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Indian Polity / Citizenship

Methods of Acquiring Citizenship in India


    Parliament of India has the authority to take decision on various methods of acquiring citizenship in India. Though Articles 5 to 11 were related to citizenship of India in Indian Constitution, they are not comprehensive. The Indian Constitution left the job to the Parliament for making rules and regulations to get the Indian nationality and termination of its citizenship. And accordingly the Citizenship Act, 1955 prescribes various methods of obtaining Indian nationality from the date, 26th January, 1950. Though India does not allow for dual citizenship, it issues Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status to foreign citizens of Indian origin to reside and work here.

    Modes of Acquiring Citizenship in India

    Amendments were being made to the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 from time to time to include and exclude some clauses regarding Indian citizenship and the Act was amended in 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015 and 2019. The following list enumerates the ways of acquiring citizenship in India or in how many ways Indian nationality can be acquired.

    Citizenship by Birth

    • Every individual, who was born in India on or after January 26, 1950 but before July 1, 1987, will be a citizen of this country by birth no matter the citizenship of his or her parents.

    • If born in India on or after 1st July, 1987 and before 3rd December, 2004, the individual will become a citizen only when either of his or her parent was a citizen of India at the time of his or her birth. This clause is included later keeping in mind the refugees of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.

    • If an individual is born in India on or after 3rd December, 2004 will be a citizen only if both the parents are citizens of India or one of his or her parents is a citizen of India and the remaining one is not an illegal immigrant.

    • Of all the methods of acquiring citizenship in India, citizenship by birth is the most common way of getting Indian nationality.

    Citizenship by Descent

    • An individual born outside India on or after 26th January, 1950 but before the date, 10th December, 1992 will be a citizen of India only if, at the time of the birth, his or her father was needed to be a citizen of India by birth. If his or her father was a citizen of India by descent, the individual's birth needs to be registered at one of the Indian Consulate within a year of his or her birth. If he fails to do so within one year, he needs to take the permission of the Central Government to register his birth.

    • An individual born outside India on or after 10th December 1992 and before 3rd December, 2004 will be a citizen of India only if, at the time of the birth, either of his or her parents was needed to be a citizen of India by birth. If either of his or her parents was a citizen of India by descent, the individual's birth needs to be registered at one of the Indian Consulate within a year of his or her birth. If he fails to do so within one year, he needs to take the permission of the Central Government to register his birth.

    • An individual born outside India on or after 3rd December, 2004, will not be a citizen of India unless his or her parents declare that the individual does not hold a passport of any other country and the individual's birth is registered at an Indian Consulate within a year of his or her birth. If he failed to register at an Indian Consulate within one year, he might have taken the permission of the Central Government to register his birth.

    Citizenship by Registration

    • Indian origin individuals who are ordinarily resident in India for a period of seven years. Out of 7 years, he or she should stay in India continuously for 12 months immediately before applying for the citizenship and the remaining period can be aggregate of 6 years in the last 8 years preceding the 12 months of stay in India.

    • Indian origin individual who is ordinarily resident in any other country or a place outside undivided India.

    • One can obtain Indian citizenship by marriage to a citizen of India. Individuals who are married to Indian citizens and who are ordinarily resident in India for a period of seven years immediately before applying for the registration.

    • Minor children of the parents who are citizens of India.

    • An individual of full age and capacity whose both the parents are registered as citizens of India.

    • An individual of full age and capacity who, himself or either of his parents, was citizen of independent India earlier and he should be residing for one year in India immediately before making an application.

    • An individual of full age and capacity who has been registered for five years as an overseas citizen of India and who has been residing for one year in India just before making an application for registration.

    • Minor children can be registered as citizens of India if the Union Government gets satisfied that there are special circumstances warranting such registrations. Each individual case will be considered separately on merits.

    Citizenship by Naturalization in India

    • Citizenship can be obtained by Naturalization. It can be acquired by a foreigner ( he must not be an illegal migrant ) who is ordinarily resident in India for a period of twelve years. Out of the 12 years, he should stay continuously for 12 months immediately before applying for the citizenship and the remaining period can be aggregate of 11 years in the last 14 years preceding the 12 months. He must also satisfy other qualifications specified in Third Schedule of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

    Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

    • In addition to the above standard methods of acquiring citizenship in India, the Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 to provide Indian nationality to the religiously persecuted minorities comprising of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who moved into India on or before 31st December, 2014.

    • The migrants of these six communities from the said countries will be accorded citizenship by naturalisation if they reside in India for 6 years, instead of the earlier prerequisite of staying for 12 years before applying.