The Indian Diaspora: NRI | OCI | PIO

  • ACIO
  • November 24, 2023

India is a land of diversified cultures, traditions, excellence and, more recently, opportunities. But did you know that the Indian community has expanded to various parts outside India as well? The Indian diaspora is one of the largest in the world, with an estimated population of over 30 million Indians living across the globe.

“India away from India” represents the idea that Indian culture, values, and heritage continue to thrive and be celebrated in foreign lands. It signifies the preservation and promotion of Indian traditions, festivals, languages, cuisine, music, dance, and other cultural elements by the Indian diaspora.

These communities play a crucial role in bridging the gap between their adopted countries and India. They contribute to the multicultural fabric of their host nations while simultaneously preserving and passing on Indian traditions to future generations. The concept of “India away from India” underscores the enduring presence and influence of Indian culture beyond the borders of the country itself.

What is the Indian Diaspora?

The Indian diaspora is a vast and vibrant community spread across the globe, consisting of individuals of Indian origin who have migrated and settled in different countries. With a rich history of migration, the Indian diaspora has made substantial contributions to their host nations and to India.

From excelling in various fields such as business, academia, arts, and technology to preserving and promoting Indian culture and heritage, the Indian diaspora has left an indelible mark. They serve as cultural ambassadors, fostering connections between India and their host countries through festivals, cultural events, and community organisations.

Additionally, the economic impact of the diaspora is significant, with remittances and investments contributing to the development of both the host countries and India. The Indian diaspora continues to play an integral role in shaping global societies while maintaining a strong bond with their Indian roots.

Top 8 Countries with Highest Indian Diaspora:

Country Indian Diaspora (approximate)
United States of America 89,20,000
United Arab Emirates 68,50,288
Malaysia 59,75,900
Saudi Arabia 51,89,894
Myanmar 40,18,404
United Kingdom 35,28,000
Canada 33,78,110
Sri Lanka 32,28,000

Data Source:

NRIs/ PIOs/ OCIs Overview:

The Indian diaspora is often pooled into various categories, such as:

1. Non- Residential Indians (NRIs):

Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) refers to an individual of Indian origin or Indian citizenship who resides outside of India. NRI typically denotes a person who temporarily or permanently lives in a foreign country for various purposes such as employment, education, business, or any other reason. NRIs often maintain strong ties to their home country and may have family, financial, or cultural connections with India.

2. Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs):

The Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), are individuals who have foreign citizenship or residency but can establish their roots or ancestral origin in India. In the official words of the Ministry of External Affairs, PIO means a foreign citizen (except a national of. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal) who:

  • At any time held an Indian passport; or
  • Who or either of their parents/grandparents/ great grandparents were born and permanently resident in India as defined in the Government of India Act,1935 and other territories that became part of India thereafter, provided neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid countries ( as referred above); or
  • Who is a spouse of a citizen of India

3. Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI):

The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is a unique and valuable status offered by the Indian government to individuals of Indian origin residing abroad. OCI provides a lifelong visa that allows OCI cardholders to travel to and stay in India without the need for additional visas.

The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme was implemented through an amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 in August 2005. This scheme allows for the registration of all Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) who were Indian citizens on or after January 26, 1950, or were eligible to become citizens on that date, with some exceptions.

What is the Difference Between NRIs, PIOs and OCIs?

NRI Person of Indian Origin OCI cardholder
Who? An Indian citizen who is ordinarily residing outside India and holds an Indian Passport A person who or whose ancestors was an Indian national and who is presently holding another country’s citizenship/ nationality, i.e. he/she is holding a foreign passport A person registered as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Cardholder under section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955
Who is eligible Following categories of foreign nationals are eligible for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Cardholders:- 

(1) Who was a citizen of India at the time of, or at any time after the commencement of the Constitution i.e. 26.01.1950; or

(2) who was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26.01.1950; or

(3) who belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15.08.1947; or

(4) who is a child or a grandchild or a great grandchild of such a citizen; or

(5) who is a minor child of such persons mentioned above; or

(6) who is a minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; or

(7) spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder registered under section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application.

Note: No person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify, shall be eligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder.

How can one get it? Eligible persons to apply online. For this purpose, please log on to
Where to apply? The applicants have to submit the application form online and upload all the requisite documents (self-attested), photograph and signature (in the case of minors who cannot sign, left-hand thumb impression) along with the application. After submission of the complete application online including documents, photograph and signature, the original of the supporting documents have to be submitted to the Indian Mission/ Post/ FRRO concerned for prior verification. 

Details of offices where the applicants have to submit the original supporting documents for prior verification are as follows:-

Applicants outside India:

(1) The Indian Mission /Post having jurisdiction over the country of which the applicant is a citizen; or

(2) If he/she is not living in the country of his/her citizenship, to the Indian Mission /Post having jurisdiction over the country of which the applicant is ordinarily resident.

