How to Obtain a First Time OCI Card for People Who Were Born in the USA Based on Both Parents’ Birth in India: Step-by-Step Guide

This article is intended to be read before starting the OCI card application. Read this first, then start the application. The process will be less confusing and you won’t end up with delays. 

The Indian government has created a system whereby former Indian citizens as well as people of Indian origin may be eligible to get an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Card. They have partnered with an organization called Cox & Kings Global Services (CKGS) to handle logistics for OCI cards, visas and other documents regarding travel to India. CKGS is not part of the Indian government. They’re an outside agency whose role is to gather the applications, handle all questions and logistics between the public and the Indian government.

You send your completed application to them. They pre-screen it to make sure it contains all of the necessary documentation. If it does, they forward it to the Indian government for processing. If it doesn’t they punt it back to you along with the info as to what needs to be fixed. Similarly, when the OCI card is issued, the Indian government sends it to CKGS who checks that all is in order, before sending it to you. 

One thing I appreciated about CKGS is that you can actually talk to a person who will answer questions, they enter relevant notes about your application and conversations in their system so that if you call a few times no matter who answers your call will have access to previous conversations.  They also keep you informed on the status of every step your application ie:

  • when it arrives at CKGS
  • when it’s out for shipping to the Indian government
  • OCI card is on its way to you

Overall from the time I submitted the electronic application and CKGS received the hard copy, it took approximately 2.5 months. Note: CKGS will not start processing your application until they have received the electronic AND hard copy. 

{How To Start The Application}

Start the application by going to the CKGS website. This is important so I’m gonna say it again. You start the application on the CKGS website, NOT the Indian government’s website.

3 Steps to the application: Once you’ve completed all of the fields on the CKGS website, the application system will lead you to the Indian government’s website to complete the Indian government’s portion of the application. Then you have to merge the two applications together, which the site walks you through.

In addition to the electronic application you are required to send a hardcopy of all of the documents. 

{Real Time Application Updates}

December 6: uploaded digital application to CKGS
December 11: shipped hardcopy application to CKGS express overnight via UPS
December 12: application put on hold for missing documents
December 14: application screening resumed by CKGS
December 17: application handed over to Indian consulate by CKGS
December 18: passport returned to CKGS and shipped back to me via pre-paid UPS express envelope that I enclosed in my application. OCI application continues processing with the Indian government. (I explain this in more detail below).
End February: I had my OCI card.

{Table of Contents}

This article is long so here’s a summary of topics:

  • Why Get an OCI Card? The Benefits
  • Who’s Eligible for an OCI Card?
  • Things That Could Impact When You Apply for an OCI Card
  • OCI Card Costs
  • Summary of the Application Process
  • How to Get Help from CKGS
  • Time and Cost Saving Tips on Completing the Application
  • Info and Items You’ll Need Before You Start the Application
  • Providing Proof of Indian Origin
  • List of Documents You’ll Need to Submit
  • How to Get a Document Notarized
  • What is CKGS?

{Why Get an OCI Card? The Benefits}

  • You never have to apply for an Indian visa ever again. Your OCI card is your visa
  • You can stay in India as long as you want without notifying authorities
  • Parity with NRIs in financial, economic and educational areas (cannot acquire agricultural land nor plantations)
  • You can work in India (with some restrictions on type of work) including opening a professional practice (as long as meet the requirements), without requiring a work visa
  • You can open a bank account in India
  • You can purchase property in India
  • Parity with Indian nationals’ entrance fees to national monuments, parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and museums.
  • Other benefits that you can read about here.

{Who is Eligible to Get an OCI Card?}

As of the time of publishing this article (December, 2018) , here are the eligibility requirements.

{Things That Could Impact When
You Apply For an OCI Card
}

Application Processing Doesn’t Start Until CKGS Receives the Electronic AND Hardcopy Application. 

Parting With Your Passport. You have to submit your passport along with the hard copy of your application. The actual passport, NOT a copy. So if you have any plans to travel internationally within 1-3 months, you might want to hold off on applying for an OCI Card. Don’t worry you’re not going to part with your passport for the duration of the application process. CKGS does their best to return your passport to you within 10 working days of when they receive it, but it’s possible it could be longer.

When you ship your hard copy application to CKGS, you will include two UPS/FEDEX/Mail return shipping envelopes and they will use one to return your passport to you ASAP and the other envelope for your OCI card which will take longer.

{OCI Card and Application Costs}

As of December 2018:

$305: Application
$108: shipping 3 UPS overnight envelopes (outbound application to CKGS + two empty return envelopes for CKGS to send back my passport + OCI Card). You don’t have to ship overnight. I chose to. 
~$15: 2 passport photos + digital photo
~$15: affidavit notarized
$1.39 per page + convenience fee: for any docs you have to upload to your application after submitting it. I had to pay additional fees because there were additional documents that CKGS needed that weren’t in my original application. By the way, I didn’t forget anything, they didn’t ask for them originally so I had to submit them later. More about that later.

Overall the process cost me about ~$455.

