OCI vs Visa: Understanding the Differences, Benefits and Eligibility

Are you an Indian citizen who wants to travel or work abroad, but confused about the difference between OCI and Visa? In this article, we will discuss the differences, benefits, and eligibility criteria for OCI and Visa, so you can determine which one is right for you.

Key Takeaways

  • An OCI card is a lifelong visa that allows a person of Indian origin to travel to India multiple times, while a Visa is a permit issued for a specific period, purpose, and country.
  • OCI cardholders enjoy several benefits such as visa-free entry to India life-long, work and study opportunities in India, and hassle-free travel with minimal documentation.
  • The eligibility criteria for OCI are relatively broad, with minor age-specific exceptions, while Visa eligibility criteria vary depending on the type and length of the stay.
  • OCIs have some disadvantages like restricting participation in public service jobs and the voting process.
  • Although the OCI application process is long, most applications are processed within 4-8 weeks; visa application processing time varies based on the type of visa and embassy norms.
  • The costs for the OCI application and Visa vary depending on the type of visa and embassy.
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OCI vs Visa: Understanding the Differences

An OCI card is a lifelong visa that allows a person of Indian origin to travel to India multiple times. OCI stands for “Overseas Citizen of India,” and it is a form of dual citizenship. It enables overseas Indians and foreigners of Indian origin to stay and work in India indefinitely. The OCI card is not an Indian passport, but it is good enough to enter and exit India without any restriction as long as the OCI card and passport are valid.

In contrast, Visa is a permit issued for a specific purpose, period, and country. They are not permanent and typically require renewal every six months or a year. Visas give people the right to enter a specific country, and they have limitations on the duration of stay, number of entries and exits, and work type.

Key Benefits of OCI

Pursuing an OCI card allows you to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Visa-free entry to India for life
  • The right to work and study in India
  • Travel to neighboring countries (Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan) without a visa
  • Access to consular services offered to Indian citizens abroad
  • Fewer restrictions on minors traveling to India
  • Faster processing of immigration on arrival in India
  • Identification as a person of Indian origin in foreign countries

Key Benefits of a Visa

  • A Work Visa allows a foreigner to work and earn a salary in the country. It enables the visa holder to work for an employer in the country for a specific period and purpose.
  • A Student visa grants permission for pursuing education in the issuing country. This visa has certain peculiarities such as medical insurance, character certificate requirements, etc.
  • Tourist visas allow foreigners to visit a foreign country for tourism, visiting friends/family or other non-work-related activities.
  • Business visas enable foreigners to visit a foreign country for business or investment-related activities, like attending meetings and conferences.
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Eligibility Criteria for OCI and Visa

OCI eligibility criteria includes being of Indian origin, or having married someone who is, or having a parent or grandparent who is. Unlike a Visa, an OCI cardholder is not required to furnish a job, travel itinerary, or a return ticket from India.

Visa requirements usually depend on the purpose of the visit, length of stay, and the host country’s laws, customs, and embassy policies. The criteria also vary depending on the type of the visa required.

Limitations of OCI

While OCI cards have numerous benefits, they also have certain limitations. They do not allow you to vote, run for public office, or work in specific government jobs like the police or army.

Visa Requirements and Cost

Visa application fees and costs vary, depending on the embassy where the application is submitted, which could range from USD 100 to USD 250. Some countries offer a partial or complete fee waiver in specific scenarios such as travel for a cultural or charitable reason.

Currently, the application fee for OCI is USD 275 (inclusive of taxes), and additional fees will be charged in specific scenarios like re-issuing, change in personal information, etc.

Application Process

The OCI application process is relatively straightforward and can be done online. Once the application has been accepted, it is generally processed within 4-8 weeks. On the other hand, the visa application process can take more than two months, depending on the host destination and the embassy.


In conclusion, the OCI card and Visa are different. An OCI card is a form of dual citizenship that has several advantages, like visa-free entry to India and access to education and employment opportunities. On the other hand, a Visa is a temporary permit that allows an individual to enter and stay in a foreign country for a specific period and purpose.

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Applying for OCI is a long but straightforward process. It might be an excellent option for people who want to visit India regularly or pursue long-term education, business or employment opportunities. While a Visa is time-bound, requiring regular renewals, they are useful for people who are looking for short-term tours or work opportunities.


How long does it take to apply for an OCI?

The OCI application process usually takes 4-8 weeks.

What are the costs for OCI and Visa?

OCI application costs USD 275 (inclusive of taxes) and additional fees for specific requests. Visas cost varies depending on the type and length of stay.

Can OCI Holders vote in India?

OCI holders do not have the fundamental right to vote, contest elections, and hold Constitutional offices such as the President, Vice President, or judges.

About the Author

Latasha W. Bolt

Latasha is a travel writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a degree in journalism and has been traveling the world since she was a teenager. Latasha is experienced in navigating the visa and passport application process and shares her knowledge and experiences on the blog. Her articles are personal and engaging, providing readers with a unique perspective on the joys and challenges of international travel.

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