The Difference between Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) and Person of Indian Origin (PIO)

Portrait of India women on red saree.

You may have heard of the term OCI or know someone who has an OCI card. But do you understand what an OCI is and what it entails? You may have also heard of the term PIO or know someone who has a PIO card. But do you know what a PIO is and what it entails?

In this article, we will compare and contrast the differences between an OCI and a PIO. We will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each, and help you decide which option is right for you.

What Is OCI?

OCI stands for Overseas Citizenship of India. It is a type of citizenship available to Indian citizens who live outside of India.

OCI status confers a number of advantages, including the right to reside in India indefinitely, the ability to open a bank account in India, and the ability to purchase property in India. You will also be exempt from certain visa requirements and have access to government-subsidized education and healthcare.

What Is PIO?

PIO is a Person of Indian Origin card. It is an identification document that allows people of Indian origin to travel to India and stay there for up to 180 days without a visa.

The PIO card also allows the cardholder to do certain things in India that a regular tourist wouldn’t be able to do, such as open a bank account, purchase property, and get a job. However, the PIO card does not confer Indian citizenship on the holder.

Eligibility Criteria & Requirements to Apply for OCI and PIO Cards

So, how do you decide which card is right for you? Let’s take a look at the eligibility criteria and requirements for each card.

To be eligible for an OCI card:

  • You must be a citizen of India. 
  • You must also reside in India for at least 182 days in the calendar year prior to applying for the card.
  • In contrast, to be eligible for a PIO card, you must be a citizen of a country other than India. 
  • You must also reside in that country for at least 182 days in the calendar year prior to applying for the card.

Benefits of OCI vs PIO

When comparing OCI and PIO, one of the most significant distinctions is the benefits they provide. The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme provides numerous benefits, including unlimited visa-free travel in India for life. The ability to apply for any job or pursue any profession or business in India, and the ability to buy property in India without restrictions.

The Person of Indian Origin (PIO) scheme, on the other hand, only provides a 15-year multiple-entry visa for travel purposes. PIO card holders are not permitted to work or engage in any profession or business in India, nor are they permitted to purchase property without restriction.

In conclusion, it’s clear that OCI offers more benefits than PIO, making it a more attractive option for those wishing to visit India frequently. And engage in activities related to their profession or business while they are there.

How to Apply for OCI & PIO Status

Applying for OCI or PIO status is relatively straightforward, but there are some important differences to be aware of. To apply for OCI status:

  • You must have a valid Indian passport. 
  • You’ll need to submit the OCI application in three copies along with your passport, a recent photograph, and supporting documents.
  • For PIO status, you must also hold a valid Indian passport, as well as proof of any prior Indian citizenship or residency. 
  • You will also need to submit the PIO application in three copies along with your passport and two recent photographs.
  • In both cases, you must submit supporting documents such as marriage certificates or birth certificates. 
  • Make sure to check the requirements for each type of status carefully before submitting your application.

Difference Between OCI & PIO – Pros & Cons

When looking at the difference between OCI and PIO, it is important to consider the pros and cons of each. OCI holders have a number of advantages such as:

  1. being allowed to work, 
  2. access to permanent residency, 
  3. the right to buy property in India, 
  4. access to education and healthcare, and 
  5. voting rights. 

However, OCI holders cannot hold government positions or participate in politics.

On the other hand, PIO holders do not have the same rights as OCI holders but also have some advantages over non-Indian residents. These include:

  1. visa-free entry into India for a period of 15 years, 
  2. long-term visas for business and family trips, 
  3. exemption from registration requirements with local authorities upon arrival in India, 
  4. and the right to transfer funds without limitations.

Ultimately though it is important to consider the differences between OCI and PIO so that you can make an informed decision about which one is best for your individual needs.

Things to Keep in mind 

As you consider whether the OCI or PIO is right for you, there are a few important things to keep in mind. 

To begin, it is critical to understand that both visas require applicants to have valid passports. Furthermore, both visas are valid for life as long as your residency status is maintained.

In terms of paperwork and fees, the OCI typically requires more documentation than the PIO. 

Additionally, the application fee for an OCI card is higher than that of a PIO. 

Finally, if you are applying for an OCI outside of India, you must provide additional documents such as proof of residence and employment outside of India.

It’s important to thoroughly research both visas and consider the requirements before deciding which visa is right for you.

So, what is the difference between OCI and PIO? The most obvious difference is that PIOs are not entitled to voting rights in India, whereas OCIs are. Other key differences include:

  • PIOs are not entitled to apply for government jobs in India, while OCIs are.
  • PIOs are not entitled to scholarships and other educational concessions in India, while OCIs are.
  • PIOs may not be able to get an Indian driving license, while OCIs can.
  • PIOs may have to surrender their Indian passport after acquiring foreign citizenship, while OCIs do not.

There are a few other minor differences between the two types of cardholders, but the above are the most significant.