Indian identity. Indian diaspora across the world (about NRI and OCI card holders)


Imagine, in any place of the world, you meet an average Indian. Or average Indian family. What do you see? Colorful traditional dresses? People eating rice? Dancing or singing in one of the 22 official Indian languages? Practicing yoga? There is no one straightforward answer to this question. There are plenty of examples you can easily notice that many things make Indians extremely conscious and proud of being Indian. Culture, history, religion, the way they eat, what they eat, festivals they celebrate, how they celebrate, very deep family relationships. This feeling of belongingness to the cultural and ethnical identity is very strong and you can see it in each and every action, every moment. Either in India or outside the country.

Sometimes this cultural attachment in even somewhat exaggerated and over boosted way. Have you ever attended any big fat Indian wedding? Did any of the aunties missed her heavy gold jewelry matching her beautiful silk saree? No? I’m not surprised. Have you ever heard during casual talk any of these introductions: my son/daughter (name), BComm/BS/Btech… (any of your choice) graduate. Yes? I’m not surprised. Or my son/daughter (name) studying/working in US / UK / Australia (any of your choice). Yes? I’m not surprised. Did you see huge street billboards in India with graduation/engagement/marriage announcements? Yes? Well, I’m not surprised. There is some unwritten rule people follow. The more you highlight your social Indian status and material possessions the more reputed you are in the society.

Indian society.

Any other place where you find Indians.

In India or outside India.

All over the globe.

Yes, exactly, you heard me right. All over.

Indian diaspora and its impact on world’s culture

Did you know that according to United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs India has the largest diaspora population in the world with over 15.6 million? As per Ministry of External Affairs there are approximately 30.8 million Indian diaspora residing outside India.

So, let’s be frank. The Indian diaspora today constitutes crucial, and in some respects very unique, force in world culture. Overseas Indians tend to create Indian social structures wherever they go and they tend to continuously bonding with their native culture even in foreign countries. Rarely you can see full cultural assimilation from their side. At the same time, while many have renounced their Indian citizenship and took the country of foreign residency, they do still want to be active in India. However, same actions easily done being an Indian citizen in India might not be that easily accessible for those who stay abroad. So to some extend their place of residence defines Indian rights.

Photo source: uniquetimes

So indeed. How is it happening then that so many Indians are met abroad staying there for years? The Constitution of India does not permit full dual citizenship so to understand legal side of any onsite residence and in response to persistent demands for dual citizenship matter – during Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention at Hyderabad in 2006 the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme was introduced by amending The Citizenship Act, 1955 in August 2005. Briefly speaking, there are two terms we should be familiar with that would categorize Indians who live abroad: NRI and OCI.

  • NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) are Indian Citizens who live in another country.
  • OCIs (Overseas Citizen of India) are non-Indian citizens who have a lifetime visa to live and work in India with fewer restrictions.

NRI, which stands for non-resident Indian, is a term used only for tax purposes. It refers to “a citizen of India who holds an Indian passport and has temporarily emigrated to another country for six months or more for employment, residence, education or any other purpose.”

The OCI card is a long-term multiple entry visa, with restrictions on voting rights, taking up the government jobs and buying the land. Indian authorities have interpreted the law to mean a person cannot have a second nationality simultaneously having an Indian passport. Therefore, there are no exceptions to anyone no longer to use Indian IDs after receiving OCI.

Where to search for information about OCI?

Full information about the process, eligibility criteria can be found -> CLICK here and the application process -> CLICK here. To give you brief overview for the same, sharing main points.

  • Who is eligible to apply for Overseas Citizen of India Card?
  • Who was a citizen of India on or at any time after January 26, 1950; or
  • Who was eligible to become citizen of India on January 26, 1950; or
  • Who belonged to a territory that became part of India after August 15, 1947; and
  • Who is a child or a grand-child or a great grandchild of such a citizen mentioned above; and
  • A person who is a minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; and
  • Spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India cardholder and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application. However it is to be noted that such spouse shall be subjected to prior security clearance from a competent authority in India.
  • Who is not eligible?
  • Any foreign national who has earlier been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
  • Privileges for OCI card holders
  • A multiple entry, multi-purpose life-long visa for visiting India.
  • Exemption from registration with local police authority for any length of stay in India.
  • Parity with Non-resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of economic, financial and educational fields, except in relation to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.
  • Any other benefits to OCIs will be notified by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) under Section 7B(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

It seems to me that Indians have a huge pressure to emigrate. Many of them think that moving out of India and staying abroad is upgrading the social status: getting salary in foreign currency, experiencing onsite assignments with doubled income in the bank account and having non-Indian friends. I would better say – travel and enjoy and at the same time love your beautifully diversified country, discover it constantly with all its positive sides and all its drawbacks.

As I see, overall a transformation in migration is happening nowadays. Even though one travel and reside in other countries, the social and cultural position is still attached to the old memories of the culture from which the person comes from and how one was raised.

My dear Indian friends. How is it then possible to characterize all of you then? It seems the diversity of your Indianness is difficult to define or shape, both in India itself as well as overseas. And that is what I truly like about you all!

I would love to hear your comments on this! What is your opinion about leaving abroad and still being attached to your native culture? Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of yours? Any comments? – please share your experience. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.

(cover photo source: uitvconnect)