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PIO Card vs OCI Card - Ozg Visa Consultant

PIO Card Vs OCI Card

For Indians living in the USA (or any other country), at some time, the question will hit you: What to go for? PIO Card or OCI?

PIO stands for Person of Indian Origin. PIO card is a kind of 15 years visa for India. OCI stands for Overseas Citizenship of India. Here is some comparison between OCI and PIO card.

It is important to know one distinction about different terms.

  • If you are born in India and living in India, you are an Indian (unless you specifically acquired citizenship of some other country).
  • If you migrate to USA or some other country but still holding Indian citizenship, you are an NRI (Non Resident Indian)
  • If you acquire citizenship of some country (say USA), you are no longer an Indian or NRI. You are now PIO (Person of Indian Origin). Acquiring greencard does not make any difference here. It is the citizenship of other country that makes difference. Also keep in mind the distinction between PIO and PIO card. A person is a PIO or NRI but PIO card is a type of visa/privilege with regard to entering into India.
  • OCI is Overseas Citizenship of India. They card you get after you acquire OCI is OCI card.

If you are an Indian or NRI, you do not need to worry about PIO card or OCI. You are free to enter India whenever you want. Stay in India as long as you want. Things will change when your child is born outside India. That child will acquire citizenship of the country where he/she is born. He is a PIO- person of Indian Origin. Though you do not need Visa to enter India, your child will need one. Now you will have to learn about PIO card or OCI. Fortunately, it still very simple. If you and your spouse are still Indian or NRI, your child does not qualify for OCI yet. Only when you or your spouse becomes PIO, then only your child will qualify for PIO. Currently Foreign-born children of both Indian Parents are not eligible for OCI card.

Now if you become citizen of some other country (AKA PIO), you have a choice. You can go for PIO card or for an OCI. This is also true for your foreign born children. They can also go for PIO or OCI card.

What are the benefits of an OCI?

Following benefits will be allowed to an OCI:

(a) Multi-purpose, multiple entry, lifelong visa for visiting India.
(b) Exemption from registration with local police authority for any length of stay in
India.
(c) Parity with NRIs in respect of economic, financial and education fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural/plantation properties.

Which is better: PIO or OCI?

What are the advantages of the OCI when compared to PIO cardholders

(i) An OCI is entitled to life long visa with free travel to India whereas for a PIO card holder, it is only valid for 15 years.

(ii) A PIO cardholder is required to register with local Police authority for any stay exceeding 180 days in India on any single visit whereas an OCI is exempted from registration with Police authority for any length of stay in India.

(iii) An OCI gets a specific right to become an Indian Citizen, whereas the PIO card holder does not have this. It depends. Let us look at some cases.

Finance perspective: Which one is cheaper

On the face value, OCI is cheaper. It costs $275 for US citizens and $295 for non-US citizen adults. OCI also lasts life-long. PIO card on the other hand costs $365 for an adult and $185 for kids below 18 years or lower.

Time perspective: You need visas urgently

If you need to go to India within 4 months of less, do not take risk with OCI unless you are applying to Consulate in San Francisco, USA. Currently the OCI applications are processed centrally in the New Delhi, India. So your embassy or consulate will send you application to India and once it is processed, it will travel back to your consulate or embassy. They will then ask you to deposit your passport to stamp OCI in your passport. This whole thing normally takes 3 to 4 months. On the other hand, PIO card can be in your hands within 2 to 4 weeks. Only exception is the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. They ask you to send in your original US passport with your application. The OCI application with them takes around 3 to 4 weeks.

Now if because of urgency, you decide to go for PIO card, no worries. When you get back from India, you can convert your PIO card into OCI pretty easily and cheaply. It costs $25 for a PIO card holder to get OCI if you are a US citizen. It is $45 for non-US citizen PIO card holders.

Validity: OCI Vs PIO

PIO card last 15 years. OCI last life-long.

Government Job: OCI Vs PIO

None of them helps. PIO or OCI card disqualifies from any government job in India.

Study in India: OCI Vs PIO

With either card, you can study in India under NRI quota.

Voting Rights: OCI Vs PIO

Neither PIO card nor OCI entitles you to vote in elections in India.

Reporting to police authorities while in India: OCI Vs PIO

PIO card holders are required to report to police authorities if you are staying more than 180 days in India. For OCI, there is no such need.

Acquiring back Indian Citizenship: OCI Vs PIO

PIO card holder can acquire Indian Citizenship after living in India for 7 years. OCI card holder needs to wait for 5 years and must have stayed in India for at least one year.

Photo requirements PIO vs OCI

Looks like both of them ask for same kind of passport photos with application. However different consulates in the USA ask for different size of passport photos, different background for passport pictures and different number of copies.

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