Most of us are familiar with the word ‘NRI’ that means ‘Non-Resident Indian’ or a person having Indian citizenship and Indian passport who resides abroad for the purpose of job, business or education. But not many of us know who PIO and OCI are. Do you?
Meaning of the acronyms
PIO means Person of Indian Origin, who or any of whose ancestors (parents, grandparents or great grandparents) or spouse was an Indian national and who is currently holding citizenship of another country, with the exception of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Iran and Sri Lanka.
OCI, on the other hand means Overseas Citizen of India, i.e., a foreign national registered to possess an OCI card under section 7A of Indian Citizenship Act, 1955. A registered cardholder for 5 years is eligible to apply for Indian citizenship having ordinarily resided in India for 12 months before such application.
Starting 30th September, 2019 the PIO status has become invalid and only the OCI card remains as a valid travel document for travellers of Indian origin living abroad. The government of India has the authority of issuing a PIO or OCI card to an individual.
The concept of PIO and OCI is not as commonly known as NRI. Let us understand these two in more detail to have clarity on differences between them.
PIO used to be a 15-year visa for non-Indian citizens which has been removed since 30th September, 2019.
PIO was more exhaustive, spanning four generations of an individual for tracking his/her Indian origin.
The applicant of PIO status used to be a foreign national holding a foreign passport.
PIOs could work or study in an Indian institution without a specific visa.
A person whose parents, grandparents or great grandparents were born in India or were eligible to become citizens of India on or after the commencement of the Indian constitution on 26 January, 1950 or belonged to territories that became part of India after 15 August,1947
The foreign spouse of an Indian citizen was also eligible for a PIO status
Didn’t need a visa to visit India up till 15 years from the date of issuance of PIO card
Could study or work for a private institution in India without a special visa
Could stay in India up to 180 days at a stretch without the need of registration with the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office)
Enjoyed the same economic/financial benefits as enjoyed by NRIs
Didn’t need to register with the local police authorities for a stay up to 180 days
Could apply for Indian citizenship under section 5 (1)(a) and 5 (1)(c) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 after ordinarily residing in India for a period of 7 years
A filled PIO application form along with necessary documentation were needed to be submitted to CKGS or the local authorised application centre in the jurisdiction of the applicant. Documents were as under:
The current or expired original passport of the applicant, along with any two of the following documents:
Birth certificates of the applicant and his/her parents/grandparents/great grandparents
Nationality certificates for the people described above
School/college leaving certificates of the people described above
Copy of applicant’s parents passports.
Marriage certificate in original
Indian passport of PIO card of spouse
Passport size photographs - 4 nos.
An OCI refers to a person holding an OCI card under section 7A of Citizenship Act, 1955. After abolition of PIO status, this is the only type of immigration status left to be applied by an eligible foreign citizen for a much longer stay in India.
A foreign national who was an Indian citizen at the time or at any time after 26th January 1950 was eligible or was eligible to become an Indian citizen since that record date.
A foreign national who belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15th August 1947.
Who was a child, minor child, grandchild of such a citizen.
The card holder can visit India anytime over his/her lifetime.
A lifelong validity of visa from the date of issuance of OCI card.
Unlimited stay in India without need for being registered with the FRRO or local police.
Can get his/her children admitted to Indian educational institutions in NRI quota and/or work for privately owned institutions without need for any special permission.
Filled in OCI card application along with 4 nos passport-size photographs
Previous Indian passport, if any
Nativity certificate, that needs to be sent to India for authentication and verification purposes
Proof of citizenship for the country of current residence, e.g. passport or local address proof
Certificates establishing proof of relationship with parents/grandparents in case of application being submitted in relation to their Indian origin
Category of features
|Validity of issued visa||15 years from the date of issuance.||Lifelong validity.|
|Need for FRRO/Police registration||Need to be updated post 180 days||Not needed.|
|Eligibility for application of Indian citizenship||Must reside for 7 years in India and surrender current citizenship||After a wait time of 5 years an OCI card holder needs to stay in India for a full year before applying for Indian citizenship|
|Renewal of card/re-issuance||Was reissued after 15 years||Reissued per every instance of a new passport issuance till holder’s age of 20 years. Then once after attaining 50 years of age.|
|Tracking of generations of application for Indian origin||Four generations till great grandparents and spouse||Three generations till grandparents only|
After abolition of PIO status, OCI has remained as the only status that can be applied for by a foreign national with requisite links to Indian origin. Differences between the two could easily be understood going through the details already mentioned.
Both the status were conferred with similar perks and most economic benefits enjoyed by an NRI. Both card holders can open rupee bank accounts in India, lend money and make investments in India.
The PIO card application used to get processed within 2-4 weeks and OCI card application usually took as long as 3-4 months to get processed.
All past PIO card holders have been deemed to be OCI card holders with effect from January 9, 2016 as per the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2015. The income earned by them in India has also been made taxable by the Indian Income Tax Department.
The PIO card holders are now entitled to enjoy all the benefits of the OCI card holders after conversion post 30th September, 2019. This move by the GOI was targeted towards streamlining residency norms.
Ans: No, they do not possess electoral franchise.
Ans: No, they can’t buy agricultural land in India.
Ans: No, neither PIO or OCI card holders are entitled to work for the Indian government offices.
Ans: The MHA has prohibited the following activities by the OCIs by OCI Notification 2021 of 04.03.2021 in India without prior permission from the FRRO:
Visiting any restricted/prohibited area of the country as notified by the GOI or any of its competent authorities
Internship with any India-based foreign diplomatic missions or foreign government organisation
Ans: The OCIs will have parity with resident Indians with respect to domestic airfare tariffs and entry fees charged at parks, wildlife sanctuaries, museums, historical monuments etc.
Ans: The OCIs will have parity with NRIs in terms of inter-country adoption of Indian-born children and eligibility in appearance to all entrance tests against NRI seats. The seats reserved for admission for NRIs will remain exempted for this.
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