Non-resident Indian and person of Indian origin (NRI-PIO), also called Overseas Indians or Indian Diaspora, are people of Indian birth or descent who live outside the Republic of India. As per Ministry of External Affairs report there are approximately 30.8 million Indian diaspora residing outside India.
The term non-resident refers only to the tax status of a person who, as per section 6 of the Income-tax Act of 1961, has not resided in India for a specified period for the purposes of the Income Tax Act.
The rates of income tax are different for persons who are “resident in India” and for NRIs.
For the purposes of the Income Tax Act, “residence in India” requires stay in India of at least 182 days in a financial year or 365 days spread out over four consecutive years AND at least 60 days in that year.
According to the act, any Indian citizen who does not meet the criteria as a “resident of India” is a non-resident of India and is treated as NRI for paying income tax.
Persons of Indian origin: Persons of Indian origin (PIO) scheme was launched in 1999 and the PIO card was issued to any person currently holding foreign passport, who can prove their Indian origin up to three generations before.
What is Persons of Indian origin card?
• PIO cards are issued to individuals who are either citizens or naturalized citizens of another country, but are of Indian origin, through their parents.
• Citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries as may be specified by the central government are not eligible for grant of PIO card.
• The PIO card must be produced alongside the foreign passport when entering or departing any port in India.
• A PIO card is generally valid for a period of fifteen years from the date of issue.
Benefits of a PIO card
(i) PIO card holders do not require a visa to visit India for a period of 15 years from the date of issue of the PIO card.
(ii) They are exempted from registration at FRRO/FRO if their stay does not exceeds 180 days, Incase if the stay exceeds 180 days, they shall have to register with FRRO/ FRO within the next 30 days.
(iii) They enjoy parity with NRIs in economic, financial and educational benefits such as:
• Acquisition, holding, transfer and disposal of immovable properties in India, except agricultural/ plantation properties
• Admission of children to educational institutions in India under general category quota for NRIs, including medical and engineering college, IITs, IIMs etc.
• Availing various housing schemes of LIC of India, State Government and Central Government agencies all future benefits that would be exempted to NRIs would also be available to the PIO card holders.
However, PIOs do not enjoy employment rights in Government of India services nor can they hold any constitutional office in the Government of India. They need prior spermission for undertaking mountaineering, missionary activities, and research work and to visit restricted areas in India.
Overseas citizenship of India: Introduced in August 2005, the overseas citizenship of India (OCI) scheme was launched during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention at Hyderabad in 2006.
What is overseas citizenship of India card?
• OCI cards are given to those who have taken citizenship in other countries, apart from India, but have Indian origin roots.
• The same holds for spouses of Indian citizen or persons of Indian origin.
• Therefore, Overseas Citizenship of India is not an actual citizenship of India and thus, does not amount to dual citizenship or dual nationality.
• The OCI card is not a substitute for an Indian visa and therefore, the passport which displays the lifetime visa must be carried by OCI holders while traveling to India.
BENEFITs of OCI CARD:
• A registered Overseas Citizen of India is granted multiple entry, multipurpose, life-long visa for visiting India.
• he/she is exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India,
• is entitled to general ‘parity with Non-Resident Indians in respect of all facilities available to them in economic, financial and educational fields
• Except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties’.
• Specific benefits/parity is notified by the Ministry from time to time
• In 2015 Indian Parliament passed a bill to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to remove disparity between Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders.
PIO card Vs OCI cards
The merger of these two cards could make PIO card holders also eligible for the benefits that are enjoyed by OCI card holders.
Both the cards are aimed at providing long-term residency rights to people of Indian origin and to help them participate in economic and educational activities in India.
Currently, the two cards provide different facilities to their holders. PIO cards are issued to Indians who have lived abroad for a couple of generations while OCI cards are issued to more recent migrants that have taken citizenships of other countries.
The OCI cards are virtual visas that enable holders to enter India for an indefinite period, but PIO cardholders need to apply for separate visas.
If you are a PIO cardholder, and want to become an Indian citizen again, you need to reside in India for minimum seven years before making an application for grant of Indian citizenship.
An OCI cardholder may be granted Indian citizenship after five years from the date of registration provided he/she stays for one year in India before making application.
How will merging help?
Merging PIO and OCI will lead to simplification of the rules under a single umbrella.
It was envisaged that merger of the card would facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country.
It is generally difficult to have dual citizenship of India and another country, due to the provisions for loss of Indian nationality when an Indian national naturalizes in another country, and the requirement to renounce one’s existing citizenships when naturalizing in India
There are still some ways in which a person may have dual citizenship of India and another country, including:
Children of foreign diplomats, who are born in India, are also given dual citizenship during the period of their parents’ service in India.
A minor child of Indian origins may hold dual citizenship of India and another country. So that the minor can decide within six months of completing 18 years of age as to whether he/she prefers Indian citizenship.