As more and more Indians move abroad, the distinction between NRIs, PIOs, and OCI holders has become increasingly important. These three terms are often used interchangeably, but they refer to distinct categories of people with different legal statuses and rights. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how these categories are defined and what they mean.
An NRI is an Indian citizen who lives abroad and has not resided in India for more than 182 days in a financial year. According to the Indian Citizenship Act of 1955, an Indian citizen who has not resided in India for six months or more is considered a non-resident.
NRIs are eligible to hold Indian passports and are entitled to most of the rights of an Indian citizen, except for the right to vote in Indian elections. The Ministry of Home Affairs of India provides detailed information on the rights and restrictions of NRIs.
NRIs are also subject to certain restrictions. For example, NRIs are not allowed to purchase agricultural land or farmhouses in India, although they are permitted to inherit such property. NRIs are also not allowed to invest in certain types of financial instruments, such as National Savings Certificates and Public Provident Fund accounts. The Reserve Bank of India provides detailed guidelines on the investment options available to NRIs.
A PIO is a person who is not an Indian citizen but who has at least one grandparent who was born in India. The PIO Card Scheme was introduced in 2002 to provide lifelong visa-free travel to India for PIOs. However, the scheme was replaced by the OCI Scheme.
PIOs are entitled to many of the same rights as NRIs, including the ability to own property and invest in financial instruments. However, PIOs are not eligible to vote in Indian elections or hold Indian passports. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs provides detailed information on the rights and restrictions of PIOs.
Note: All PIOs will be accepted only till 31st December 2023, so existing PIO holders should convert them to OCI before that.
An OCI is a person who is not an Indian citizen but who can claim to have Indian origin. This includes people who were Indian citizens at any time after January 26, 1950, or who were eligible to become Indian citizens at that time, as well as their children and grandchildren.
OCI status was introduced to replace the PIO card. OCI holders have many of the same rights as NRIs, including the ability to work and live in India indefinitely, own property, and invest in financial instruments. OCI holders are also exempt from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) for any length of stay in India. The Ministry of Home Affairs of India provides detailed information on the rights and restrictions of OCI holders.
However, OCI holders are not eligible to vote in Indian elections or hold public office. They are also not allowed to purchase agricultural land or farmhouses in India, although they are permitted to inherit such property.