London: Responding to concerns of British citizens holding the status of 'Overseas Citizen of India' (OCI), the UK Foreign Office has clarified that when such citizens are in India, they will continue to be treated as British citizens and offered consular assistance if required.

A large number of people of Indian-origin have acquired OCI status after being naturalised as British citizens in the UK.

The scheme launched by the Indian government in December 2005 has been welcomed by the Indian diaspora.

The Foreign Office has confirmed in a letter to a London-based solicitors company, Freemans Solicitors, that when OCI holders are in India, they will continue to be treated as British citizens and will be entitled to consular assistance.

The letter by Louse Edwards from the Consulate Directorate of the Foreign Office says that the OCI status does not affect a person's nationality under international law.

"Our understanding is that the Indian authorities would not consider a British citizen holding OCI to be a dual national, although this is a matter for the Indian authorities.

 Therefore, for the purposes of consular assistance, they would be treated as a British national and would be eligible for the consular assistance," Edwards writes in the letter available online.

Registration as OCI entitles them to several benefits, such as multi-purpose lifelong visa, exemption from registration with the police and parity with non-resident Indians in financial and economic matters.

However, many OCI holders were not clear about their status while in India, and were concerned whether they would be treated as British citizens in India and extended consular assistance if required.

The OCI status is granted in the form of a booklet, which is not to be understood as a 'passport', which is issued to Indian citizens. During the period an OCI is in India, the person is subject to Indian criminal/civil laws.

OCI holders cannot vote or contest elections, nor hold any constitutional post or enter into employment with the Indian government. An OCI can acquire Indian citizenship again by renouncing the citizenship of the foreign country after five years of being granted the OCI, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

(Agencies)