Reviewed February 2024
India, renowned as the world’s largest democracy, takes pride in its extensive and diverse cultural heritage. Additionally, it stands out as one of the globe’s fastest-growing economies. Over the past decade, the nation has witnessed a substantial increase in the expatriate population within its borders, consistently maintaining its status as a favoured destination.
The citizens of India experience a robust standard of living, accompanied by a range of governmental rights, privileges, and assistance. In this article, Wego explores the distinct requisites and procedures governing Indian citizenship acquisition, alongside the associated advantages.
Table of Contents
India citizenship rules 2024
The regulatory framework for citizenship in India is defined by the Indian Citizenship Act, originally instituted in 1955. This legislation has undergone four subsequent amendments to align with contemporary legal requisites. The Act outlines specific criteria for conferring citizenship.
Categorized broadly, there exist four pathways to acquire Indian citizenship: through birth, descent, registration, and naturalization. To facilitate the process, the Indian government has established an online portal catering to individuals seeking to apply for Indian citizenship.
Please note, however, that the Indian government does not recognize dual citizenship. Thus, if a citizen of a foreign country wishes to acquire citizenship of India, they will be required to renounce their previous citizenship.
India citizenship by birth
Here are the requisites for acquiring Indian citizenship by virtue of birth:
- a person born in India on or after 26th January 1950 but before 1st July 1987 is considered a citizen of India by birth, regardless of the nationality of their parents
- a person born in India on or after 1st July 1987 but before 3rd December 2004 is recognized as a citizen of India by birth if at least one of their parents is a citizen of India at the time of their birth
- a person born in India on or after 3rd December 2004 is deemed a citizen of India by birth if both of their parents are Indian citizens, or if one of the parents is a citizen of India and the other parent is not an illegal migrant at the time of the child’s birth.
Please be aware that as per the Indian Constitution, an illegal immigrant refers to an individual residing in India either without a valid passport or visa or with an expired visa.
India citizenship by descent
As outlined in the Indian Citizenship Act, the requirements for acquiring citizenship through descent are as follows.
Individuals born between 26th January 1950 and 10th December 1992
- if the father was an Indian citizen by birth at the time of the person’s birth, they automatically become a citizen of India by descent
- if the father was an Indian citizen by descent only, the individual must register their birth at an Indian Consulate within one year. Alternatively, they can seek Central Government permission to register after this period.
Individuals born between 10th December 1992 and 3rd December 2004
- if at least one parent was an Indian citizen by birth when the person was born, they are recognized as a citizen of India
- if a parent was an Indian citizen by descent only, the person must register their birth at an Indian Consulate within one year. Alternatively, they can seek Central Government permission for registration beyond this timeframe.
Individuals born After 3rd December 2004
- a person born outside India is ineligible if they hold a passport from another country
- birth must be registered at an Indian consulate within one year of birth, or with Central Government permission after the one-year period.
India citizenship by registration
Indian citizenship can be obtained through registration by the following categories of individuals, provided they are not illegal immigrants. Details below:
- individuals who have been ordinarily resident in India for seven years or for six years within the eight years preceding the application are eligible to apply for citizenship
- individuals married to Indian citizens and residing in India for seven years can apply for citizenship
- minor children having both parents as Indian citizens can acquire citizenship through their parents’ application
- adults with both parents registered as Indian citizens are eligible to apply for citizenship on their own
- individuals who were citizens of independent India or whose parents held Indian citizenship can apply, provided they have resided in India for one year before applying
- individuals registered as Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) for five years and residing in India for one year prior to application can seek Indian citizenship
- persons of Indian origin living outside undivided India are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship
- minor children can be registered as Indian citizens under Section 5(4) if the Central Government identifies “special circumstances” justifying such registration. Each case will be evaluated individually.
India citizenship by naturalization
Foreigners can acquire citizenship of India through naturalization by fulfilling the following criteria:
- the individual must have resided in India for a continuous period of 12 years to be eligible for citizenship by naturalization, or for a cumulative period of 11 years within the preceding 14 years
- the individual must also be an ordinary resident for the entire 12 months preceding the application date
- the individual must satisfy all qualifications specified in the third schedule of the Citizenship Act to be eligible for naturalization
- the individual must not have been an illegal immigrant at any point during their residence in India.
