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Acquiring Indian Citizenship

In India, laws relating to citizenship or nationality are mainly governed by the provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution of India provides for single citizenship. Citizenship in India is largely characterized as jus sanguinis and a person can become a citizen by birth, descent, registration and naturalization. Article 5 to 11 of Indian Constitution deals with the regulation of citizenship at the commencement of Constitution. The Citizenship Act regulates the acquisition, determination and termination of Indian citizenship after the commencement of the Constitution.

How to Apply:

The government has made the application process online. After successful registration, copy of Citizenship application form with an online registration number/ file number will be printed. This application, complete in all respects, along with all relevant enclosures (documents as per the eligibility criterion) have to be submitted to the appropriate office as per the jurisdiction of the applicant.

Once the competent authority decides to accept the citizenship application, the applicant will be issued an in-principle acceptance letter. On receiving the said acceptance letter, the applicant has to fill the relevant form and thereafter submit few additional documents like certificate evidencing renunciation of previous citizenship at the office of the District Collector.

Diferent crtierias for acquiring the indian citizenship:

  • Citizenship by birth: According to the 1955 Act, a person born in India on or after January 26, 1950, and before July 1, 1987, is a citizen by birth “irrespective of the nationality of his parents. A person born in India on or after July 1, 1987, but before December 3, 2004, “is considered a citizen of India by birth if either of his parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.” A person born in India on or after December 3, 2004, is considered citizen of India by birth “if both the parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth.
  • Citizenship by Descent: Different time periods are also important in determining citizenship by descent. A person born outside of India on or after January 26, 1950, but before December 10, 1992, is a citizen of India by descent, “if his father was a citizen of India by birth at the time of his birth.” However, if the father was a citizen of India by descent only, "that person shall not be a citizen of India, unless his birth is registered at an Indian Consulate within one year from the date of birth or with the permission of the Central Government, after the expiry of the said period."

    Secondly, a person born outside of India on or after December 10, 1992, but before December 3, 2004, is considered a citizen of India "if either of his parents was a citizen of India by birth at the time of his birth." If either of the parents was a citizen of India by descent, that person is not considered a citizen of India, "unless his birth is registered at an Indian Consulate within one year from the date of birth or with the permission of the Central Government, after the expiry of the said period."

    Thirdly, a person born outside of India to an Indian citizen parent on or after December 3, 2004, is not a citizen of India, "unless the parents declare that the minor does not hold passport of another country and his birth is registered at an Indian consulate within one year of the date of birth or with the permission of the Central Government, after the expiry of the said period."
  • Citizenship by Registration: Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) can also be registered as Indian citizens. Section 5 of the Citizenship Act stipulates that the Central Government can register as a citizen, on application, a person (who is not an illegal immigrant) who belongs to the following categories, namely,
  1. a person of Indian origin who is ‘ordinarily resident’ in India for seven years before making an application;

  2. a person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in any country or place outside undivided India;

  3. a person who is married to a citizen of India and is ‘ordinarily resident’ in India for seven years before making an application for registration;

  4. minor children of persons who are citizens of India;

  5. a person of full age and capacity whose parents are registered as citizens of India;

  6. a person of full age and capacity who was (or has a parent who was) previously a citizen of independent India, and who has been residing in India for one year immediately before making an application for registration; and

  7. a person of full age and capacity who has been registered as an overseas citizen of India for five years, and who has been residing in India for twelve months before making an application for registration.
  • Citizenship by Naturalization: In India, citizenship by naturalization can be acquired by “a foreigner (not illegal migrant) who is ordinarily resident in India for twelve years (throughout the period of twelve months immediately preceding the date of application and for eleven years in the aggregate in the fourteen years preceding the twelve months).” The applicant must also meet the qualifications specified in the Third Schedule of the Act. These requirements, however, can be waived if “in the opinion of the Central Government, the applicant is a person who has rendered distinguished services to the cause of science, philosophy, art, literature."

    The person to whom a certificate of naturalization is granted shall, “on taking an oath of allegiance in the form specified in the Second Schedule, be a citizen of India by naturalization as from the date on which that certificate is granted.”

Documents to be submitted:

It includes valid foreign passport, valid visa/ residential permit (in case application is submitted in India), proof of Indian origin document and any other necessary document depending on the relevant provision under which the application has been made.

Termination of citizenship:

Any citizen of India who by naturalization, registration otherwise voluntarily acquires or has at any time between the 26th January 1950 and the citizenship act voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country shall, upon such acquisition or, as the case may be, such commencement, cease to be a citizen of India – provided that nothing applies to a citizen of India who, during any war in which India may be engaged, voluntarily acquires, the citizenship of another country, until the Central Government otherwise directs.

If any question arises as to whether, when or how any citizen of India has acquired the citizenship of another country, it shall be determined by such authority, in such manner, and having regard to such rules of evidence, as may be prescribed in this behalf.

Introduction of a NEW Bill For illegal immigrants

On July 19, 2016, the government introduced a bill to amend certain provisions of the citizenship act, 1955. The bill has now been referred to the joint select committee of the Parliament. The object of the proposed Bill is to enable Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis and Christians who have fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh without valid travel documents, or those whose valid travel documents have expired in recent years, to acquire Indian citizenship by the process of naturalization. Under the Bill, such persons shall not be treated as illegal immigrants for the purpose the Citizenship Act. In another amendment, the aggregate period of residential qualification for the process of citizenship by naturalization of such persons is proposed to be reduced from 11 years to six years. A large number of people who will otherwise be illegal immigrants can now have a sigh of relief if the Bill goes through as they will be eligible to become citizens of the country.

A person is illegal migrant under two circumstances:

  • If they come to India without valid travel documents, like visa or a passport.
  • They have come legally but have stayed beyond the time period permitted to them under their travel documents.

In India, illegal entry and overstay are criminally prohibited. A person who contravenes this prohibition is shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 months or fine or both.

This Amendment has become a matter of discussion as the Bill is differentiating among illegal migrants based on religion, as it does not cover illegal migrants who are Muslims or who belong to other minority communities such as Jews and Bahais from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.


- As on 1st July 2019