NRI stands for Non-Resident Indian. It refers to individuals of Indian origin who reside outside India but still hold Indian citizenship. OCI stands for Overseas Citizen of India. Individuals of Indian origin have certain rights and privileges similar to those of Indian citizens while they are residing abroad.

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Who is an NRI?

The full form of NRI is Non-Resident Indian. It refers to individuals of Indian nationality or origin who reside outside India for employment, business, education, or any other purpose and are not considered residents for tax purposes.

They may hold citizenship of another country but retain strong ties to India culturally, emotionally, or financially.

Eligibility for NRI Status:

  • An individual is considered an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) if they spend less than 182 days in India during the preceding financial year (April 1st to March 31st).

  • For individuals leaving India for employment, the 182-day limit is extended to 365 days in the previous 4 years, and under 60 days in the current year.

  • There are specific rules for Indian crew members on foreign ships.

Features of NRI in India

  • NRIs are generally taxed only on income earned or accrued in India, offering potential tax benefits. 

  • NRIs can hold various special accounts with specific features and tax implications, like-

    • NRE (Non-Resident External Rupee)

    • NRO (Non-Resident Ordinary Rupee)

  • NRIs have access to various investment options in India, including real estate, ULIP Plans, Capital Guarantee Plans, stocks, and mutual funds.

  • NRIs retain their voting rights in India and can participate in elections if registered properly.

  • NRIs can own and purchase property in India without restrictions.

Who is an OCI?

An OCI, or Overseas Citizen of India, is a status granted to foreign nationals with Indian ancestry or former Indian citizens.

OCI status offers benefits such as multiple-entry visa-free travel to India, the ability to own property, and the right to work in India. It is a recognition by the Indian government to foster stronger ties with the Indian diaspora while allowing them to retain their foreign citizenship.

Eligibility for OCI Status in India

Several categories of foreign nationals can apply for OCI registration:

  • Indian citizens on or after January 26, 1950

  • Eligible to become Indian citizens on January 26, 1950

  • Belong to a territory that became part of India after August 15, 1947. This includes people from territories like Junagadh, Manavadar, Hyderabad, and Sikkim.

  • Descendants of the above categories: Children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those mentioned above are also eligible.

  • Foreign spouse of an Indian citizen or OCI cardholder who has been married for at least two years

Investment Plans for NRIsInvestment Plans for NRIs

Features of OCI in India

  • OCI card holders can visit India for any purpose, anytime, without needing separate visas.

  • OCI cardholders are exempt from registering with the local police authorities for any length of stay in India.

  • Similar treatment to NRIs in several areas like inter-country adoption, education, and property ownership (except agricultural or plantation properties).

  • Not entitled to vote, hold constitutional posts, or acquire agricultural land.

  • OCI cardholders have the right to apply for Indian citizenship after residing in India for 11 years continuously. 


Aspect NRI (Non-Resident Indian) OCI (Overseas Citizen of India)
Definition Indian citizens living abroad temporarily Foreign citizens with Indian ancestry or former Indian citizens
Citizenship Holds Indian citizenship Not Indian citizens, but have certain rights similar to Indian citizens
Residency Can be temporary or permanent abroad Typically reside outside India but have lifelong visa to enter India
Voting Rights Can vote in Indian elections if registered as NRI voter Cannot vote in Indian elections
Property Rights Can own property in India Can own property in India except for agricultural land
Passport Hold Indian passport Hold OCI card, not eligible for Indian passport
Visa Require visas to visit India Lifelong visa to enter India for any purpose except political rights
Employment Can work in India with appropriate visa Can work in India without requiring work visa
Duration NRI status changes if residing in India for over 182 days in a year OCI status is permanent, no need to change status based on residency

Investment Plans for NRIsInvestment Plans for NRIs

In Summary

While NRIs and OCIs share similarities in their connection to India, they differ in their citizenship status, rights, and privileges. NRIs maintain their citizenship of India while OCIs enjoy certain benefits of Indian citizenship without being full citizens. Understanding these distinctions is essential for an NRI to understand their legal status and rights in relation to India.


  • I am an Indian citizen living in the UK. Am I eligible for NRI or OCI status?

    You cannot be both NRI and OCI simultaneously. As an Indian citizen, you would not qualify for OCI (meant for foreign nationals of Indian origin). If you spend more than 182 days outside India, you become an NRI.
  • What are my property rights in India?

    NRIs can buy residential and commercial properties, but not agricultural land or farmhouses.
  • Can I vote in Indian elections if I have OCI?

    No, OCI holders cannot vote in Indian elections. This right is reserved for Indian citizens.
  • Do I need a visa to visit India if I have OCI?

    No, an OCI card gives you multi-entry, lifelong visa-free access to India.
  • Will I be taxed in India if I earn income in the UK and have NRI status?

    It depends on the source of income. Some income earned in India by NRIs is taxable, while others are exempt.
  • Can I open a bank account in India as an OCI cardholder?

    Yes, OCI holders can open NRE (Non-Resident External Account), NRO (Non-Resident Ordinary Account), and FCNR (B) (Foreign Currency Non-Resident (Bank) Account) bank accounts in India and enjoy most financial privileges available to NRIs.
  • How do I apply for NRI status?

    There is no formal application for NRI status. It is determined by your residency and Indian tax filing.
  • Does my OCI card expire? How do I renew it?

    OCI cards are valid for life, except for those issued to minors under 20 years old. These need renewal upon reaching adulthood.

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