How does one become an Indian citizen ?
Articles 5 to 9 of the Indian Consitution deal with the issue of who is entitled to citizenship. ( It was enacted in 1949 and came into effect in 1950.) Article 9 stipulates that any Indian citizen accepting citizenship of a foreign country automatically ceases to be an Indian citizen. Article 10 guarantees the continuance of citizenship once acquired and article 11 clarifies that Parliament will have the right to regulate citizenship. The Citizenship Act, 1955 details the various ways in which a person can become an Indian citizen. Essentially, this is possible by virtue of birth, descent, by registration or naturalisation. The Citizenship Amendment Act of 2003 added a further category of overseas Indian citizens, who however will not have all the rights of full-fledged citizens.
Does being born in India automatically make you an Indian citizen ?
Not quite. It depends on when you are born. Under 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. If you were born in India on or after July 1, 1987 and before January 7, 2004, at least one of your parents must have been a citizen of India at the time of your birth for you to qualify as a citizen by birth. Those born in India on or after January 7, 2004 are citizens by birth only if both parents were citizens of India or one parent was a citizen and the other was not an illegal migrant at the time of their birth.
How does one acquire Indian citizenship by descent ?
Again, when you were born matters. A person born outside India on or after January 26, 1950 but before December 10, 1992 is a citizen by descent if his father was a citizen at the time of his birth. For those born outside India on or after December 10, 1992 and before January 7, 2004, either parent being a citizen at the time of their birth confers citizenship by descent. Those born outside India after January 7, 2004 are not citizens, unless their birth was registered at an Indian consulate within a year of the date of birth or with the permission of the government, after the expiry of this period.
Who can acquire citizenship by registration ?
Citizenship by registration can be acquired by persons of Indian Origin ( PIO’s) whose (or either of whose) parents were born in undivided India and who are ordinarily resident in India for seven years; by PIO’s who are residents in any country outside India, or who are or have been married to a citizen of India and who currently resident in India for five years, or minor children both of whose parents are Indian citizens, or citizens of Singapore or Canada who are resident in India for five years and eight years respectively.
How does one become a naturalised citizen ?
Citizenship by naturalisation can be acquired by a foreigner who is ordinarily resident in India for 12 years ( continuously for the 12 months preceding the date of application and for a total of 11 years in the 14 years preceding the 12 months).
Can citizenship be terminated once it has been acquired ?
Yes. Under section 9(1) of the 1955 Act, a person ceases to be a citizen of India if he or she voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country. Also, under section 10, anyone who has become a citizen of India by naturalisation or by registration due to marriage to an Indian citizen can be deprived of the citizensship by the home ministry for certain reasons.