The National Pension System (NPS) is a government-backed retirement savings program. It was introduced in 2004, and is regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA). The NPS is open to all Indian citizens aged 18 to 65 years (except military personnel), and aims to provide a pension income to individuals during their retirement years. You can choose from multiple investment options, such as equity, corporate bonds, and government securities, and also have the flexibility to switch between funds.
The NPS offers tax benefits, with contributions eligible for deduction under Section 80CCD (1) of the Income Tax Act (under the old regime). Upon retirement, you can withdraw a portion of your accrued amount as a lump sum, and utilise the balance to purchase an annuity for regular pension income. Additionally, you must have a Permanent Retirement Account to subscribe to NPS. Upon subscribing to NPS, you will receive a unique 12-digit code, which is your Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN).
The PRAN is similar to a bank account number, and is used to identify different accounts. You can also opt to receive a physical copy of your PRAN details in the form of a PRAN card.
You can apply for a PRAN card either offline or online.
Offline Application: If you wish to apply for a PRAN card offline, you must visit your nearest point of presence (POP) empanelled under NPS. These POPs can carry out NPS-related activities, such as receiving applications for PRAN cards.
You must submit the duly filled application form – annexure S1 at the POP. You are required to provide the following details.
Your personal details
Your employment details
Your nomination details
Declaration to PFRDA
Once you submit the application, the POP will forward it for inspection. Once completed, the PRAN card will be sent to your registered address.
Online Application: You can also apply for the PRAN card online by heading over to the National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) website. You can apply for the PRAN card while registering for NPS itself. Furthermore, you can use either your Aadhaar Card or your PAN Card to submit your application.
You will require the following documents while applying for the PRAN card online.
Scanned copy of a cancelled cheque
If you are an NRI applicant, you have to submit a scanned copy of your passport
If you are using your Aadhaar Card, ensure that it is linked to your mobile number to receive the OTP. The details are collected from the Aadhaar database, and the KYC verification will be done via the OTP. All the details will be auto-populated in the form, and you can fill in any other information that may be required. You must then upload your signature, and you will be redirected to the payment portal to finish the process.
If you want to apply online using your PAN Card instead, your details will be procured from your bank account. However, your bank may charge you a nominal fee. You must ensure that your current details, such as your address, match your bank’s records. In this process, you must fill the additional details in the application form, and upload copies of your PAN Card and a cancelled cheque. You should also upload your photograph and signature before being redirected to the payment portal.
While applying for the PRAN card online using your PAN Card, you can print and courier the form to CRA or eSign it.
Once you finish the application process, you can track your PRAN card’s status by contacting your nodal office. Alternatively, you can check your PRAN status online by visiting the NPS-NSDL portal, and clicking on ‘Track the status of PRAN card’. You will be prompted to enter your PRAN and captcha, and you can then see the status of your PRAN card.
You can activate your PRAN card by e-signing the document using the ‘eSign’ option. However, if you apply for the card using your Aadhaar Card, you must follow these steps to activate your PRAN card.
Step 1: Select ‘eSign’ from the ‘eSign / Print and Courier’ page.
Step 2: You will receive an OTP on your mobile number linked to your Aadhaar Card.
Step 3: Provide the OTP to activate your PRAN card.
You can also have the printed PRAN card couriered using the ‘Print and Courier’ option on the ‘eSign / Print and Courier’ page. Otherwise, you can print the e-PRAN by logging into your NPS account, and selecting the ‘Print e-PRAN’ option. You can also start the e-PRAN card download to keep a copy on your smartphone.
Under the National Pension System, every central government employee (except for the armed forces) is registered and assigned a PRAN. Even state governments (except West Bengal) and several companies have adopted NPS for their employees. The Central Recordkeeping Agency (CRA) generates and maintains a unique PRAN for individual subscribers.
Thus, you can only possess one PRAN at any given time, and it will remain active for the remainder of your life. Furthermore, it is portable; that is, you can access it from any part of the country.
Under PRAN, the subscriber can have two types of accounts.
Tier-I: This is a non-withdrawable account, and is compulsory under NPS. It has a lock-in period until you turn 60, and you would be required to make the payment every year.
Tier-II: This is a voluntary savings account, and offers liquidity of investments and withdrawals. That is, you can withdraw the amount whenever you want. However, you cannot enjoy tax rebates, as the balance is subject to tax deductions.
Having a physical copy of your PRAN in the form of a PRAN card is highly beneficial and convenient. Depending on your preference, you can apply for the PRAN card offline or online. You can also download the e-PRAN card and keep a digital copy on your smartphone.