Who are NRIs, OCIs and Foreigners?

Non-Resident Indian (NRI)

  • “An Indian citizen who is ordinarily residing outside India and holds an Indian Passport.”
  • Under the Income Tax Act, an Indian citizen residing out of India for at least 245 days in a year is considered as an NRI.
  • They are citizens of India and enjoy the same rights as every citizen.

Person of Indian Origin (PIO)

  • “A person who or whose any of ancestors was an Indian national and who is presently holding another country’s citizenship/ nationality i.e. he/she is holding foreign passport.” .
  • The PIO card holders registered under the new PIO Card scheme, 2002 are now deemed to be Overseas Citizens of India.

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)

  • “A person registered as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Cardholder under section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.”
  • Under the Foreigners Act, 1946, a foreigner is defined as, “a person who is not a citizen of India.”

Which all Fundamental Rights are they entitled to?


The Indian Constitution makers made certain Fundamental Rights Universal and applicable to everyone irrespective of Nationality and Citizenship. These rights include:

  • The right to equality before the law and equal protection of the laws (Article 14)
  • The right to protected in case of a conviction for an offence (Article 20)
  • The right to protection of personal life and liberty under Article 21. They also have the right to elementary education under Article 21-A.
  • They also have the right to protection against arrest in certain cases under Article 22 of the Constitution.
  • They are protected from trafficking and forced labour. (Article 23)
  • Foreign nationals under the age of 14 cannot be employed in hazardous industries. (Article 24)
  • They have the right under Article 25 to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of any religion. They have the freedom to manage their religious affairs. (Article 26)
  • While promoting a religion they are given exemption from payment of taxes under Article 27. They are free to attend religious instructions and worship in certain educational institutions.

They are given the Right to Constitutional Remedies under Article 32 of the Constitution. The same was held by The Delhi High Court in the case of Dr Christo Thomas Philip vs Union Of India & Ors (2019 SCC OnLine Del 6426).

Article 226 is available to anyone including foreigners and corporations based out of India. The conditions that need to be fulfilled are that a legal right of the complainant should have been violated by a person or an authority falling under the definition of “State” under Article 12 of the Constitution of India. However, the claim must not be based upon any right conferred exclusively to the citizens of India. This was held by the Calcutta High Court in the case of Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking v. Union of India (2012).

Non-Resident Indians:

  • NRIs are Indian citizens. They have the same benefits as all Indian Citizens barring a few exceptions.
  • They are given all the Fundamental Rights in the Constitution in the same manner as they are given to an ordinary citizen. They have voting rights, right to contest an election, avail all Fundamental Rights given in the Constitution, etc.
  • They are exempted from paying Tax on income earned abroad provided it is duly taxed in the nation where it is earned.
  • They have a limitation wherein they are not allowed to purchase agricultural land or farmhouse unless they get prior approval of RBI.
  • They do not need any Visa or permit to enter the country and are entitled to the same protection before the law as an ordinary citizen is.

Overseas Citizens of India:

  • They are entitled to rights given to ordinary citizens unless those specifically mentioned in the Section 7B (2) of the Citizenship Act.
  • Article 16 of the Constitution (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment)
  • Article 58 of the Constitution (election as President)
  • Article 66 of the Constitution (Election of Vice-President)
  • Article 124 of the Constitution (Appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court)
  • Article 217 of the Constitution (Appointment as a Judge of the High Court)
  • Section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (Registration as a voter)
  • Sections 3 and 4 of the Representation of the People Act (Eligibility for being a member of the House of the People or of the Council of States)
  • Sections 5, 5A and 6 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (Eligibility for being a member of the Legislative Assembly or a Legislative Council, as the case may be, of a State).
  • For appointment to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State except for appointment in such services and posts as the Central Government may by special order in that behalf specify.

In Dr Christo Thomas Philip vs Union Of India & Ors (2019 SCC OnLine Del 6426), the Delhi High Court held that the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI’s), though not given the protection of Article 16 of the Constitution, are entitled to protection under Article 14 and Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

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