Applicants in India

If the applicant is residing in India, to the Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRROs) according to their jurisdictional control. To know the jurisdiction of FRROs, please see “Addresses of offices to submit OCI applications” on the website of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Fees? (a) in case of application submitted in Indian Mission/ Post abroad – US $ 275 or equivalent in local currency. 

(b) in case of application submitted in India – Rs.15,000/-.

Which nationals are ineligible? No person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify, shall be eligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder.
What benefits one is entitled to? All benefits are available to Indian citizens subject to notifications issued by the Government from time to time. No specific benefits (i) Multiple entry lifelong visa for visiting India for any purpose (However, OCI Cardholders will require special permission to undertake research work in India for which they may submit the application to the Indian Mission/ Post/ FRRO concerned). 

(ii) Exemption from registration with Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) for any length of stay in India.

(iii) Parity with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) 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.

(iv) Registered Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder shall be treated at par with Non-Resident-Indians in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children.

(v) Registered Overseas Citizen of India Cardholders shall be treated at par with resident Indian nationals in the matter of tariffs on air fares in domestic sectors in India.

(vi) Registered Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder shall be charged the same entry fee as domestic Indian visitors to visit national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India.

(vii) Parity with Non-Resident Indians(NRI) in respect of:-

(A) entry fees to be charged for visiting the national monuments, historical sites and museums in India;

(B) pursuing the following professions in India, in pursuance of the provisions contained in the relevant Acts, namely:-

(a) doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists;

(b) advocates

(c) architects

(d) chartered accountants

(C) to appear for the All India Pre-Medical Test or such other tests to make them eligible for admission in pursuance of the provisions contained in the relevant Acts.

(viii) State Governments should ensure that the OCI Cardholder registration booklets of OCI Cardholders are treated as their identification for any services rendered to them. In case proof of residence is required, Overseas Citizens of India Cardholders may give an affidavit attested by a notary public stating that a particular/specific address may be treated as their place of residence in India and may also, in their affidavit, give their overseas residential address as well as e-mail address, if any.

Any other benefits to an OCI Cardholder will be notified by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) under section 7B(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

8. Does he/she require a visa for visiting India No Yes Can visit India without a visa for life long.
Is he/she required to register with the local police authorities in India? No Yes if the period of stay is for more than 180 days No
What activities can be undertaken in India? All activities Activity as per the type of visa obtained All activities except research work for which special permission is required from the Indian Mission/Post/FRRO concerned.
How can one acquire Indian citizenship? He/she is an Indian citizen. As per section 5(1)(a) & 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, he/she has to be ordinarily resident in India for a period of 7 years before making an application for registration. As per section 5(1)(g) of the Citizenship Act,1955, a person registered as an OCI cardholder for 5 years and who is ordinarily resident in India for twelve months before making an application for registration is eligible for a grant of Indian citizenship. 

Central Government, if it is satisfied that special circumstances exist, may, after recording the circumstances in writing, relax the period of twelve months, up to a maximum of thirty days which may be in different breaks.

Indian Diaspora in Middle East:

Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) Overseas Indian Citizens (OCIs)
Bahrain 323292 3366 326658
Cyprus 7254 245 7499
Egypt 3950 351 4301
Iran 4000 337 4337
Iraq 18000 7 18007
Israel 12467 85000 97467
Jordan 20569 191 20760
Kuwait 1028274 1587 1029861
Lebanon 8500 37 8537
Oman 779351 1790 781141
Palestine 20 0 20
Qatar 745775 775 746550
Saudi Arabia 2592166 2781 2594947
Syria 94 0 94
Türkiye 1609 99 1708
United Arab Emirates 3419875 5269 3425144
Overseas Indian Citizens (OCI) 500 10000 10500

Data Source:

What Bodies Cater to the Needs of NRIs/ PIOs/ OCIs?

There are several organisations and bodies that cater to the needs and interests of NRIs, OCIs, and PIOs. These organisations aim to provide support, facilitate engagement, and address the concerns of the Indian diaspora. Here are some notable bodies:

  1. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA): The MEA in India is responsible for handling matters related to the Indian diaspora. It has various divisions and initiatives dedicated to addressing the needs and concerns of NRIs, OCIs, and PIOs.
  2. Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA): The MOIA was a dedicated ministry in India that focused on matters related to NRIs, OCIs, and PIOs. While the MOIA has been merged with the MEA, its initiatives and programs continue to be relevant for the Indian diaspora.
  3. Indian Missions/Embassies/Consulates: Indian missions, embassies, and consulates in different countries play a crucial role in providing assistance, support, and services to NRIs, OCIs, and PIOs. They handle matters such as visa services, consular services, and addressing issues faced by the diaspora.
  4. NRI/OCI/PIO Forums and Associations: There are numerous forums and associations worldwide that cater specifically to the needs and interests of NRIs, OCIs, and PIOs. These organisations facilitate networking, cultural exchange, and provide a platform for addressing common concerns and challenges.
  5. Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC): The OIFC is a joint initiative of the Government of India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) that aims to support the Indian diaspora in their economic and social engagement with India. It provides information, guidance, and facilitation services to NRIs, OCIs, and PIOs.

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