Overseas Indian Affairs Overseas Indian Affairs

FAQ on Overseas Indians (OCIs, PIOs and NRIs)

Who are the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI)?

A person of Indian origin who is a foreign national and gets registered as Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder under Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 is an OCI.

Is the PIO scheme still valid?

No. The PIO scheme stands abolished from 09.01.2015.

What are the various benefits of OCI scheme?

A registered Overseas Citizen of India is granted multiple entry, multipurpose, lifelong visa for visiting India, he/she is exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) or Foreign Registration Officer (FRO) for any length of stay in India, and 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. Besides they have granted parity with NRIs for inter-country adoption of Indian children, for air fares in domestic sector and for practice as Chartered Accountant in India. The OCI registration booklets are treated as identification of the cardholders for availing any services rendered by the State Governments. OCI cardholders have also been allowed to file affidavit to declare their address in India for this purpose.

How do I apply for OCI card?

Procedure for registration under OCI scheme is explained on the website of MHA i.e.http://www.mha.nic.inExternal website that opens in a new window

What is the time taken for registration as OCI?

As per information on MHA’s website, it takes 30 days if there is no adverse information about the applicant.

Would the Indian civil/criminal laws be applicable to persons registered as OCI?

Yes, for the period OCI cardholder is living in India.

Can a person renounce OCI?

Yes. He/she has to declare intention of renunciation in the prescribed form to the Indian Mission/Post where OCI registration was granted. An acknowledgement will be issued to the applicant by the Mission/Post or FRRO in India.

What is Know India Programme and how do I apply for the same?

Ministry's runs the Know India Programme (KIP), a 21 days programme to help familiarize Indian Diaspora youth, in the age group of 18-26 years, with developments and achievements made by the country and bringing them closer to the land of their ancestors. KIP provides a unique forum for students and young professionals of Indian origin to visit India, share their views, expectations and experiences and to bond closely with contemporary India.

The interested applicants may apply to participate in the programme with the recommendation of the concerned Indian Embassy / Consulate abroad under whose jurisdiction their residence is covered. The advertisement/guidelines for the programme is uploaded in the website of MOIA i.e. www.moia.gov.in and also sent to all the Indian Embassy / Consulate abroad seeking applications from the willing candidates as per the guidelines. Applicants satisfying the criteria of selection are called for the programme.

What is the Study India Programme and how do I apply for the same?

The Study India Programme (SIP) enables Overseas Indian youth to undergo a short term course for four weeks in an Indian University to familiarize them with the history, heritage, art, culture, socio-political, economic developments etc. of India. The focus of the programme is on academic orientation and research. Cost of boarding, lodging, local transportation, course fee during the programme and 90% of the cost of air-ticket by economy class is borne by Govt. of India. Gratis Visas by Indian Embassy / Consulate is granted to the participants. This programme is held once in a year during second half of the year. The students of the last SIP participanted in PBD-2015 also. The advertisement for holding the programme is uploaded in the website of MOIA i.e. www.moia.gov.in well in advance of the programme.

What is Overseas Citizen of India Scheme?

A person of Indian origin (PIO) who possesses a foreign passport, can apply for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Cardholder subject to fulfillment of criteria laid down in Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The OCI Cardholder is entitled to lifelong visa for visiting India and is not required to report to FRRO or local police authorities irrespective of length of stay in India. Besides, they are treated at par with NRIs in the economic, financial and educational fields except acquisition of agricultural and plantation land. OCIs are not entitled to hold public offices in India nor can they vote in elections in India. The details of the scheme and procedure for registration is available on the website of MHA i.e. www.mha.nic.in. . There are certain other benefits extended to OCI Cardholders which can be seen on MOIA’s website.

Are there any Scholarship Programme for children of the Diaspora?

Yes, MOIA had launched this "Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children” (SPDC) scheme in the academic year 2006-2007, for the children of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Non- Resident Indians (NRIs) to assist them in pursuing Under Graduate courses in Indian Universities/Institutes. EdCIL (India) Limited, a Government of India Enterprise, has been designated as the "Nodal Agency” for implementation of SPDC. Scholarships are provided to 100 selected students [Non-Resident Indians (NRIs)-50 (Fifty) Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs)- 50(Fifty). In case of non-availability of suitable PIO candidates, the unfilled slots could be offered to NRI candidates and vice –versa as per merit criteria.

