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India PIO Card Vs OCI

****PIO cards are obsolete. The following info is only for reference****

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 visa for India. OCI stands for Overseas Citizenship of India. Here is some comparison between OCI and PIO card.

Important Update: Last date of application for free conversion of PIO Cards to OCI Card is on or before 31st December 2017

Last date of application for free conversion of PIO Cards to OCI Card is on or before 31st December 2017.  Thereafter a fee of US $275.00 will be charged as for issuance of a fresh OCI Card; and The last date will not be extended beyond 31st December 2017.

Check details on San Francisco Consulate of India website:


At the inaugural session of GOPIO/PBD, Minister for overseas Indian affairs (MOIA) Vayalar Ravi announced the merger of the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) and People of Indian Origin (PIO) to a single card. The minister made this announcement at the inaugural session of the 11th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the NRI conclave that began in Kochi on January 7, 2013. In general, PIO cards are issued to Indians who have been staying abroad for couple of generations while OCI cards are given to those who are more recent migrants and have taken citizenships in other countries. The OCI cards are practically visas that enable its holders to enter India for an indefinite period, while PIO card holders have to apply for separate visas.

The merging of these two cards could make PIO card holders also eligible for the benefits that are enjoyed by OCI card holders. Minister Ravi said the proposed amendment to the Emigration Act 1983 had been circulated to other ministries for comments. Once the comments are received, the bill would be sent to the Prime Minister for approval. Subsequently the cabinet has to approve it before it is placed before the Parliament.

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In terms of the notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 9th January 2015, all the existing PIO Cardholders as on 9 January 2015 shall be deemed to be OCI Cardholders. However, all persons having valid PIO cards as on 9th January 2015 are advised to apply for registration as OCI Cardholder in view of the following advantages in processing as OCI card:

(a) OCI card is a smart card;

(b) Possession of an OCI card will facilitate quicker immigration clearance at the Immigration Check Posts;

(c) It will help in obtaining various Consular Services from the Indian Missions;

(d) For those who are resident in India, it will facilitate in availing various services in India.

The date for submission of applications for registration as OCI cardholder in lieu of PIO card online has been extended till  31st December 2017. This cutoff date will be only for submission of the applications online by the applicants. A separate online application form for submission of application for registration as OCI cardholder in lieu of PIO card is available in the website https://passport.gov.in/oci/.  The applicants can only submit their application forms as walk-in at the CKGS counter.  If the applicants intend to mail the applications, they are advised to visit the CKGS website for filling up the application forms and further details    at http://www.in.ckgs.us/.

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.

*IMPORTANT NOTE FOR OCI APPLICANTS: 51x51 is the same as US Passport photo size however photos taken at your local Costco, Walgreens or CVS probably will not work for most consulates as NIC above requires ***NOT WHITE*** background and 80% coverage by face in the photo. Most US Passport photos printed at local stores (Costco, Walgreens, Kinkos, CVS, Walmart etc) typically have 25%-35% face coverage with mostly white background.

Your best option is to order your OCI Photos with us.

The addresses of the Indian Diplomatic Missions in the U.S. and their Consular Jurisdictions are given below:


2107, Massachusetts Ave. 
Washington, D.C. 20008 
Tel:  (202) 939 7000 
Fax: (202) 265 4351
Email: indembwash@indiagov.org 



1990, Post Oak Blvd. Suite 600 
Houston, TX 77056 
Ph:   (713)-626-2148/49
Fax: (713)-626-2450
Email: cgi-hou@swbell.net



3, East 64th Street 
New York, NY 10021 
Tel:  (212) 774 0600 
Fax: (212) 861 3788 
Email: indhoccgny@aol.com 

455 North City Front Plaza Dr. 
(NBC Tower Building) Suite 850
Chicago, IL 60611 
Tel:  (312)-595-0405
Fax: (312)-595-0417/18
Email: congendia@aol.com

Above info not enough on PIO Vs OCI? Here is the document from Indian Consulate at San Francisco on PIO Vs OCI Vs Various Visas for India