PIO vs OCI Cardholders: Difference between PIOs and OCIs

An individual who has or had roots in India but lives overseas is categorized as an NRI or PIO or OCI. While an NRI is a residential status given to a citizen of India with an Indian passport who is living abroad for the purpose of work, business or education, PIOs and OCIs are foreign nationals of Indian origin. There are several points of similarity between PIO and OCI cardholders and are misunderstood by a large number of people. However, there are marked differences between them. In this article, we will do a clinical analysis of PIO vs OCI cardholders. 

PIO vs OCI cardholders: Difference between PIOs and OCIs
PIO vs OCI cardholders: Difference between PIO and OCI

Also Read: New Rules for OCI Cardholders: Implementation and Impact

PIO full form and meaning

The full form of PIO is Person of Indian Origin and refers to a foreign citizen, excluding individuals from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Iran, and Sri Lanka, who held an Indian passport at any time or whose parents/ grandparents/ great grandparents/ spouse were citizens of India. A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is issued a PIO card by the Government of India. 

Criteria for a PIO card

A citizen of any country, other than Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Iran, and Sri Lanka, who meet the following criteria will be eligible to get a PIO card:

  • An individual who was born in India or his/ her parents/ grandparents/ great grandparents were born in India or were permanent residents of India or any of the territories that were added to India, based on the Government of India Act of 1935. 
  • An individual who owned an Indian passport at one point in his/ her life.
  • A person who is the spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO. 

Benefits of PIO card

  • PIO cardholders don’t need to get a visa to visit India for up to 15 years from the date of issuance of a PIO card. 
  • A PIO cardholder can stay up to 180 days in India without registration to FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office). 
  • PIOs can study or work in private institutions in India without a special visa. 
  • PIOs have the same financial and economic benefits as NRIs.  

Documents required for a PIO card

You will need to submit a filled PIO application form along with supporting documents as under:

  • Original passport, current or expired
  • Two of the following documents:
    • A copy of the expired Indian passport
    • Birth certificate of the applicant and his/ her parents’/ grandparents’
    • Nationality certificate of the applicant and his/ her parents’/ grandparents’
    • School/ college leaving certificates of the applicant and parents’/ grandparents’
    • Original or copies of passports of the applicant’s parents 

Documents to be submitted by the spouse of a PIO

  • Indian passport or PIO card of the spouse
  • Original marriage certificate
  • 4 passport size photographs  

OCI full form and meaning

The full form of OCI is the Overseas Citizen of India. It is an immigration status that allows foreign passport holders of Indian origin to stay, work or study in India. OCI can enter India at any time and stay here for any duration without registration to FRO/ FRRO. 

Eligibility criteria for OCI card

Foreign citizens who hold a passport of another country, other than Pakistan and Bangladesh, can get an OCI card. Individuals whose parents were born or were citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh are not eligible for applying for an OCI card.

OCI card benefits:

Following are the benefits of OCI card:

  • An OCI cardholder can visit India anytime over his lifetime. 
  • The OCI card visa validity is lifelong from the date of issuance of the card.
  • OCI cardholders can stay in India as long as they wish and don’t need to register themselves in the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or local authorities. 
  • They can admit their children to Indian educational institutions under the NRI quota and work for private institutions in India without special permission. 
  • Overseas Citizens of India enjoy the same financial and economic benefits as NRIs. 
How the new OCI Notification is going to impact Overseas Citizens

Documents required for an OCI card application

Here is the checklist of documents that every OCI card applicant is required to submit:

  • OCI card application form with 4 passport photographs.
  • Previous Indian passport. Applicants who don’t have a passport can submit other documents such as a nativity certificate, which will be sent to India for authentication and verification purposes.
  • Birth certificate.
  • Citizenship proof in their current country, such as passport and local address proof. 
  • An individual who is applying based on his/ her parents’/ grandparents’ citizenship needs to share the proof of their relationship. 

PIO vs OCI cardholders: What is the difference between a PIO card and OCI card 

Here are the key differences between PIO and OCI cards:

CategoryPIO CardOCI Card
FRO/ FRRO Registration Need to be updated after 180 daysNot required
Visa validityValid for 15 years from the date it is issuedLifelong from the date of its issuance
Application for Indian citizenshipPIOs must reside in India for a minimum of 7 years and surrender their current citizenshipOCI cardholders should hold an OCI card for 5 years and must reside in India for a year before applying for Indian citizenship. They must surrender their current citizenship
Reissuance of cardPIO card is reissued after 15 yearsPer instance a new passport is issued till 20 years of age and once after 50 years of age. At the time of renewal of your passport, you can get a new OCI card
PIO vs OCI Cardholders

Note: PIO and OCI cardholders can’t purchase agricultural land, vote in elections, and work for Indian government offices. 

As per the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2015, a PIO cardholder is deemed to be an OCI cardholder w.e.f. 9 January 2016. The income earned in India by PIO and OCI cardholders is taxable under the Indian Tax System. 

Also Read: Definitions NRIs must know: NRI, PIO & OCI

Legal and Technical differences between NRI | PIO | OCI

PIO and OCI sound similar but there are substantial differences. To ask any questions related to the rights of NRIs, PIOs, and OCIs, you can download SBNRI App from the Google Play Store or App Store. You can also use the SBNRI app for investment in stock market/ mutual funds, NRI account opening, tax filing, etc. To ask any questions, click on the button below. Also, visit our blog and YouTube channel for more details. 

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