In 2004, the Government of India launched the National Pension System (NPS). Under this pension scheme, working individuals can create a retirement corpus by making yearly deposits in their working years. Initially, this scheme was explicit to government employees, but later it was opened to employees from every sector in the economy. 

Through the National Pension System, individuals can make yearly deposits in a profitable avenue that would yield market-linked returns. Such returns would accumulate into a substantial corpus that individuals can utilise to support their post-retirement life. For subscribing to NPS, individuals need to possess a Permanent Retirement Account against which they are allotted a Permanent Retirement Account Number card or PRAN card.  

What is PRAN?

The Permanent Retirement Account Number is a unique 12-digit number that is allotted to each NPS subscriber. A single individual can only have one PRAN at a time. This number remains active for the lifetime of a subscriber and is accessible from any location within India. 

Furthermore, every NPS subscriber must mandatorily hold a PRAN. They can also optionally hold a PRAN card, i.e. the physical copy of PRAN. 

Under a Permanent Retirement Account, a subscriber can hold two types of accounts – Tier I and Tier II. 

The former account type is mandatory under NPS. A subscriber needs to make their yearly contributions for retirement funds in this account. Therefore, an individual cannot withdraw the sum from their Tier-I account before retirement. 

The latter account type is a voluntary savings account. Therefore, an account holder can withdraw from it anytime they want. Furthermore, it does not enjoy any tax benefits; whereas the balance in a Tier-I account is subject to a tax deduction. 

How to Apply for a PRAN?

Individuals can apply for a PRAN card, both online and offline. Both processes are discussed below. 

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  • Offline method

In the offline method, individuals need to visit a PoP or Point of Presence empanelled under the National Pension System (NPS). There they need to fill out the PRAN card application form that is the NPS Application Form Annexure S1. The contents of the PRAN card application form are –

  • Applicant’s personal details
  • Applicant’s employment details
  • Applicant’s nomination details
  • Details of the scheme
  • Subscriber’s declaration to the Pension Regulatory Fund and Development Authority (PRFDA)

After filling out the PRAN application form, the applicant needs to submit it to the concerned official.  

  • Online method

An NPS subscriber can open a Permanent Retirement Account online by visiting the National Securities Depository Limited’s (NSDL) official website. It is the NPS-registered Central Record-keeping Agency (CRA) and acts as the portal for all NPS-related activities. 

Individuals can apply for NSDL PRAN using either their PAN or Aadhaar number. Both the methods are enumerated below. 

1. PRAN application using PAN

An applicant must keep the following points in mind when applying for a PRAN card via PAN – 

  • For application via PAN, an applicant needs to have a bank account with an empanelled Bank for KYC verification. 
  • The bank that such an applicant chooses during the registration process will conduct the KYC verification. 
  • Applicants should also note that the name and address they provide during registration shall match the respective bank’s records. 
  • Applicants need to fill up all the mandatory details online.
  • Applicants must upload scanned copies of PAN card and a cancelled cheque.
  • Applicants need to upload their signature and photograph by scanning it.
  • Following that, applicants will be redirected to a payment portal for payment towards their National Pension System account. 
  • They have the option to Print and Courier the registration form to CRA or eSign it. 

Additionally, the contributions made in PRA are credited in T+2 days, i.e. two days from the date of payment. 

2. PRAN application using Aadhaar card

Under this method, the KYC verification is done via an OTP. This OTP is sent to the mobile number that is registered and recorded in the Aadhaar database. Following confirmation, all applicant details recorded in the Aadhaar database are auto-populated in the online form. 

An applicant needs to fill the other details in that application form and then upload his/her scanned signature. After that, such an applicant would be routed to the payment portal to conclude the application process. 

Documents Required for PRAN Card Application

The documents that are required for PRAN card application are – 

  • PAN 
  • Aadhaar card
  • Scanned copy of a cancelled cheque
  • Scanned signature
  • Scanned photograph
  • Scanned passport – it is mandatory for NRI applicants

How to Track the Status of PRAN Card Dispatch?

Usually, concerned authorities dispatch a PRAN card to the respective nodal office within 20 days from the date of receipt of the duly filled registration form by a CRA-FC office. 

Therefore, an applicant can contact their respective nodal office concerning their PRAN card status. Alternatively, they can also track their PRAN card’s status online. For that, they need to visit the NPS-NSDL portal by searching “Track the status of PRAN Card”. 

Upon visiting the website, they need to enter their PRAN and the captcha and click “Submit”. Thereby, the applicant can view the status of their PRAN card. 

Activation of PRAN Card

The most straightforward way to activate a PRAN card is by electronically signing that document via the “eSign” option. In case an applicant has applied for a PRAN card through Aadhaar number then they can activate their PRAN card via the following steps – 

  1. Choose the “eSign” option from the “eSign / Print and Courier” page.
  2. An OTP will be sent to such an applicant’s Aadhaar-registered mobile number for PRAN card activation.
  3. Such an applicant needs to populate the field with that OTP.

After OTP verification, the applicant’s PRAN card will be activated, and he/she will receive a confirmation regarding the same. The activation process might incur a nominal charge. 

How to Print e-PRAN?

Applicants can choose to have a printed PRAN card couriered to them via the “Print and Courier” option from the “eSign / Print and Courier” page.  Alternatively, they can print the e-PRAN. 

For that, applicants need to login to their NPS account and select the “Print e-PRAN” option. They can also initiate an e-PRAN card download to keep a digitised copy on their mobile phones. 

It is essential to be in possession of this PRAN card as it is linked to one’s NPS account. Furthermore, it is one of the essential documents required for submission, when one makes a claim from their NPS account post-retirement.

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