The government on Tuesday slashed by a third the fee for Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) cards. According to a circular issued by the Union home ministry to the deputy commissioner of police, security control, P.K. Chatterjee, the PIO card fee has been reduced from Rs 45,000 to Rs 15,000.
Chatterjee said the card would, however, be valid for 15 years, instead of 20. But a non-resident Indian (NRI), who has already obtained a PIO card, can extend his by another five years for free. The fee-reduction had been a long-standing demand of the NRIs, who said the slash would enable them to obtain the PIO card.
The NRIs had even appealed to the foreign ministry for a fee slash. A delegation of NRIs had recently met Union minister of state for home Vidyasagar Rao to press for the reduction in fees. The deputy commissioner, security control, quoting from a Union home ministry circular, said a PIO card entitles a person to travel to India from his native country without a visa.
There is a separate immigration counter for PIO cardholders, which saves them time on arrival at the airport. “But Indians, who have obtained citizenship of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Iran or China, are not eligible for the card,’’ Chatterjee said.
The fee slash has been lauded by those living abroad. “I welcome the government’s decision. We have been asking for a cut in the PIO card fee so that we could do away with the headache of obtaining visas,’’ said Susmita Chatterjee, a green card-holder from Maryland, USA.
Currently, there are about 700 PIO cardholders in the city. According to records at the security control office, there are about 25,000 Calcuttans, who had travelled out to the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada and other countries and later opted for foreign citizenship. “But these people have their roots in Calcutta and keep coming back to visit their families. A person without a PIO card has to obtain a visa and pay the fee,’’ Chatterjee said.
The fee for a six-month visa to India is Rs 1,800, for a year it is Rs 2,925 and for five years Rs 5,850. Chatterjee said foreign passport-holders of Indian origin, with relatives in Calcutta, could apply for a PIO card at the regional foreigners’ registration office, on AJC Bose Road. They are required to produce documents indicating the place of birth of the applicant in Calcutta.