Definitions NRIs must know: NRI, PIO & OCI

How often has it happened that a NRI news story comes up and you aren’t sure what a particular term means and you eventually end up googling it? Not knowing is a very basic part of transformation. The very process is indeed the journey of understanding new things, new aspects, new definitions! In this article we will just talk about the basic terms that a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) must know. So, let’s begin..

Definitions NRIs must know
Definitions NRIs must know

Definitions NRIs must know

  1. Non-Resident Indian (NRI): An NRI or Non Resident Indian is an Indian Citizen living outside India for a minimum of 183 days in 1 financial year for the purpose of employment, business or vocation (occupation for which an individual is trained). Indian Citizens who have gone out or are staying abroad for some other purpose with an intention to stay outside India for an uncertain period (job or assignments where you don’t know when you will return to India) can also be termed as NRIs.

Now, the definition we discussed above is an amalgamation of two separate definitions. The first would be under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, (FEMA, 1999) and the other under Income Tax Act, 1961. Let’s go through these definitions separately for a better understanding.

Definitions: NRI as per FEMA

Non-Resident Indian (NRI) as per FEMA or Foreign Exchange Management Act is a person who has gone out of India or stays outside the country for the purpose of employment, business, vocation (occupation for which an individual is trained) or any other circumstances indicating his/her intention to stay outside India for an uncertain period of time (job or assignments where you don’t know when you will return to India).

“Non-Resident Indian” is also covered under the regulations of FEMA as “A person residing outside India who is either a citizen of India or a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) 

RBI has also mentioned that students studying abroad will also be treated as NRI under FEMA and will be eligible for foreign investments and NRE/FCNR accounts.

Definitions: NRI as per Income Tax

According to Income Tax regulations, a citizen will be a resident of India in the previous year, if:

  1. He/she is in India for at least 182 days in that year, OR
  2. If the individual was not in India for at least 182 days in the previous year but he/she was in India for at least 365 days during the last 4 years to that year and at least 60 days during that year

Case 1: Consider you were in India for 207 days in 2019, then you are a resident of India for 2019.

Case 2: Say, you were in India for 70 days in 2019, then you fail the first criteria! But you were in India during the entire time span of 2014-2018. Then you are a resident of India in spite of not being in the country for at least 182 days in 2019.

The individuals not satisfying the two cases mentioned above will be treated as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) according to the Income Tax Regulations.

Now, there has been an amendment in this definition of NRI under Income Tax Act. Let’s understand that too! Note: The Income Tax Act amendment of 2020 (effective from 01.04.2020) is for NRIs whose taxable income exceeds Rs. 15 Lakhs. 

Amendment in the definition of NRI under Income Tax Act

The amendment is as follows:

  • If the individual is in India for at least 120 days (compared to the previous 182 days threshold) in the previous year, then
  • We calculate whether he/she was in India for at least 365 days during the last 4 years to that year

If the criteria is satisfied, they become Residents.

Now, we have successfully covered the topic of NRI. What comes next are two very essential definitions: Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). Let’s explore them.

Definitions NRIs must know

2. Person of Indian Origin (PIO): PIO or Person of Indian Origin; is a person with foreign citizenship who has an Indian origin. The factors that define the term “Indian Origin” are:

  • A person who was born in India
  • A person who at any time, held an Indian Passport or
  • An individual who is either a citizen of India or whose father/mother/grandfather/grandmother was/were a citizen(s) of India
  • The spouse of an Indian Citizen or a PIO

Foreign Citizenship in case of a Person of Indian Origin will not include citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal or Bhutan.

PIO is associated with the citizenship of an individual and not his/her residence.

3. Overseas Citizen of India (OCI): OCI refers to Overseas Citizen of India which can be simply understood as the status given to people with a foreign citizenship who are granted with certain rights and freedoms that the citizens of India and NRIs enjoy except the following rights: voting rights, candidature in various houses of government, constitutional posts such as President, Supreme Court Judge etc. government employment, acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

OCIs or Overseas Citizens of India are entitled to multiple benefits under the OCI Card Scheme (Mandatory scheme for OCIs to enroll for an OCI card to enable entry in the country with or without their foreign passports); the eligibility criteria for applying for the OCI Card are as follows:

  • A former Indian citizen (on or after January 16, 1950) 
  • A person belonging to any part merged to India after August 15, 1947 
  • A person whose parents, grandparents or great-grandparents are/were Indian citizens
  • A person married to an Indian Citizen or an existing OCI for at least 2 years

OCIs have the permission to work indefinitely in India. The increased demand for dual citizenship (holding passports of two different countries) in India resulted in the introduction of the OCI Card.

Some Prominent Benefits of the OCI or Overseas Citizen of India Card are:

  • Multiple entry; Lifelong visa to visit India
  • Similar benefits to NRIs in educational, financial and economic fields
  • The OCIs will be treated in the same way as Indian nationals considering the domestic air fare tariffs

OCI Card Application Fees:

  • Applications submitted from outside India: $275 or equivalent local currency
  • Applications submitted in India: Rs.15,000/-

Apply for OCI Card

PIO and OCI Merger

On 9th January 2015, PIO Card Scheme (issuing of Cards to Persons of Indian Origin to allow visa-free travel to India) was withdrawn by the Government of India and has been merged with the OCI Card Scheme.

Indians living abroad must know the difference between their status such as PIO vs OCI Cardholders and NRIs.

Legal and Technical Differences between NRI, PIO and OCI

Being an NRI: The Transformation

The transformation from being a Resident Indian to an NRI is complex. There are changes in status, bank accounts, taxation and whatnot! You will find it difficult to get accustomed to the new jargon but worry not. We, at SBNRI understand this struggle and just like this article, we will help you understand every minute detail in an effortless manner through our blogs and Youtube Channel. So keep a track of the SBNRI Blog! We will have Banking Jargons, Taxation Term Definitions and every other aspect covered for you.

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