PIO/OCI Affect UK Citizenship?

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#1 Feb 26th, 2010, 01:22
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#1
Hi,

I am a British national currently considering whether to apply for PIO or OCI.

I would prefer the advantages of OCI; but wondered if there has been any clarification on whether possessing OCI would affect my status abroad (esp. India) as a British passport holder; e.g., consular access, etc.

Could anyone throw any light on this for me?

Many thanks in advance.
#2 Feb 26th, 2010, 01:35
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Neither would affect your UK citizenship in any way. Either choice (with OCI having the additional features of lifetime validity and no need for registration) would only ease your access to India.
“She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.” – Mark Twain
#3 Feb 26th, 2010, 03:42
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#3

Thanks for the reply

I had heard - some time ago - that OCI may have confused the issue regarding my access to consular services in India.

But I am relieved that is not the case.

Thanks again.
#4 Feb 26th, 2010, 13:17
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#4
That rumour has been put about, but OCI is not dual citizenship.

Another way of looking at this is to consider the likelihood of your actually requiring consular services in India --- which, we would hope, is pretty slight.
#5 Feb 26th, 2010, 18:20
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#5

Thanks Nick-H

It looks like the weight of opinion is that there should be no problems.

Thanks again.
#6 Feb 27th, 2010, 19:41
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#6
As others have said OCI is not pucca dual nationality. So don't worry and go for it.
#7 Mar 4th, 2010, 03:23
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I wouldn't be so sure about this. The OCI and PIO schemes have a convoluted history as awkward compromises in response to Indian diaspora pressure for dual citizenship. Although the practical differences between the two are very limited, there is a big terminological difference between giving someone exemption from visa requirements (entirely the prerogative of a sovereign state) and giving them some form of citizenship status (which may impinge on citizenship of other countries).
Apart from those having connections with a few "blacklisted" countries, anyone can hold a PIO card if they have the necessary family links with India. In contrast the regulations governing OCI restrict this status to persons whose "present nationality is such that the country of nationality allows dual citizenship in some form or the other under the local laws". This suggests that OCI is a form of Indian nationality – otherwise provisions governing dual citizenship would not be relevant.
In practice the government appears ambivalent: sometimes, notably when addressing the diaspora, it seems to suggest that OCI is virtually the same as Indian Citizenship; other times it seems to regard OCI as just another type of visa.
Holders of dual nationality are subject to the "Master Nationality Rule" under Article 4 of the 1930 Hague Convention. The UK government's guidance on dual nationality explains this as follows: "where a person is a national of two States (A and B), and is in the territory of State A, then State B has no right to claim that person as its national or to intervene on that person's behalf."
So does the UK regard a holder of OCI status as a dual national, with the implication that when in India [State A], the UK [State B] will not regard them as its own citizens?
The answer would seem to be yes.
Where the question of dual nationality arises in the context of acquisition of British citizenship by registration, the UK government Information leaflet BN12 states "Indian Overseas Citizenship is regarded as a “nationality”. A person who holds a passport or other document indicating that he or she has the citizenship of another country will not be regarded as being solely British"; similarly, The British Nationality Act 1981 caseworking instructions Chapter 14 Annex H state "OCI is considered to be citizenship of another State".
This seems to me unequivocal.
I am not aware of any instances where consular assistance has been refused to an OCI. It is possible that if such a situation arose the governments would work around it: the Indian authorities in "just another type of visa" mode, acquiescing in the UK assisting OCIs in the same way as it would other British citizens. But who knows?
#8 Mar 4th, 2010, 04:53
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Rob, you bring up excellent points. The Indian govt. can't seem to decide on just what it means to have OCI status. The way I understand it, since OCI (nor PIO for that matter) are independent travel documents as a passport would be, it is not in any way at par with citizenship.

I have known of and been present at both situations - one, where a person had OCI booklet but not U-visa sticker (from old passport), and two, where the person forgot to carry their OCI card and thought their passport w/ u-visa sticker would be sufficient. In both cases, entry was denied. One of these people was my brother with whom I was travelling. At the airport the impression I get is that I'm a foreign national with a lifetime visa. Nothing more, nothing less. And that's fair enough as far as I'm concerned.

As for how foreign govts treat OCIs, I had occasion to find that out for myself last summer when I was in Delhi. Something came up for which I needed help from the Embassy, and after I showed my passport & OCI, the official didn't bat an eye and treated me like he would any other U.S. citizen. Now I was not in some big legal bind or done anything even remotely illegal so who knows how that might pan out. Simply seeking fairly run-of-the-mill consular services doesn't appear to be an issue.

