PIO Cards: What You Need to Know

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on August 25, 2022

When you are a person of Indian origin staying in a different country, you will have a certain residency status. You can either be a Non-Resident Indian (NRI), a Person of Indian Origin (PIO), or an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). But many do not know whether they need a PIO card or an OCI one, and it’s important to know this difference as someone looking to obtain benefits in India. This article explains everything regarding PIO cards.

PIO Cards Explained

Being a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) means that someone used to have an Indian Passport in the past, or had parents/grandparents/great grandparents who were Indian citizens, but the individual is now a foreign citizen.

PIO cards allow someone who is an NRI to participate in India’s development in a very easy and flexible way. This way, the card makes it easier for people to reconnect with their Indian roots.

Who Is Eligible for a PIO Card?

You must be eligible for a PIO card before you can apply for one. Here are the criteria you should meet if you want one:

  • You must be a spouse of a person of Indian origin or an Indian citizen
  • You held an Indian passport at some point in time
  • You or your parents/grandparents/great grandparents were born and raised in India permanently as defined by the Government of India Act, 1935
  • You are a person of Indian origin up to four generations back. Only these people can apply for a PIO card. There are a few exceptions to this too, such as citizens from Nepal, Bhutan, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

Benefits and Limitations of a PIO Card

As you can imagine, many benefits come with a PIO card, which is why so many NRIs may want one. Some of the benefits brought by PIO cards are:

  • Having parity with NRIs with respect to the available facilities to the latter:
    • Facilities that are available to children that allow them to get admitted in Indian educational institutions such as engineering colleges, Institutes of Management, Institutes of Technology, under the country’s category NRIs quota
    • All facilities in the transfer, acquisition, holding, and disposal matter of Indian immovable properties in matters relating to the plantation/agricultural property acquisition.
    • Facilities that are available under the many housing schemes of the Indian Life Insurance Corporation, State Governments, or other Government agencies
    • In the political right sphere, no parity shall be allowed.
  • Being able to visit India without requiring a separate student visa, tourist visa, or employment visa.
  • The PIO cardholder will not have to register if they happen to go to India for a visit and this visit is a maximum of 6 months. But if someone stays continuously for more than 6 months, then they will have to register within 30 days of the 6 months’ expiry with the right Foreigners Regional Registration Officer/Foreigners Registration Officer

Now, while there are certainly some benefits, PIO cards also come with some limitations that you should be aware of. For instance:

  • You will not be able to purchase property in Kashmir & Jammu
  • You will not have any voting right in India
  • You will not be able to exert your political rights in India
  • If you want to do anything like going on a mountaineering trip, a missionary trip, or gaining access to an Indian Restricted/Protected area, then you will need permission from the Government of India.

How to Apply for a PIO Card

In order to apply for a PIO card, one has to send an application. This can be sent online, but you can also apply in person, in which case you will need an appointment. Some people can also choose to apply by post, in which case they have to send the envelope together with the documents necessary for processing the application.

After you get your PIO card, it will be available for 15 years from the date it was issued, after which it gets reissued. Of course, it will also be subject to the passport validity of the applicant, because the card is only valid if you also accompany it with a valid passport.

PIO Card Processing Time

Usually, when you apply for a PIO card, you will have to wait a few weeks for it to be processed. Most times, the processing of a PIO card application can take between 4 weeks and 6 weeks at the San Francisco center from the moment it arrives at the office. Processing may take about 45 days in case there was some adverse information discovered against the person applying for the card. Also, you should bear in mind that the processing time doesn’t include the courier service.

If you do not send a complete application, your PIO application process can get delayed. The same will happen if you do not meet the photograph requirements for the card.

PIO Card Fee

You will have to pay fees to apply for a PIO card, and how much you pay depends on the type of service. For an adult PIO card, you’ll pay $385 in total, whereas a card for a minor will cost $205. Then, PIO Endorsement will cost you $40.00. A PIO duplicate will be $120 in total.

How to Apply for a Duplicate PIO Card

A duplicate PIO card can be obtained if you lost your old one, had it stolen, or damaged it. In this case, you will have to pay $120 to apply for it. Other than that, you will be able to apply for the duplicate the same way you applied for your original card. You will also have to complete some other formalities viz. FIR lodging, scrutiny of claim, and so on.

Can Your PIO Card Be Canceled?

You should be aware of the fact that PIO cards can be canceled. This can be done by the Central Government in case they find a valid reason, in which case cancel the order is the best solution.

A reason could be the fact that the cardholders usually get involved in terrorism or aggression acts against the country, or that the holder got the card using fraudulent means. The Government may also decide to cancel a PIO card if further card possession is against public interest or if you somehow act against the Indian constitution and the laws it contains. When this happens, the PIO card will just be canceled, and you will not receive any reason for the cancellation. Therefore, you have to think about the reasons listed above and discover what could have possibly caused the authorities to cancel your PIO card.

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If you are an NRI and want to travel to India without requiring different documents, you can apply for a PIO card. It can allow you to travel to India and stay there for certain periods, and it may even be possible for you to be admitted to certain educational institutions. You must only be aware of the potential limitations, and make sure that you have everything ready to prevent delays in the process. Also, bear in mind that the PIO Card scheme has been merged with the OCI Card one.

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