As South African Indians become more aware of their Indian heritage and are looking to discover their roots in India, the question about their rights as a person of Indian origin within the country often comes into question. Fortunately the Indian government has recognised that there are Indians throughout the world who were not born in India but should have some rights based on their ancestry. The People of Indian Origin (PIO) card is one such option for Indians whose parents, grandparents or great grandparents are/were Indian citizens.
What is the PIO card?
A PIO (People of Indian Origin) Card is a document issued by the Indian government that allows a person to enter India without a visa, reside in the country and even buy land (except agricultural land) without being restricted as a foreigner. The card needs to be renewed every 15 years and any PIO residing within India has to report to the local authorities every 6 months to verify their residential address.
It is only issued to people who can prove that their parents, grandparents or great grandparents are/were a citizen of India. It does not apply to any person that is a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, despite these countries having been former territories of India prior to the partition.
Benefits of the PIO Card
- Visa free entry into India
- Reside in India for any length of time but will need to report to local authorities every 6 months for long periods of stay.
- Buy and sell land in India, excluding agricultural land.
- Open and maintain rupee bank accounts in India.
- Work and/or study in India without a work or study visa respectively although there may be certain conditions placed on the person.
In addition, PIO card holders have the convenience of separate immigration counters at Indian airports to expedite their entry into the country.
Applying for a PIO Card
South Africans wishing to apply for a PIO card need the application form and a bio data form from the Consulate General of India in South Africa. The application form itself requires the applicants full details, as well that of their parents, grandparents and sometimes even great grandparents.
The bio data form requires all details about the applicant including their educational achievements, work history, personal and professional contacts who can verify their identity. A fee of approximately R 3,000.00 (2012 rates) is payable to the Consulate at the time of submitting the completed documents.
Documents to Support PIO Application
A PIO application is considered along with a number of different supporting documents before it is granted or declined. The applicant also needs to draw and submit a family tree document (genealogy chart) along with the application which clearly indicates their lineage and link to an Indian ancestor.
Additional documents that are needed :
- South African identity document (applicant)
- Passport (applicant)
- Unabridged birth certificate (applicant)
- South African identity document of applicant’s parents
- Unabridged birth certificate of parent via whose lineage the applicant is claiming Indian ancestry
- Grandparent’s identity document or identity card (prior to 1964)
- Colonial number of grandparent (if he/she was an Indian citizen) OR birth certificate of grandparent if his/her parent was Indian citizen
- Colonial number of great grandparent who was an Indian citizen, if grandparent was born in South Africa
Any person of Indian origin who is not the child, grandchild or great grandchild of an Indian citizen cannot apply for a PIO card. Instead their parents, if eligible, will first have to apply for a PIO card and then they may be considered.
Where to apply for a PIO card
South African Indians wishing to apply for a PIO card are advised to visit or call the the Consulate General of India office. There are offices in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town but the Durban office is most familiar with the process. Consulate staff will be able to help an applicant directly. South Africans should be cautious about using third parties in applying for a PIO cards. Travel agents are not approved for this document application.
This article is not an authoritative resource on People of Indian Origin (PIO) Cards and application for said documents. It is intended to be a helpful guide and the writer and website will not be held liable for any misuse of information. Details and procedures may have changed since the time of publication of this article. All applicants are advised to contact the Consulate General of India in South Africa directly.
Last updated on 6 August 2012