Difference between PIO and OC

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.

Understanding PIO in detail 

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.

Salient features of the PIO

Who is eligible to hold a PIO status?

Entitlements of a PIO

Documentation needed for the application of a PIO card

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:

  1. Birth certificates of the applicant and his/her parents/grandparents/great grandparents

  2. Nationality certificates for the people described above

  3. School/college leaving certificates of the people described above

  4. Copy of applicant’s parents passports.

Documentation needed for the spouse of a PIO

  1. Marriage certificate in original

  2. Indian passport of PIO card of spouse

  3. Passport size photographs - 4 nos.

Understanding OCI in detail 

Who’s an OCI?

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.

Eligibility for being an OCI?

Benefits enjoyed by an OCI?

  1. The card holder can visit India anytime over his/her lifetime.

  2. A lifelong validity of visa from the date of issuance of OCI card.

  3. Unlimited stay in India without need for being registered with the FRRO or local police.

  4. 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.

  1. Filled in OCI card application along with 4 nos passport-size photographs

  2. Previous Indian passport, if any

  3. Nativity certificate, that needs to be sent to India for authentication and verification purposes

  4. Birth certificate

  5. Proof of citizenship for the country of current residence, e.g. passport or local address proof

  6. 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 visa15 years from the date of issuance.Lifelong validity.
Need for FRRO/Police registrationNeed to be updated post 180 daysNot needed.
Eligibility for application of Indian citizenshipMust reside for 7 years in India and surrender current citizenshipAfter 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-issuanceWas reissued after 15 yearsReissued 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 originFour generations till great grandparents and spouseThree 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.

Difference between PIO and OCI Related FAQs

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:

  • Research work

  • Missionary/Tablighi/mountaineering/journalistic work

  • 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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