My forefathers have left India long back and I would like to trace my ancestral roots? Does MOIA have any scheme for the same?

Yes, MOIA has a scheme viz. "Tracing the Roots” for overseas Indians. The person who desires to avail the scheme has to apply in a prescribed proforma to the Indian Embassy / Consulate concerned along with relevant documents and a fee of Rs.30,000/- in local or acceptable currency. The Embassy / Consulate will forward the application to the agency assigned with the task. In case of an unsuccessful attempt, an amount equivalent to Rs.20,000/- will be returned to the applicant. The application form and other details are available on MOIA’s website.

What is Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award?

The Award is conferred on a Non-Resident Indian, Person of Indian Origin or an organization or institution established and run by Non-Resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin, who have made a significant contribution in any one of the following fields:

  • Better understanding abroad of India;
  • Support to India’s causes and concerns in a tangible way;
  • Building closer links between India, the overseas Indian community and their country of residence;
  • Social and humanitarian causes in India or abroad;
  • Welfare of the local Indian community;
  • Philanthropic and charitable work;
  • Eminence in one’s field or outstanding work, which has enhanced India’s prestige in the country of residence; or
  • Eminence in skills which has enhanced India’s prestige in that country (for non-professional workers).

The Award is conferred by the President of India as a part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention. PBSA is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians. So far, 179 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards have been conferred on PIOs and NRIs.

Whom can PIOs contact if they face any problem in India?

They may contact the concerned Central or State Government Departments. Many States have started Departments to look after Non Resident/ Overseas Indians. If available, they may be accessed.

What is the percentage of seats reserved for PIOs in the Indian educational institutes and universities?

As per UGC guidelines, the Indian educational institutes and universities are required to create 15% supernumerary seats for overseas Indians and foreigners.

How can a PIO adopt a child in India?

Child Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) under the Ministry of Women & Child Development is the agency which administers in-country and inter-country adoptions. The NRI or PIO desirous of adoption has to register with CARA. Procedure for adoption is explained on CARA’s website (http://www.adoptionindia.nic.in/External website that opens in a new window) Alternatively you can call them up on their toll free help line 1800 11 1311.

Do non-resident Indian citizens require permission of Reserve Bank to acquire residential / commercial property in India?

Non-resident Indians (NRI / PIO) do not require any permission from the Reserve Bank of India to acquire residential or commercial property in India. Also,there are no restrictions in the number of residential / commercial properties that NRI/PIOs can buy in India.

What are the different types of accounts which can be maintained by an NRI/PIO in India?

As per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) there are three types of banks accounts that can be maintained by an NRI / PIO in India.

  • Non-Resident Ordinary Rupee Account (NRO Account) : Any person resident outside India may open an NRO account with an authorized dealer or an authorized bank for the purpose of putting through a bona fide transaction in rupees. Opening of accounts by individual/ entities of Pakistan and entities of Bangladesh require prior approval of Reserve Bank of India. NRO accounts may be opened / maintained in the form of current, savings, recurring or fixed deposit accounts.
  • Non-Resident (External) Rupee Account (NRE Account) : NRE account may be in the form of savings, current, recurring or fixed deposit accounts (with maturity of minimum one year). Such accounts can be opened only by the NRI/PIO himself and not through the holder of the power of attorney. NRIs may be permitted to open NRE account with their resident close relatives (relative as defined in Section 6 of the Companies Act, 1956) on ‘former or survivor ‘basis. The resident close relative shall be eligible to operate the account as a Power of Attorney holder in accordance with the extant instructions during the life time of the NRI/PIO account holder.
  • Foreign Currency Non Resident (Bank) Account – FCNR (B) Account : FCNR account stands for foreign currency non-resident bank account wherein a non-resident individual of Indian origin can maintain a fixed deposit in foreign currency and earn regular interest in the same.
Can NRIs invest in shares, debentures and units of mutual funds in India?

