How to Get Indian Citizenship: Eligibility And Requirements

July 27, 2022

Citizenship is the legal status of a person as a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation. Articles 5 to 11 of the Indian Constitution deal with the concept of Indian citizenship. The term citizenship refers to complete membership in any State where a citizen enjoys civil and political rights as well as has a few moral obligations (Fundamental duties). 

This is an important concept to understand and read for the IAS test polity and governance parts. With the recent Citizenship Amendment Bill in the press, the issue of citizenship has taken on added significance.

According to the Citizenship Act of 1955, there are four ways a person can acquire citizenship of India:-

  • Birth
  • Descent
  • Registration and
  • Naturalisation.

Sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Citizenship Act of 1955 contain provisions for this. Let’s discuss the eligibility and requirements in each of them in detail.

By Birth

  • If a person is born in Indian territory, he is a citizen of India.
  • A person born on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987, regardless of parents’ citizenship. It is known as jus soli (right of soil).
  • A person who was born on or after July 1, 1987, but before December 3, 2004. At the moment of birth, either of the person’s parents must be an Indian citizen. It is known as jus sanguinis (right of blood or descent).

Citizenship is awarded to a person based on the Indian nationality of any of the parents, regardless of where the kid was born.

  • A person who was born on or after December 3, 2004. At the moment of birth, both parents of the kid must be Indian citizens.
  • A person cannot obtain Indian citizenship if one of his parents is an envoy (foreign diplomat), enemy alien, or illegal immigrant.

Note: According to the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2016, an illegal immigrant is anyone who enters India without a valid passport, a false passport, or remains beyond the duration of a Visa permit.

By Descent

  • A person born outside India on or after January 26, 1950, but before December 10, 1992, is considered an Indian citizen. However, his father must be an Indian citizen at the time of his birth.
  • If a person is born on or after December 10, 1992, but before December 3, 2004, either parent (mother or father) must be an Indian citizen.

Following the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2003, the government issued an order declaring that a child born should not be considered Indian just because of his ancestry. The government made birth registration mandatory within one year of birth. The government can extend its time limit if needed.

By Registration

  • If a person of Indian origin was generally a resident of India for seven years prior to applying for registration.
  • If a person is married to an Indian citizen and has lived in India for seven years prior to making the registration application.
  • If a person is a minor and both of his or her parents are Indian citizens.
  • A person who was a citizen of India before independence and has lived in India for a year before applying for registration.
  • If a person is registered as an overseas citizen of India (a foreigner of Indian descent who is granted the right to work and live in India’s territory) and has lived there for one year prior to completing the application for registration.

By Naturalization

  • Citizenship is obtained by applying to the central government.
  • The criteria in the third schedule of this act must be met before a person can be granted citizenship.
  • The person to whom the citizenship certificate is to be granted must be of good character, must be fluent in any of the languages listed in the Indian Constitution’s eighth schedule, must not be an illegal migrant, and must have relinquished previous citizenship.
  • The applicant must have resided (lived) in India for 11 years in the previous 14 years, plus one year immediately preceding the application.