{Summary of the Steps For Getting an OCI Card}

The application for a first time OCI Card can be broken down into these steps:

  1. complete the questions on the CKGS website, then download and print the completed application. Once you start an application, you’ll be given an OCI WEB REFERENCE NUMBER (not to be confused with an application ID, nor a payment receipt number). That number is important as it’s how you will re-login to the CKGS website.

    Note: Answer ALL of the questions carefully and correctly.  You cannot go back to a previous screen once you click submit. And if you don’t answer all of the questions, it could result in your application being delayed or rejected.

    Think Back To College Application Days. Remember when you were applying for college or grad school? The application is you — on paper. Your job is to get in the admissions directors head and make your case as to why you’re the ideal candidate. Filling out an OCI Card application is kinda similar.  They need to verify that you are of indian descent + they need to verify your identity + they need to verify the identity of the person or people whom you are claiming eligibility from. So make sure to submit all of the info they’ll need to make that easy for them to verify. Anticipate their questions.

    Example: when my husband applied there was a delay because CKGS had a question about his application. They thought there were missing documents. His father is Indian but wasn’t born in India, therefore he never had an Indian passport so obviously there was no Indian passport to include in my husband’s application.

    CKGS put the application on hold, saying it was missing his father’s Indian passport. If he had anticipated that CKGS would ask for that, he could have included a note in the application stating that his father was not born in India and never held an Indian passport. 

    What I’m saying is, any documents that you can provide to help them connect the dots – the better. Any documents that you don’t provide and they have to reach out to ask for causes delays.

    Every person’s situation is unique. Things like where you were born, where your parents and grandparents were born, your/your family’ relationship to India, ties to other countries, marital status, and other factors influence your OCI card application. Based on your responses to these questions on the website, the system will tell you what documents and info they need from you.


  2. Once you’ve completed the CKGS portion of the application, they will redirect you to complete the questions on the Indian government’s website. You might have to answer some of the same questions again.

  3. upload your digital document in PDF format, to the Indian government’s site. 

  4. pay the application fee on the Indian government’s site.

  5. go back to the CKGS website to link your CKGS application to the Indian government’s application.

  6. print the documents for the hardcopy application + the document checklist, affidavit, payment receipt, shipping barcode + Additional Particulars Form. Affix your passport photo to the OCI application. You’ll see the outlined box for it. DO NOT tape. DO NOT staple. It must be glued on.

  7. Ship or mail the printed version of your application to your CKGS Center along with your passport. The application system will tell you the address for your local center.

  8. Wait for status updates. CKGS will get in touch with you with status updates and if any documents are missing. You will be able to upload digital copies of any missing documents into the CKGS website. I found them to be really good with the status updates.

{Getting Help From CKGS}

If you need assistance, I found the CKGS representatives really helpful. Call the number on their website. To get through the automated system you’ll need your application ID number. You can find this on your payment receipt. The application ID # is different than the Web Reference Number. 

You can check the status of your application by logging into “My Account” on the CKGS website and also sign up for text message notifications of your application status.

{Time and Cost Saving Tips on How To Fill Out
The Digital and Hard Copy Application}

You can’t go back: Each screen in the online application has a set of questions, and a submit button at the bottom. Once you click submit, you cannot go back to edit nor add answers. So make sure you read and answer each and all questions thoroughly and correctly before advancing to the next screen. If you skip questions and hit submit, you won’t be able to go back.


All digital documents uploaded to the CKGS website must be in PDF format, except for the passport photo.


The passport size photo required, CANNOT be your current passport photo. It MUST be a different photo that was taken within the last 6 months. At first I thought I could take a photo of myself at home and resize it to their specifications, but as I read the application instructions I saw that the two hard copies of that same photo that I had to ship in my hard copy application MUST be printed on glossy, photo paper. So I just went and got passport photos taken. They gave me a digital version + 2 printed copies. I had to resize the digital version myself after I got home. The passport photos cost around $15.


For the printed version, that you’re going to send to CKGS, do NOT print the sheets front and back. Each sheet should be 1 sided.


DO NOT cut down the copy of your driver’s license, to the size of the license. Leave it on the 8.5×11 sheet.


Print each sheet on white, 8.5×11 paper, single-sided.


You can submit your application online and pay by credit card, this is the most efficient way to apply. Alternatively you can apply in-person at a consulate. Schedule an appointment through the website to come in and submit the application in-person.


The advantage of applying in-person is that they might review your application onsite and they can tell you if you have any missing info. BUT whether or not they will do that is just based on whether they have time. If they have time they will, if not you’ll just be dropping it off.


I sent mine via UPS overnight and they got in touch with me the next day to infirm that they received my application = fast.

{Four Confusing Aspects of CKGS Website Clarified}

Definition of “My Account:” When you create an account on the CKGS website it clearly states “My Account”. I got confused because I was logged in, but hadn’t submitted any docs and when I called CKGS and gave them my account ID they couldn’t find me. According to the representative from CKGS until you’ve submitted docs you don’t have an account where they can assist you.


