Dual Citizenship for Indian Nationals
22 December 2003
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The Indian Parliament has recently passed a Bill granting the possibility of dual citizenship to individuals of Indian origin. The Citizenship Bill (Amended) was passed, however, the specific regulations and requirements are still being decided.
The Bill lays out the definition of an "overseas citizen of India" as follows:
- the individual must be of Indian origin and a citizen of a different specified country,
- OR the individual was a citizen of India immediately before becoming a citizen of a specified country and is registered as an overseas citizen of India by the Central Government.
- the overseas citizen will not enjoy rights of a citizen of India and will not have the right to equal opportunity employment in public positions, will not have voting rights, etc.
In addition to overseas citizenship, the Bill has a section on the issuance of national identity cards, which states that the Government may register every citizen of India and issue national identity cards. The Government is also allowed to maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens and establish a National Registration Authority for this purpose.
On the other hand, the new law will help to facilitate such processes as:
- re-acquiring Indian citizenship by adults who are children of Indian citizens and former Indian citizens.
- the bill allows for the grant of overseas citizenship of India to persons of Indian origin living in 16 specified countries and Indian citizens who choose to acquire citizenship of any of these countries at a later date.
Among the 16 countries, the United States tops the list with the highest number of people of Indian origin, followed closely by the United Kingdom and Canada.
The other 14 specified countries are: Australia, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland.
An estimated 10 to 25 per cent of the total amount of Indian nationals living in those specified countries would be eligible to apply for overseas citizenship. The Indian Government is currently working on finalising the application form, as well as determining the procedure and costs involved. The fees are expected to be reasonable.
This new law will also make the acquisition of Indian citizenship naturalization more stringent and will prevent illegal immigrants from becoming eligible for Indian citizenship.
For those who hold foreign passports, the grant of dual citizenship will help to ease travel to and from India.
The Government believes that the option of dual citizenship will improve cooperation between India and these economically more advanced countries in terms of investments and the exchange of skills and expertise. The possibility of dual citizenship will also assist in establishing links to India for younger Indian nationals living overseas who may not have as strong of ties to their homeland.