The Overseas Citizenship of India program was instituted in 2006 to allow certain people who are of Indian origin to be granted particular citizenship rights even if they currently hold citizenship in another nation.

The Constitution of India does not allow dual citizenship, but the Overseas Citizenship of India program allows certain limited rights, including the rights to:

  • hold a multiple-entry, multi-purpose life-long visa to visit India; 
  • exemption from reporting any stay in India to the registration officials; and
  • apply for a grant of full Indian citizenship after being registered for five years under the program and living in India for one of those years.

Economic Benefits of the Program  

An additional very important right granted to those in the Overseas Citizenship of India program is equality with Indian citizens in most economic matters.  Overseas Citizenship of India cardholders do not have full Indian citizenship rights in regards to acquisition of agricultural property, but otherwise they have the same access as Indian citizens to all economic and financial facilities.  This means that they can have bank accounts, invest, and earn income as if they resided in India as a full Indian citizen.    

Recent Suspicions Surrounding Offshore Accounts in India

With hidden offshore accounts costing the U.S. Treasury an estimated $100 billion of unpaid taxes each year, the IRS and U.S. Department of Justice are increasing their efforts to find and collect on foreign financial accounts.  Perhaps in response to the number of US citizens being granted Overseas Citizenship of India cards, the IRS has targeted much of its efforts to gain information regarding any person, be he or she an American citizen, green card holder, visa holder, or even an illegal with financial assets in India, or with HSBC Bank.  HSBC India opened an office in New York City to allow Indians living in the US to open accounts in India.  Just this year, a federal district court granted the U.S. Department of Justice’s request to serve a summons on HSBC for information regarding any U.S. patron, and HSBC has agreed to comply. In addition to bank account information, the U.S. government is expected to gain information regarding assets and inheritances of United States Overseas Citizenship of India cardholders through the information provided for and on the Overseas Citizenship of India cards themselves.  

India’s Real Estate Market Opportunities

India does not have nearly the amount of commercial real estate it could support with its growing economy.  As India opens up opportunities for investors, many people who would not normally be involved in the commercial real estate business have a chance to invest in retail office space. The changing real estate market in India is inviting to Overseas Citizenship of India cardholders who have equality with all resident Indians, and the IRS will likely follow U.S. investors to wherever they receive income to collect U.S. taxes.

For more information, contact Moskowitz, LLP.