowed cardholders visa-free travel to India. The PIO card was valid for a maximum of 15 years.

In January 2015, it was announced the PIO scheme was being discontinued by the Indian government, to be replaced by the OCI scheme, which provides a lifetime visa to India. To visit India, the OCI cardholder has to carry the OCI card and the passport whose number is on the card.

Despite the name, OCI cardholders are not citizens of India and cannot vote or hold public office. However, they are entitled to a number of benefits on a par with Non Resident Indians (NRIs).