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Overseas Citizen of India vs Person of Indian Origin (OCI vs PIO): Understanding the Difference

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) and PIO (Person of Indian Origin) are two visa-related statuses offered by the Indian government to individuals of Indian origin living abroad. Both OCI and PIO provide certain rights and privileges to the Indian diaspora, but they have different eligibility criteria, benefits, and limitations. Understanding the differences between OCI and PIO can help individuals make informed decisions about their visa status and citizenship rights in India.

  • Introduction to OCI and PIO:

    • OCI: The OCI card is issued to individuals of Indian origin who are foreign citizens or foreign-born nationals. It allows them to travel to India without the need for a visa, reside in India indefinitely, and enjoy certain rights similar to Indian citizens, except for political and voting rights.

    • PIO: The PIO card was introduced earlier and provided similar privileges as OCI. However, the PIO scheme has been merged with the OCI scheme, and new PIO cards are no longer issued. Existing PIO cardholders have been converted to OCI cardholders.


  • Eligibility Criteria for OCI and PIO:

    • OCI: Individuals who are eligible for OCI include foreign nationals who were eligible to become Indian citizens on January 26, 1950, or at any time after that, or belonged to a territory that became part of India after that date. It also includes spouses of Indian citizens or OCI cardholders, and their children.

    • PIO: The eligibility criteria for PIO were similar to OCI, and it was open to foreign nationals of Indian origin. However, since the PIO scheme has been merged with OCI, new applications for PIO cards are no longer accepted.


  • Benefits of OCI Status:

    • Multiple entries and exits to India without the need for a visa.

    • No requirement to register with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) for any length of stay in India.

    • Parity with Indian citizens in terms of economic, financial, and educational fields, except for certain restrictions.

    • Can purchase residential and commercial properties in India.

    • Can open bank accounts, invest in stocks and mutual funds, and acquire other movable and immovable assets in India.

    • Eligible to apply for Indian driving license and PAN card.


  • Benefits of PIO Status (Now Applicable to OCI):

    • Similar benefits as OCI, including multiple entries and exits to India without the need for a visa.

    • Parity with Indian citizens in terms of economic, financial, and educational fields, except for certain restrictions.

    • Ability to purchase residential and commercial properties in India.

    • Eligible to apply for Indian driving license and PAN card.


  • Limitations of OCI and PIO:

    • OCI and PIO cardholders do not have voting rights in India.

    • They cannot hold constitutional posts, public office, or work in government positions in India.

    • OCI and PIO cardholders cannot undertake missionary, mountaineering, and research work in India without prior permission.


  • Application Process for OCI and PIO:

    • The application process for OCI is done online through the Indian government's official website. Applicants need to submit relevant documents and pay the prescribed fee.

    • As mentioned earlier, the PIO scheme has been merged with OCI, and new PIO card applications are no longer accepted.


  • Comparison of OCI and PIO:

    • OCI offers more extensive benefits compared to PIO, as it provides lifelong multiple-entry access to India, while PIO had certain limitations on the duration of stay.

    • OCI cardholders have the same economic, financial, and educational rights as Indian citizens, while PIO cardholders had some restrictions.


  • Considerations for Dual Citizenship:

    • India does not allow dual citizenship. However, OCI status is not considered dual citizenship, as it is a form of long-term visa for individuals of Indian origin.

    • Some countries may have specific rules or regulations regarding their citizens holding OCI status, and applicants should check with the relevant authorities in their home country.


Conclusion:

  • Both OCI and PIO provide valuable benefits to individuals of Indian origin living abroad. The merging of the PIO scheme into OCI has simplified the process and expanded the privileges available to Indian diaspora.

  • Understanding the differences between OCI and PIO can help individuals make informed decisions about their visa status and enjoy their rights and privileges while staying connected to their Indian roots.

Disclaimer- Please refer to Indian government website for latest information


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