Who are NRIs, PIOs and OCIs?

Created on 22 Feb 2020

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Updated on 06 Oct 2020

Who are NRIs, PIOs and OCIs?

Despite the constant use of the terms NRI, PIO and OCI, we are not aware of what all the three exactly stands. You might be knowing a few who fall under this category. But if out of nowhere a question is raised as to why all these three exist and what difference sustains between the three, the answer we would come up with would be a simple smile conveying the message "I don't know."

It’s high time that you get to know all these terms and what benefits they hold. But before you understand NRI, OCI, PIO and their difference, it is imperative that you know who qualifies to be an Indian resident.

If you are an individual who is residing in India for more than six months in the running financial year or have stayed for at least two months in the previous year and have stayed for a year in the last four years, then you become an Indian resident.

Then, what is an NRI, OCI and PIO?

  • NRI or Non-Resident Indian is a person who is a citizen of India but residing outside India. For example, you are promoted to Australia for work, and then you acquire the status of an NRI. Such a person must hold an Indian passport and reside outside India for a period of 183 days or more.
  • PIO or Person of Indian Origin is individual who is a citizen of any country other than Pakistan, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, China and Afganistan, but was born in India or whose parents or grandparents were citizens of India or is married to a spouse who holds a PIO card.
  • OCI or Overseas Membership of India is the closest thing we have to dual citizenship. An OCI is an immigrant from a foreign country who is provided lifetime permission to live and work in India. 

The government of India has stopped issuing PIO cards effect from 2015. All those who were holding the PIO card were deemed as OCI’s. Further, the usage of the card is also now suspended and was valid only till September 2019.



  • You are eligible for opening of accounts such as NRE, NRO, RFC and FCNR.
  • You can cast your vote in the elections held.
  • You are also eligible for the quotas offered in certain colleges and educational institutions for NRI'S.


  • You can do your studies or work in India without acquiring a special visa for that purpose.
  • You acquire the right to purchase, hold, or transfer any property except agricultural land. 
  • You are eligible for economic, educational and financial benefits like NRI's.
  • You can make multiple entries to India and can also access the special counter and fasten the international migration process at airports.
  • You can also become the recipient of various schemes offered by the government.


  • Lifetime permission to make any number of entry and exit from or to India.
  • You can get access to the economic, educational and financial benefits.
  • You also hold the right to purchase, sell and hold land except that of agricultural land.
  • You can receive all the benefits that are applicable to the PIO cardholders.



  • Tax should be paid for local earnings.
  • You cannot hold agricultural land.


  • Only a protected area permit can be applied.
  • You have to report for an extension at the end of every 180 days.
  • Government jobs and agricultural land cannot be held.


  • You are not allowed to vote in the constitutional elections.
  • You may not hold agricultural land.
  • And if you wish to do any research in India, you should receive the permission first.
  • You cannot hold government jobs.

NRI vs. OCI vs. PIO

A PIO card offers you the right to travel to and from India freely. However, it is valid only for a period of 15 years. After which you will have to apply for an OCI card, which was in earlier case just renewed. But an OCI card authorizes lifetime permission to travel freely.

Further, the extent of stay is also a critical difference between both the cardholders. A PIO cardholder has to report to FRRO or local police every time he is about to extend his stay. In other words, if his stay is going to be extended beyond 180 days, then he will have to report. On the other hand, the PIO is relieved of such concerns.

Also, a person may not merely get an OCI card if he is not married to an Indian spouse. He individually must be eligible for it.  The residential status is determined basically for the payment of tax and other tax-related purposes. That is NRI is exempted from tax unless he is paying tax in that country

You can apply for OCI and get your PIO converted to OCI online through the official Indian government website. Link:

Once you have filled and submitted the application online, you will be required to go to either to the Indian embassy in case of residing in another country or post office to fulfill further formalities.

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