Tuesday, January 17, 2006

PIO Vs OCI

Finally the check did arrive. Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card was launched with much fanfare in the recently concluded Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. I have been trying learn more about OCI card and see if it is really different from PIO card which I already have. Both of them (PIO & OCI) are fundamentally same but there are subtle differences in the process and the benefits. Here is what I could gather.. Would love to hear from you if you know more or otherwise.

Application Process
OCI
  1. Apply online, get a registration number and then submit required documentation to the nearest embassy or Indian immigration office.
  2. Applications processed centrally in New Delhi
  3. Applicants must submit their original passport (of the adapted country) to be endorsed.
PIO
  1. Can download forms but a fully manual process. Complete the application and submit with relevant documentation to the nearest embassy or Indian immigration office.
  2. Decentralized processing
  3. Submission of original passport (of the adapted country) NOT required.
Benefits
OCI
  1. Treated on par with Non Resident Indians (NRIs) in all cases except 1) Cannot vote or hold public office 2) Cannot own agriculture property.
  2. Valid for life
  3. Can apply for full fledged Indian citizenship after 5 years (should have lived in India for at least year)
PIO
  1. Treated on par with NRIs in all cases except 1) Cannot vote or hold public office 2) Cannot own agriculture property.
  2. Valid for 15 years (20 in some early cases)
  3. Cannot apply for Indian citizenship.
One area where there is still no clarity is in the financial arena. As a PIO card holder, I was NOT able to open a brokerage account with ICICIdirect.com. Will the OCI card take care this issue? Do you know?

Unrelated tidbit
I went to Shastri Bhavan in Chennai to gather juice on this stuff and observed an interesting phenomenon. Most of the staff at the counter looked distinctly South Indian but were all conversing in Hindi.


Related Links
OCI details
OCI Overview
PIO Card
Indian Embassy - PIO Site