No idea about how the UK handles this, but from the citations you provided - Annex H - perhaps that is something to consider for British citizens applying for OCI.
#9 Mar 4th, 2010, 19:43
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The US Embassy in Delhi says on its website that OCI "often has been mischaracterized as "dual nationality" or "dual citizenship."... a person who holds an OCI Card in reality is granted an Indian visa, not Indian citizenship. Thus, an American citizen who obtains OCI status remains a citizen only of the United States."
This flatly contradicts the UK government's position (quoted in my earlier post) that OCI "is considered to be citizenship".
I think we can only conclude that the situation is very confused and uncertain.
As far as I am aware there is no precedent for a status such as OCI. There are of course situations where citizens have been denied political rights and travel documents, but nevertheless their actual citizenship is not called into question.
The India government may have borrowed the terminology from the UK status of "British Overseas Citizen" – another can of legal worms, but a very different species of worm. BOC was designed to keep people out of the country of citizenship, whereas OCI is a way of letting them in.
In the midst of all these complications and qualifications one thing is clear. Irrespective of whatever was or was not intended, the C in OCI means that holders of this status are issued by the government of India with official documentation that describes them as citizens. And if/when it comes to the crunch as a point of international law this might be the deciding factor.
It is also obvious that for OCIs access to consular assistance in India could depend on both their country of citizenship and the Indian authorities taking the view that the Hague Convention rules on dual nationality do not apply to OCIs.
The bottom line at present is that no one really knows what would happen. I suspect we will only know more when misfortune or suspicion puts someone in a position where these questions are addressed.
#10 Mar 5th, 2010, 00:28
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US citizenship and nationality laws are orthogonal to UK laws of citizenship and nationality. Case in point being, the case of HongKong passport holders pre '96.
#11 Mar 5th, 2010, 03:02
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One further thought. The 1981 British Nationality Act, as amended by the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, provides (s.40) that anyone may be deprived of British citizenship if the Home Secretary is satisfied that it would be conducive to the public good, but only if the person in question would not become stateless as a result of the deprivation. If the UK government believes (rightly or wrongly) that people with OCI status are dual nationals, it follows that they could be subject to such deprivation procedures, whereas PIO card holders (provided the UK is their only country of citizenship) could not.
The British Nationality Act 1981 caseworking instructions Chapter 55 Section 4.4 states that "Conduciveness to the Public Good means depriving [of British citizenship] in the public interest on the grounds of involvement in terrorism, espionage, serious organised crime, war crimes or unacceptable behaviours". The last of these could mean anything. It might be alarmist to suggest that any British citizen OCI who incurs the displeasure of the Home Secretary is at risk of deprivation of their citizenship. But there could be something to think about here.
#12 Mar 5th, 2010, 03:15
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Rob B, you have provided excellent food for thought ! I bet even the Indian government did not think of all these while promulgating the PIO and OCI schemes !
#13 Mar 7th, 2010, 00:39
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I would assume that the government has access to expert advice on the international law of citizenship. This is not to say that in the formulation of the OCI scheme such advice was necessarily sought or heeded.
Whatever the legalities, the political logic is quite understandable. The government saw the OCI scheme as a means to accommodate the main concerns of the NRI/diaspora lobby, no doubt hoping to marginalise critics who regard OCI as an expedient to mollify them without conceding what they really wanted.
The risk is that some hitherto unforeseen eventuality could expose the unstable legal foundations of the OCI scheme, forcing a re-think.
What would happen then? Radical changes to the OCI scheme? An NRI/PIO revolt? Constitutional amendments?
Who knows?
#14 Mar 7th, 2010, 19:02
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OCI/PIO schemes

Excellent and really useful points have been raised. In the long term, I can forsee OCI status being changed to that of 'dual nationality', as is the case in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh
#15 Mar 9th, 2010, 02:43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steadyfriend View Post Rob B, you have provided excellent food for thought ! I bet even the Indian government did not think of all these while promulgating the PIO and OCI schemes !
That is certainly an inference that can be drawn. It is after all not uncommon for a political quick fix to give rise to all sorts of unforeseen complications down the line.

Apart from the international legal aspects, it does seem also that insufficient thought was given to how OCI would be accommodated in a legal framework that hitherto did not have a concept of dual nationality. For instance OCIs seeking to work in India have encountered difficulties in securing recognition of their professional status and qualifications: there are rules governing the employment of Indian citizens, and of foreigners, but how do OCIs fit in?

I suspect that even if proper dual nationality were to be introduced there could still be problems unless it was made absolutely clear, at the highest level, that dual national status does not prejudice any citizens' rights, and discriminatory legislation and regulations were amended accordingly.
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