What is the Difference Between PIO and OCI

What is the Difference Between PIO and OCI

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Key Takeaways: If you are living abroad and have roots in India, your residency status is either as a Non-Resident Indian (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or that of an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). Here we will take a look at the differences between PIO and OCI.


As an individual of Indian origin staying in another country, you could either apply for a PIO Card or an OCI Card.

What does a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) mean?

Person of Indian Origin (PIO) refers to a foreign citizen who held an Indian Passport at any point in time or whose parents/grandparents/great grandparents were citizens of India. Here is the Reserve Bank of India’s definition of a PIO:

Person of Indian Origin (PIO) means a citizen of any country other than Bangladesh or Pakistan who had (a) at any time held Indian passport or (b) he or either of his parents or any of his grandparents were a citizen of India by virtue of the Constitution of India or the Citizenship Act, 1955 or (c) the person is a spouse of an Indian citizen or a person referred to in (a) or (b). [1]

Benefits of PIO Card[2]:

  1. PIO cardholders do not need a visa if they wish to visit India for up to 15 years from the issuance of a PIO Card.
  2. They can stay for up to 180 days In India without registration to FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office).
  3. They can study or work for private institutions in India without a special visa
  4. They have the same financial and economic benefits as NRIs.

If you are planning to come to India soon, you need to be aware of FEMA guidelines for NRIs.

What Does OCI Mean?

OCI is an immigration status that allows foreign citizens of Indian origin to live, study or work in India. OCI cardholders can visit India at any time and stay for any time.

Eligibility for OCI:

An OCI Card is issued to foreign citizens who hold a passport of another country except for Pakistan and Bangladesh. A citizen whose parents were born or were citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh are not eligible for OCI.

Benefits of OCI:

  1. An OCI Card Holder can visit India anytime during their lifetime.
  2. They can stay in India for any duration without registration to FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) or local authorities.
  3. They can study or work for private institutions in India without special permissions
  4. They have the same financial and economic benefits as NRIs.

PIO or OCI Cardholders cannot purchase agricultural land, work for Indian government offices and have no voting rights. PIO and OCI may sound synonymous but have a few substantial differences.

Let us have a look at the differences between PIO Cards and OCI Cards [3].

 PIO CardOCI Card
Visa Validity15 years from the date of PIO Card issuanceLifelong from the date of OCI Card issuance
FRRO RegistrationIf your stay in India exceeds 180 daysNot required
ReissuanceReissued after 15 yearsEach time a new passport is issued till 20 years of age and once after 50 years of age. You can get a new OCI Card when renewing your passport
Application for Indian citizenshipMust surrender the current citizenship and must reside in India for a minimum of 7 yearsMust surrender current citizenship. OCI Card Holders can apply for Indian citizenship after 5 years of holding an OCI Card and they must reside in India for a year

According to the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2015, all PIO card holders are ‘deemed to be’ OCI card holders with effect from January 9, 2016. The income earned in India by the cardholders is taxable under the Indian Tax system.


Final Note: The distinction between PIO and OCI was diminished by the Government of India to streamline residency norms. All the benefits of OCI cardholders are also extended to PIO cardholders after conversion.

References: 1 2 3

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