India citizenship by investment
While there is no direct citizenship program enabling individuals to acquire Indian citizenship solely through investment, the Indian government has instituted a scheme to provide Permanent Residency Status (PRS) to foreign investors. To qualify for PRS through investment, foreign investors must meet the following criteria:
- invest a minimum of Rs. 10 crores within 18 months or Rs. 25 crores within 36 months through the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) route
- generate a minimum of 20 jobs for resident Indians each year
The PRS status remains valid for a duration of 10 years, featuring multiple entry privileges, with the possibility of extension for an additional 10 years. PRS holders are not constrained by any limitations on their length of stay. Consequently, living in India under PRS can ultimately create eligibility for pursuing Indian citizenship through the naturalization process.
Advantages for PRS holders include:
- exemption from the requirement to register with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Office (FRO)
- permission to acquire one residential property solely for dwelling purposes. Entitlement for the spouse and dependents of eligible foreign investors to obtain PRS status as well
- authorization for the spouse and dependents of eligible foreign investors to engage in private sector employment, without the prerequisite of a minimum annual salary of USD 25,000
- allowance for the spouse and dependents of eligible foreign investors to pursue educational endeavours in India without the need for a separate student visa
Please be aware that this scheme is not applicable to citizens of Pakistan or third-country nationals with Pakistani origins.
India citizenship amendment act
As previously stated, the Indian Citizenship Act has been subject to four amendments, occurring in 1986, 2003, 2005, and 2015. These amendments were made by the Indian Parliament to refine and redefine certain aspects of citizenship, particularly focusing on criteria related to birth.
The 1986 amendment brought about a refinement in citizenship principles, specifically addressing jus soli. Citizenship was granted to those born between 1950 and 1987, with distinct conditions applied to births after 1987.
In response to concerns surrounding unauthorized infiltration, the 2003 amendment introduced stricter criteria. For births occurring after 2004, it was mandated that both parents needed to be citizens, or alternatively, one parent must be a citizen while the other should not be an illegal migrant.
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019
The 2019 amendment, known as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, proposed unique provisions for certain communities from neighbouring countries. It aimed to reduce the mandatory residency period for obtaining citizenship and also provided exemptions from specific acts. However, this amendment generated significant controversy due to concerns raised about the treatment of Bangladeshi Hindu migrants and other related issues.
Indian citizenship online application
Individuals intending to apply for an Indian citizenship under any of the eligible criteria can do so from the Indian government’s citizenship portal.
In order to submit an application for Indian citizenship, here are the steps you need to follow:
- access the Indian government’s citizenship portal
- select the appropriate Indian Citizenship Online Form that corresponds with your situation
- after selecting the form, you will be directed to a page outlining eligibility criteria, necessary documents, and passport exemptions relevant to the chosen form. Thoroughly review this information to facilitate a seamless application process
- click on the “Apply Online” button to commence the application
- provide accurate personal, family, and address details in the comprehensive form
- upload scanned copies of your photograph and signature, and then enter the provided captcha
- once the form is complete, you can opt to review the information or proceed directly. Be aware that modifications cannot be made after final submission
- click the “Final Submit to the Ministry” button to officially submit your application
- make a note of the presented MHA file number for future reference
- proceed to upload scanned copies of the required documents
- upon completion, you have the option to “Print Application” for your records and submit a hard copy to the nearest Indian embassy.
The necessary documents for your Indian citizenship application are contingent on the type of application you are pursuing. Refer to the Required Documents section on the Indian citizenship portal, where the prerequisites are organized based on the specific form you are using.
The Indian citizenship online portal provides an option to track the progress of your online application. To verify the status, navigate to the Online Status Enquiry page on the Indian citizenship portal. You will need to enter your application’s MHA number along with a captcha code. Following this, the current status of your application will be displayed.
India citizenship benefits
Acquiring Indian citizenship brings forth a multitude of advantages that significantly enhance one’s quality of life and involvement in Indian society. These benefits encompass various personal, civic, and socio-economic dimensions.
As an Indian citizen, you are entitled to:
- participate in the democratic process and exercise your right to vote in Indian elections
- be eligible for holding public offices and governmental positions within the nation
- have the opportunity to purchase agricultural land or plantation property within the country
- access fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, including rights to life, liberty, equality, justice, and dignity
- partake in social welfare programs and government subsidies designed for the welfare of citizens
- enjoy access to quality education and affordable healthcare services
- apply for an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card if residing abroad, which comes with benefits such as visa-free entry and additional privileges for visiting India.