Temporary ID: when you start an application but have not submitted it, you will be emailed a TEMPORARY ID/Web Reference Number. That word “TEMPORARY Number” is very important because it means you haven’t actually submitted an application, it means you’ve only started an application.


Logging Back Into Site When You’ve Started An Application But Haven’t Submitted It: You don’t have to complete the application in one go. You can logout and the info you’ve saved will still be there. When you want to login again the login page is confusing because you need to login to the area for temporary IDs.


Document Checklist vs. Forms. In step 1 of the site it gives you a list of documents and forms that you may or may not need. Read that, it’s useful but in Step 3 called “Forms” is where you’ll get the final, full detail of what documents you need to upload and what, if any, need to be notarized before uploading.

In step 1 it will say that you need to submit a notarized affidavit saying that you have original documents and are submitting copies in lieu of originals. But like me, you might be wondering where you’ll get the affidavit document from? It’ll be in step 3 “Forms”. You will download it, print it, and take it to your local place to get it notarized.

{Things You’ll Need Before You Start 
The CKGS Application}

I suggest you have the info the docs/info below, BEFORE you start the application because if you don’t, you won’t get very far.

a digital passport size photo of yourself. This CANNOT be the same photo in your passport. It has to be a different photo, 2in. x 2in. size, taken within the last 6 months, wearing non-patterned, non-white clothes, printed on glossy photo paper with a white background, less than 1MB. Note: these were the requirements as of December, 2018. You should double check the website and read all instructions very carefully.

Note: you’re going to need to submit 2 copies of that SAME passport photo in the printed version of your application. One copy, you will paste to the OCI application and the other will be used by the Indian government to create your OCI card.


Your USA passport info. On most US Passports, the issue location is a state only and not a city. At the time of publishing this article, they want you to input issue location as USDOS.


Your spouse’s passport info (if applicable)


Your grandparents’ names. The names of your great grandparents + parents OR your grandparents + parents. 


Info about relatives currently living in India. names, address, and age of any relatives living in India. Don’t go overboard with this. If you have a million relatives in India just put 1-2 people.

{Providing Proof of Indian Origin}

I got confused on how far back I would have to supply proof of my family’s Indian heritage. In my case, both of my parents were born in India so I only had to supply their info – not my grandparents’ info as well.

Your requirements may be different based on your situation.

{Documents You’ll Need in Hard Copy and Digitized}

Non-notarized copies of the info pages of your US Passport + the endorsement pages. The endorsement pages vary based on the passport you have. Google “USA Passport Endorsement Pages” to find out what they are for your passport.


Non-notarized copy of your birth certificate, BUT it must have the apostille on it.


Non-notarized copy of your Driver’s License or a bill that shows proof of address. Print on 8.5×11 paper. Do not cut down the sheet to the size of the license.


Non-notarized copy of your marital status certificates (if applicable). For thoroughness, even though they didn’t ask for it, I included a copy of my old passport with my maiden name, since the application does ask if you ever changed your name.


Non-notarized copy of your parents’ Indian passports and their US Passports. See the CKGS website for latest requirements on exactly which pages you’ll need copies of.


If your parents are Naturalized US Citizens or naturalized in Canada or another country, include non-notarized copies of their Naturalization Certificates. For US it should say “Former Nationality: India”.


If either or both of your parents or grandparents have an OCI card, you’ll need to submit a non-notarized copy of it for each family member that has one. 

ProTip: you do not have to send original documents (except for your passport), just send copies. But make sure they’re GOOD copies, legible, good resolution. If a document was in color, I sent color copies.

You can assume that nothing has to be notarized unless they specifically tell you it does.

{Tip for Uploading Documents Into Your Application}

Below is what the screen looks like to upload your digital documents into the application. You have to combine the documents for each section into 1 PDF before uploading.

For example, your proof of Indian origin documents might have 10 pages of documents. Their system won’t allow you to upload each of these documents separately. First you’ll have to combine all of those documents into 1 pdf (NOT jpg or png), and then upload it. If you have Adobe software to do that, great. If not, you can use this free tool, online2pdf.

OCI-Upload-Documents-India.png

{How Do You Get A Document Notarized?}

There are lots of places to get documents notarized like Mailboxes etc., FedEx, and UPS types of stores. Google “notary services in <your city>” and you should find some nearby. Depending on the number of documents, expect to pay $15-$20 per document.

{What is CKGS?}

Cox and Kings Global Services (CKGS) is an organization that the Indian government has partnered with for visa, OCI cards, and other documents required for travel to India.

{Conclusion}

I hope this article makes it easier for you and your loved ones to apply and obtain your OCI card. It’s a unique benefit, and worth it to invest the time and money to get (in my opinion).

It’s a onetime application, so that also makes it worth it to go through the trouble of gathering all of the documents etc. Plus this process will force you to digitize many of your important documents, which is a good thing to have anyway, right?

In this article we covered a lot of topics – details about the OCI application process that applicants need, but are hard to find,  and that your friends will forget once they’ve completed their applications.

Happy and safe travels to India and wherever else life takes you! Keep collecting those stamps in your PassportPages!

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