I have just discovered an extraordinary fact.
Talking to someone over the weekend I mentioned how many of my family lived and worked in India, and how much I would like to go and visit the country. His eyes lit up and said, “Do you know about PIOs?”
A PIO is a Person of Indian Origin. I had never heard of this category.
” The Government of India for the convenience of persons of Indian origin has launched the ‘PIO Card’ scheme, aimed at making the journey back to the roots, simpler, easier, flexible and trouble free.”
It turns out that, even though keeping my British Citizenship, due to my forebears, I can register for this definition. This gives me a special card which allows me unrestricted access to the Country without needing visas or other papers. I am eligible because my grandfather was born, lived, worked and died in India. He is buried there too.
“Benefits available to a PIO Card Holder
- No visa required for visiting India during the period of validity of PIO Card.
- Exemption from the requirement of registration if stay in India does not exceed 6 months. Should the continuous stay exceed six months, registration will be required within 30 days of the expiry of six months with the concerned Foreigners Registration Officer (FRRO). (Click Here For Registration Checklist)
- Parity with non-resident Indians in respect of facilities available to the latter in economic, financial and educational fields.
- All facilities in the matter of acquisition, holding, transfer and disposal of immovable properties in India except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural/plantation properties.
- Facilities available to children of NRIs for getting admission to educational institutions in India including medical colleges, engineering colleges, Institutes of Technology, Institutes of Management etc. under the general categories.
- Facilities available under the various housing schemes of LIC, State Governments and other Government agencies.
- For POI holders there is always a separate Immigration Counter at International airports in India.”
My paternal great Grandfather, great Uncles and grandfather were all surgeons in the Indian Medical Service and lived and served in all parts of India. My father was also born there, in the foothills of the Himalyas but moved back to the UK as a child to go to school and remained in the UK except for study and leisure travel, a fact I only discovered a few years ago.
My research on this line of the family has only got back to the beginning of the 1800s so far, with a young man born near Aberdeen in Scotland, who began his working life as a mill hand. The mill is still standing according to Google, so I must go and have a look. Anyway, tracing the census records, he gradually improved himself, firstly by working in a shop, then by owning a shop, then branching out into a general store and druggist, and then moving to Glasgow and setting up a small factory making matches. Clearly, someone who was interested in chemistry! He must have been financially successful because the records show that all his many children, girls and boys, were classified as ‘Scholars’. Later on we find that the unmarried girls became teachers while the boys all went to Medical School and then joined the Indian Army, thus beginning the long service record overseas.
So, I have now ordered the relevant official certificates from the General Records Office – births, marriages, deaths, service records etc so that i can make my claim. This also goes down to the next generation after me, and their children until they reach 18 at which time it becomes defunct.
Life never ceases to surprise. Relishing the romance of my family history it never occurred to me that their exploits could affect my movements today. Just got to get strong enough for foreign travel again now:)
Extracts from High Commission for India, http://www.hcilondon.in/pio.html