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PM gives first OCI cards to two Indian Americans

Press Trust of India

Posted: Jan 07, 2006 at 1650 hrs IST

Fulfilling a long-felt need of NRIs, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today launched Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme that grants life-long multiple entry visa and handed over the first set of OCI cards to Nivruthi Rai and Iftekhar Shareef, both Indian Americans, at a glittering inaugural ceremony of the 4th Pravasi Bharatiya divas here.

"It is a matter of great honour to receive the first OCI card at the hands of the Prime Minister," Rai told reporters later.

A software professional, Rai is presently based in Bangalore and works as senior manager with Intel India.

"It is like reconnecting myself to Indian roots. I have been living in the US for 15 years. I got the US citizenship two years ago. I am excited to have the dual citizenship," said Rai who hails from Lucknow and plans to shift back to the US in a few years.

A long-wait for dual citizenship has ended for Rai who can now visit India anytime she wants with the help of OCI card.

The issue of voting right, she said, did not bother her. "It does not really matter whether we get voting rights or not," she said.

Shareef, a Chicago-based businessman having roots in Hyderabad, said he was proud to receive in his hometown the OCI card from the hands of the Prime Minister.

"The lifelong visa to visit India was a long-felt need. The OCI card has fulfilled this need," he said.

"Every time we visit India, we have to go through many formalities and report to police during our stay but with the OCI we will be saved from all this ordeal," Shareef said.

In his inaugural address, Prime Minister recalled the promise he had made during the last year's Pravasi Bharatiya divas and said he was happy that it was being fulfilled now.

He said the ministry of overseas Indian affairs would soon complete the process of rationalisation of categories for the OCI cards and ensure convergence of benefits.

The Prime Minister also released an OCI handbook containing guidelines for getting OCI cards.

The first OCI card, presented by Singh, comprised a multiple entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa for visiting India and related documents.

The OCI cardholders are exempted from registration with local police authority for any length of stay in India. However, they are not entitled to vote.

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