The pros and cons of being an Overseas Citizen

An overseas citizen is an individual from one country who might be overseas, working or studying in another country. This process needs the applicant to apply for a specific type of visa to allow migration or temporary migration, depending on the purpose of their stay in the other country. If people are travelling to another country on a study visa, they would stay there for the term of their education and return post that, however, if they travel for work, they need a work visa and might stay longer. Additionally, people also use passports if they are planning on spending more time in the other country.

The Constitution of India does not permit any Indian citizen holding dual nationality. However, due to demand by the Indian diaspora, in developed countries, the Government created the Overseas citizen of India card or OCI card through an amendment to The Citizenship Amendment Act, in 2005. The OCI status does not grant people Indian citizenship, has many restrictions, and only allows certain rights. While India does not support dual citizenships, multiple countries around the world do. Some of these countries are Albania, Iraq, Mexico, Spain, Armenia, Ecuador, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Austria, Egypt, Israel, Montenegro, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, Bangladesh, Fiji, Jordan, Pakistan, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, Kenya, Peru, Syria, Brazil, France, Philippines, Thailand, Germany, Poland, Canada, Lebanon, Portugal, Greece, Romania, United States of America, Russia, Serbia, Denmark, Iceland among many others.

There are additional documents and amendments to be applied for, allowing people to stay in other countries without having to regularly go through paperwork if they are using short term visas. Pakistan uses the NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) cards or National Identity Cards which are responsible for storing the information relating to these cards, and providing the cards to Pakistani citizens. They are an independent, autonomous agency controlled by the Interior Secretary of Pakistan regulating government databases and statistically managing sensitive registration databases of all the national citizens. NADRA aimed to replace all 89.5 million CNIC (Computerized National Identity Cards) with SNIC (Smart National Identity Cards) by 2020.

Just as India has OCI cards, Pakistan has National Identity Cards, Bangladesh has a system allowing Bangladeshi citizens living abroad to enter and exit Bangladesh as and when needed through a No Visa Required or NVR Seal. Like all other documents, they have to apply for this seal and are allowed to get any of their foreign passports stamped, allowing them to enter as and when needed. The stamp does not have an expiration date but lasts throughout the validity of the passport. Additionally, spouses and children, of people with origins in Bangladesh are allowed to apply for the No Visa Required Seal. According to a study conducted by the United Nations in 2015, a total of 244 million international migrants are living abroad, worldwide.



One of the most prominent rights of Overseas Citizens is their ability to travel, to and from the country of their nationality, and where they are located. Whether they have dual citizenship, an Overseas Citizen Card or are moving back and forth on a visa, they would have to apply for multiple entries and exit for the duration of their stay. Due to this, companies around the world lean towards hiring such individuals since it makes travel easier. In India, OCI cardholders have certain restrictions as compared to citizens of the country. They are not allowed to purchase agricultural land, plantation properties, vote in an election, or hold public office. The Government has announced a couple of additional benefits to OCI cardholders, and these are, being treated in parity with Indian Citizens abroad when it comes to inter-country Indian children adoption, domestic airfares, and admittance into national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. There were multiple similar additions to their rights, and in 2012 the Government stated that the OCI registration booklets could be treated as identification for overseas citizens’, including a facilitated rule allowing for its acceptance as proof of residence. Some of the benefits of SNICOP (Smart National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) are visa-free entry into Pakistan (without Pakistani Passport or Visa to visit Pakistan). People holding these cards are allowed to vote as Pakistani nationals, receiving all the rights that Pakistanis enjoy. Furthermore, they receive all the benefits of a Pakistani citizen. Pakistan went a step further to allow these individuals to purchase or sell land or property. However, stark distinctions were made between nationals of a country and people entering back and forth using visas or one of these cards, depending on their country of origin, at the time the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. Indian-Americans with OCI cards found their long term visas temporarily blocked due to the coronavirus travel restrictions. However, Indian citizens were given priority and taken back to India through flights that were coordinated by the respective country Governments. Many other countries did the same, prioritizing their nationals and much later making arrangements for the rest of the people stranded in other countries.



What are the rights of Overseas Citizens?

How does dual citizenship work in countries that accept it?

Dual citizenship and multiple-citizenship are concepts handled by multiple countries. They, however, only work if the two or more countries where they are applied have laws in common. If individuals are born or married to someone from either one of these countries, they automatically receive the right to apply for their dual or multiple citizenships. At some point, they have to apply and handle the registration process. Many countries allow dual or multiple citizenships, with laws allowing citizens to acquire another citizenship without losing their present one. Other countries, like India, do not support the same and applying for citizenship in another country leads to the loss of their current citizenship. Therefore, the acquisition of a second citizenship is only legally possible for citizens of those countries which allow dual citizenship. 


According to a survey conducted in Pakistan, the country stated that the NADRA department  employs more than 11,000 people, in 800 domestic and five international offices. Furthermore,  more than 96 million citizens in Pakistan and abroad utilize the system and its services.  People are allowed to apply for multiple nationalities within the UK, as long as it matches the  rules of their respective countries. People holding foreign nationalities, do not have to surrender  them if they apply for nationality in Britain. There were 175,011 applications for British citizenship in June 2019 which is a 19% increase since the previous year. According to the latest report by the Ministry of External Affairs, more than 34,00,000 OCI cards were issued to people of Indian origin around the world. 


What are the statistics of Overseas Citizens not in the country of their origin?