Resident, Non-Resident, OCI, PIO, Citizen and Foreigner

The Indian diaspora has spread all across the globe over a long period of time. Today there are a plethora of terms that can be used to describe them. Citizen, Resident, Non-Resident, OCI, PIO and Foreigner are all used routinely in conversation today.

We are using India and Indians as the primary focus here, but these terms are applicable worldwide and of interest to everyone. 

Let us define and clarify these terms in order to remove some of the doubts and clarify this issue. 


  • Someone who is a legal member of a country and receives the rights and protection of that country. In democracies like India and the U.S. that includes the right to vote. 
  • Citizenship can be acquired by birth. The U.S. allows citizenship by birth, anyone born in that country becomes a citizen. Some countries do not allow automatic citizenship by birth. India does not allow citizenship by birth for everyone. 
  • Anyone born in India on or after 3rd December, 2004 is considered a citizen of India if both of the parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal immigrant at the time of their birth. 
  • Citizenship can also be acquired by marriage. The U.S. is an example of this. 

Dual Citizenship 

Certain countries including the U.S. allow dual citizenship while India does not allow it. Dual citizenship means that the person is a citizen of two countries. 


A resident is someone who lives or has a home in a place. A citizen living in their country of origin can be a resident. However, a foreign national living in a foreign country can also be a resident of that country. 

How to Become a Resident ?

If you are not a citizen, you can be a foreigner and still be a resident. This is done by obtaining a visa such as work or business visas of different types or a permanent resident visa (like the U.S. green card). Certain countries allow foreign residents to become permanent residents after a certain number of years and if other conditions are met. 

Generally for tax purposes residency is determined by your length of stay, usually 182 days.


Someone who does not reside in a place habitually.

  • A Non Resident Indian (NRI) is an Indian Citizen who lives in India for less than one hundred & eighty two days during the course of the preceding financial year, or
  • Someone who has gone out of the country for employment 
  • Someone who has gone outside the country for business
  • Someone who has gone outside for country for an indefinite period for any other purpose

Tax Residency

Currently the rules are that NRIs who have less than 15 lakhs of taxable income in India can stay upto 181 days in India and still maintain their non-resident status. If the income is more than 15 lakhs, they can only stay 120 days.

OCI (Overseas Citizen of India)

The OCI Card serves as a lifelong visa to India. 

The ministry of external affairs defines the eligibility for an OCI Card as such:

 A foreign national, who was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26.01.1950 or was a citizen of India on or at anytime after 26.01.1950 or belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15.08.1947 and his/her children and grandchildren, is eligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). Minor children of such persons are also eligible for OCI. However, if the applicant had ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, he/she will not be eligible for OCI.

PIO (Person of Indian Origin)

According to the Indian Embassy, the PIO Card validity has been extended upto December 31, 2021. However, currently the PIO card has been merged with the OCI Card. The principal difference between a PIO card and an OCI Card was that the PIO gave a visa for only 15 years, not a lifetime, like the OCI card.

The ministry of home affairs defines the eligibility for a PIO card as the following:

Every person of Indian origin who is a citizen of another country, NOT being a citizen of any country that may be specified by the Government of India from time to time, will be eligible to apply for PIO Card if:

(i) the person at any time held an Indian passport; or

(ii) the person or either of his/her parents or grandparents or great grandparents was born in, and was permanently resident in India, provided further that neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid excluded countries; or

(iii) the person is the spouse of a citizen of India or a person of Indian origin covered under (i) or (ii) above.

Presently, the specified countries whose nationals are ineligible for grant of PIO Card are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Iran, China and Nepal. Further, if the applicant himself or either of his parents, grandparents or great grandparents held the nationality of these specified countries at any time, he will not be granted PIO Card.

Iranian nationals of Indian origin can be considered for grant of PIO card. The Missions or other agency authorised to issue PIO card would obtain prior clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs before issuing the card to an Iranian national.

The Difference between the OCI and PIO Card 

The PIO was valid for 15 years and the OCI for a lifetime. The PIO card has been merged with the OCI. 


A person who is a citizen of a foreign country. A foreigner can be a resident of a different country but may not have the same rights and protection of the foreign country as those of a citizen. 

Citizen, Resident, Non-Resident, OCI, PIO and Foreigner: The Social, Political and Financial Implications of these terms.

The right to vote, hold property, study, work and hold bank accounts are some of the notable factors affected by one’s legal status in a country. OCI holders in India for instance cannot vote, hold a government job or buy agricultural land. NRIs however, can vote in India. In most other ways the OCI card holder has similar rights as a regular citizen of India. 

Foreign nationals are also able to hold an NRO (Non Resident Ordinary) account in India upon meeting certain conditions. NRIs bring a large amount of wealth in the form of foreign remittances and India provides many incentives such as tax and investment benefits. 

While conducting financial transactions in India, NRIs face many problems. However, now NRIs can use SBNRI platform to get their financial queries/ complaints resolved online. You can download SBNRI App to apply for an NRI account, file taxes, invest in the Indian stock market and ask any questions related to them. 

You can also click on the button below to ask any questions. Visit our blogand YouTube Channel for more details.

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