A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card was a long-term visa issued to foreign citizens. It was not issued to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal nationals.
PIO cards were issued to those individuals who at any time held an Indian passport or whose spouse or parents held an Indian passport.
People of Indian Origin (PIO) are not Indian citizens but have Indian ancestry. On the other hand, Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) are PIOs who have obtained OCI cards.
Non-PIO OCIs are foreign nationals who marry Indian citizens and become OCIs. However, they are not considered part of the Indian diaspora.
The Persons of Indian Origin Card (PIO card) was the predecessor to the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card. The PIO card was less effective than the OCI, and there was some criticism that holders of the more expensive PIO card were disadvantaged when the OCI scheme was launched barely four years later.
Additionally, there needed to be more clarity regarding the differences between the two cards, and administering the two independent schemes caused complexity and confusion. Please note that all PIO cards have been replaced by OCI cards.
The PIO card scheme was discontinued on November 30, 2021, and replaced by the OCI card scheme. However, PIO Cards issued earlier remain valid until their expiry date. PIO cardholders are also encouraged to convert their cards to OCI Cards at the earliest.
Indian Immigration has extended the validity of all Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards, including handwritten ones, as valid travel documents till December 31, 2023. This means that PIO cardholders can continue to use their PIO cards to enter and exit India until the end of 2023, even if their cards are handwritten.
The implementation of the decision to convert the PIO card to an OCI card involved the following steps:
The extension is subject to the condition that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) notifies any deadline that makes handwritten PIO Cards invalid. In such cases, the PIO cardholders may be required to obtain an appropriate visa from Indian Missions/Posts abroad before traveling to India.
All PIO cardholders, whether their cards are handwritten or machine-readable, are advised to convert their PIO cards to OCI cards before the deadline of December 31, 2023.
OCI cards offer several advantages over PIO cards, including lifetime validity and voting rights in Indian elections.
To convert to OCI, individuals can apply through the Indian embassy in their country of residence or within India at the local FRRO. A preparation guide outlining the next steps will be sent upon receiving an individual’s application details. The physical application must then be mailed to an authorized application center, which will process the application and send the OCI card within 5 to 6 weeks.
While Natvisa.com does not directly handle the PIO to OCI card conversion process, we can still assist with the India e-Visa if you do not have an OCI card and need to travel to India urgently.
If you have any further questions, please get in touch with our support agents, who are available 24 hours a day to provide guidance and explanations on how to apply for India e-Visa if you have an OCI application that is still under processing.
The merger of PIO and OCI cards is a positive step forward for individuals of Indian origin seeking long-term visas to India. The decision simplified the OCI card process, eliminated confusion, and ensured all eligible individuals had access to the same benefits and privileges.