OCI and PIO cards to be merged but what are they?

OCI and PIO cards to be merged but what are they?

Exactly one month ago from now on 29th September, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi announced the merging of OCI and PIO card at the Madison Square Garden where he enjoyed a rousing ovation from the Indian contingent as well as foreigners. But before they action comesinto existence, here’s a look at what they really are:

NRI, PIO & OCI: What do they mean?

NRI means Non-Resident Indian, PIO stands for Person of Indian Origin and OCI signifies Overseas Citizen of India.


NRI is a person who holds an Indian passport but temporarily emigrated to a foreign for work or business. PIO or OCI is a person who holds a foreign passport and also a citizen of a foreign country in addition to the citizenship in India.


A person registered as the citizen of India but a resident of a foreign country is an OCI citizen but there is a slight difference between these two.

  • Privilege: A PIO card allows visa-free travel from and to India to the person holding a valid card. A PIO card is considered valid only if you hold a valid passport. On the contrary, an OCI card allows lifetime visa-free traveling to and from India
  • Drawback of PIO card: A PIO card is valid only for 15 years. Additionally, if you feel your purpose behind visiting India isn’t fulfilled and it will extend beyond 180 days, you will need to register within 30 days of the expiry of 180 days with the concerned foreign authority i.e. FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Offices).
  • Advantage of OCI card holder over PIO: Unlike PIO card, an OCI card does not require the holder to register with any authority/official (FRRO or local police), in case they need to extend their stay.
  • Eligibility: A person, who at any time held an Indian passport or whose parents, grandparents, great grandparents or ancestors were born in India and were/are permanent residents of India and other territories that became part of India after 26th January, 1950 are eligible for holding a PIO/OCI card. However, a person isn’t entitled to apply for any of these cards, if their ancestors at any time were citizen of Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.
  • Difference: The PIO scheme covers up to four generations and also the foreign spouse of the Indian citizen of PIO/OCI card holder. However, for OCI card, it mandates the person to be eligible in their own capacity. In simple terms, a foreign national who isn’t eligible to apply for an OCI card, will not get an OCI card even if married to a person who is a holder of the valid OCI card. However, their children are eligible to hold an OCI card.