Yes, NRI/PIOs can purchase shares, debenture and units of mutual funds in India. NRI/PIOs can buy shares and debentures issued by Indian companies through stock exchanges, under the Portfolio Investment Scheme (PIS) on repatriation and /or non repatriation basis. The PIS is a scheme of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). For this purpose, NRI/PIOs have to apply to a designated branch of a bank, which deals with portfolio investments. All sale/purchase transactions are to be routed through the designated branch. As per the RBI guidelines, NRI/PIOs willing to invest in shares/debentures in India need to approach the designated branch of any authorized dealer (bank) who administer the PIS to open a Non Resident External (NRE)/Non Resident Ordinary (NRO) account to route investments. NRI/PIOs can invest in mutual fund schemes in India and it requires no special approval from the RBI. They can invest in mutual funds either on repatriable basis or non-repatriable basis. For investments on repatriable basis NRI/PIOs must have either NRE account or FCNR account with a bank in India. In this case, investments are routed through usual banking channels or remitted from NRE/FCNR account of the investor. Investments can be made on non-repatriation basis from funds held in NRO account or NRE/FCNR account.

Can PIOs acquire any immovable property in India by the way of inheritance?

Yes, Person of Indian origin (PIO) can inherit and hold immovable property in India from a person who was resident in India.

Can NRIs avail loans against their bank accounts in India? If yes, then for what purposes?

NRIs can avail loans against securities held in NRO, NRE and FCNR account without any ceiling subject to the usual margin requirements. Loans can be availed for personal use, buying house or business purpose.

Do NRIs require the prior approval of RBI for maintaining bank accounts in India?

No, a non-resident Indian (NRI) does not need any approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for maintaining bank accounts in India.

Can an individual resident lend money to his close relative NRI / PIO?

Yes, an individual resident can lend money by way of crossed cheque /electronic transfer within the overall limit prescribed under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme. The loan should be interest free and have a maturity period of minimum one year and cannot be remitted outside India. Please note that, under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme, all resident individuals, including minors, are allowed to freely remit up to USD 125,000 per financial year (April – March) for any permissible current or capital account transaction or a combination of both.

Can PIOs and OCIs set up business ventures in India?

Yes, PIOs and OCIs can set up business ventures in India. They are allowed to set up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) form of company. The requirements of setting up a company in India can be found athttp://www.mca.gov.inExternal website that opens in a new window The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines for establishment of liaison / branch /project offices in India by foreign entities can be found athttp://www.rbi.org.in External website that opens in a new window

Can a resident individual gift shares/securities/convertible debentures etc to NRI close relative?

A resident Indian is allowed to gift shares/ securities/ convertible debentures etc. to NRI close relatives up to USD 50,000 per financial year.

Can a resident individual give rupee gifts to his visiting NRI/PIO close relatives?

Yes, a resident individual can give rupee gifts to his visiting NRI/PIO close relatives by way of crossed cheque/electronic transfer within the overall limit prescribed under Liberalised Remittance Scheme. The gifted amount should be credited to the beneficiary’s NRO account. Please note that under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme, all resident individuals, including minors, are allowed to freely remit up to USD 125,000 per financial year (April to March) for any permissible current or capital account transaction or a combination of both.

Can a Power of Attorney invest on behalf of the NRI investor?

Yes, in cases such as investments in residential or commercial property, units of mutual fund, a power of attorney (POA) has the authority to invest on behalf of the NRI investor. The POA can also sign documents for initial and additional purchases along with redeeming units of mutual fund. A copy of the power of attorney should be notarised with the Indian consulate in the respective country which will provide authenticity on their behalf for such investment in India. At the time of applying for such purchase the POA holder needs to submit the original POA or a duly notarized copy. The Power of attorney should contain the signature of both the NRI Investor and the POA holder. Only when the POA is registered, the POA holder has the right to transact on behalf of the NRI investor and his signature is verified before processing any transaction.

I am a lawyer who is an OCI cardholder. How can I set up my practice in India?

Such lawyers being foreign nationals are not permitted to practice in India.

I am a Chartered Accountant who is an OCI cardholder. Are there any restrictions for me to practice in India?

A Chartered Accountant who is an OCI cardholder can practice in India under the ‘Scheme for enrollment of Overseas Citizen of India Professional Accountants’ in terms of the Regulations published in the Gazette of India Extraordinary dated 22nd July, 2014 by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

I m an OCI card holder and want to donate money for philanthropic purposes in India. Any advice?

Such donations can be made to any organization in India which is registered under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has started the India Development Foundation for Overseas Indians (IDF-OI) as a credible platform for channelizing diaspora philanthropy to social development projects. IDFOI may be contacted at MOIA for any enquiries on donations.