What is Citizenship? Modes of acquiring citizenship in India

What is Citizenship? Modes of acquiring citizenship in India
What is Citizenship? Modes of acquiring citizenship in India



With the decline in the standard of living and the overall economic welfare of the citizens of many countries of the world, the acclaimed developed economies are faced with the challenge of either curtailing the menace of mass exodus or playing the big brother role to the countries and the citizens of such countries of distress.

Migration from one country to another may not only be due to economic hardship, although, it is a major contributing factor. But, it may be due to affluence and the perceived change in status.

India and some developing economies have witnessed with great dismay how her citizens especially in the sports and entertainment industry seek for a United States or a United Kingdom identity once they rise to fame.

This is a little way of either searching for better living condition, seeking refuge, or moving on to greener pastures.  The continued stay of such persons has occasioned some significant hybrid of citizenship and identity such as Indian-American, African-American, Italian-American.


This study shall discuss the concept of citizenship under the Indian legal system, in the following headings:

  1. What is citizen/citizenship?
  2. What makes one an Indian, alternatively what circumstances make a person an Indian citizen?
  3. The applicable laws on citizenship in India

What is Citizen/Citizenship?

Citizenship is a status where someone is seen as an integral part of a given sovereign entity. It is the grant and recognition of this status that inures such person not minding the prevailing circumstance, to stand in defense of the sovereign entity where he is afforded citizenship.

From the foregoing, a citizen is a person who is recognized and afforded full right by a sovereign entity.

The mere fact that a person has lived for a very long period in a given country does not confer the status of a citizen on such person unless a law expressly provides for such as a mode of acquiring citizenship.


What Makes One an Indian, Alternatively What Circumstances Make a Person an Indian Citizen?

The Constitution of India has elaborate provisions governing the various forms a person may become an Indian citizen. These forms of acquiring citizenship are:

Citizenship by Domicile

Domicile is a (mental) permanent place of abode for a person seeking to be accorded the status and privileges of a citizen. For one to be accorded such status, it must be very vital and be first determined.

Domicile is of two (2) categories namely:

  1. Domicile by Birth.
  2. Domicile by Choice.

The condition which must be fulfilled by a person in order to succeed in his quest for the grant of citizenship based on domicile is as follows:

  1. The Applicant for the grant of citizenship by domicile must be born within the territory of India.
  2. One or both of the applicant’s parents must be born within the territory of India.
  3. The applicant must have (without the anticipation of seeking) been ordinarily residing in India for a period not less than five years prior to the coming into force of the India Constitution.

 Citizenship by Birth

The birth of a person in India shall confer citizenship on such person:

  1. If the birth of such person relying on birth to claim citizenship in India occurred on or immediately after the 26th day of January 1950 but not later than before the 1st day of July 1987.
  2. If the person was born in India on or immediately after the 1st day of July 1987, provided that he was born before the 7th  day of July 2004 and one or both of his parents is or are a citizen(s) of India at the time of his birth.
  3. If the birth of such person relying on circumstances of birth to lay claim to citizenship in India occurred after the 7th day of July 2004 but his parents are citizens of India or one of whose parents is a citizen of India and while the other lawfully resides in India at the time of the birth.

Citizenship by birth which is afforded to a person who fulfilled the above requirement shall not be granted on a person who does any of the following:

  1. Either his Father or Mother enjoys immunity from judicial proceeding akin to the diplomatic immunity available by an envoy of a foreign sovereign power accredited under fiat or warrant of the President of India and he or she, as the case may be, is not a Citizen of India.
  2. Either his Father or Mother is an enemy or alien and the birth of the Applicant took place in a place overrun and under occupation the enemy or alien.

Citizenship by Descent

Where a person can acquire citizenship in India by descent under the following instances:

  1. If the person was born on or after the 26th day of January 1950, but prior to the 10th day of December 1992 and his Father is a Citizen of India at the time of his birth.
  2. If the person was born on or after the 10th day of December 1992, and one or both  parents is a Citizen of India at the time of his birth.

It is emphasized that where the father of a person referred to in clause (a) was a Citizen of India by descent only, that person shall not be a accorded the status of a Citizen of India by virtue of this section unless;

The birth of such person is registered at an Indian Consulate within one (1) year of its occurrence or the commencement of this Act, whichever is later, or with the authorization  of the Central Government.

The father of the person seeking to be accorded citizenship by descent is, at the time of his birth, in service under a Government in India

Citizenship by Registration

This can be acquired in the following ways:

  1. If the person is of Indian origin, whose parents (or one of the parents) was born in India prior to the division with Pakistan and has been resident in India for seven (7) years.
  2. If the person is of Indian origin who lives in any country or which is not the territory of India.
  3. If the person contracted a marriage with a citizen of India who is resident in India for a period not below five (5) years.
  4. A person is yet to attain the age of majority under the Indian laws but his parents are Indian citizens.
  5. A citizen of Singapore who is resident in India for five years
  6. A citizen of Canada who is resident in India for eight (8) years respectively.

Citizenship by Naturalization

This form of acquisition of citizenship status in India is applicable to foreigners who are ordinarily resident in India for a minimum of twelve (12) years.

Renunciation of Citizenship

Having substantially mirrored the concept of citizenship, the rights, and privileges incidental to it, it is important to state that the discussion on citizenship will not be effectively discussed without mentioning that citizenship can be renounced.

Where a citizen of a sovereign entity for whatever reason intends to renounce his citizenship to the said sovereign state, it must be in accordance with the following circumstances:

By declaration:

Where a citizen of India (of full age and capacity), makes a declaration renouncing his Indian Citizenship, the declaration shall be registered by the designated authority and immediately after the registration of such registration, that person shall forthwith cease to be a Citizen of India.

Where the declaration renouncing the citizen is made during the war, the declaration shall be expressed and registered only on the approval of the central government.

By Marriage:

Where a married couple renounces their citizenship in India, every child of that couple who is yet to be of full age shall also cease to be a Citizen of India.

But nothing precludes a child within one (1) year after attaining full age makes a declaration expressing the intention to resume Indian citizenship and if the declaration is approved, he shall become a Citizen of India.

Cessation  of Citizenship

There are circumstances which may arise and divest a person of his status and rights as a Citizen of India and these circumstances are as follows:

  1. Where a citizen of India by the following
    1. Naturalization,
    2. Registration

acquires or has at any time between the 26th January 1950 and the Citizenship Act voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country. On the effect of the new citizenship acquired, the person will accordingly cease to be a Citizen of India.

However, in the wartime (and India is engaged in the war), a person who assumed the citizenship of another country shall not be inquired into unless at the instance of the central government.

Where the status of a person’s citizenship as an Indian is challenged, the presiding authority where the citizenship of such person is in dispute shall be at liberty to adopt any form of proceeding and evidence in order to ascertain and make a decision on the citizenship of the person challenged.

The Applicable Laws On Citizenship In India

The principal enactments as seen from the entire discussion above which governs citizenship in India is the Citizenship Act of 1955 and the Constitution of India.


Efforts have been made in this study to render an acceptable definition of citizen and citizenship, the various forms of acquiring citizenship were discussed as well as the limitations and the procedure for renunciation of citizenship.

It should be noted that, Citizenship is the basic identity of a person on a global scale. However, the call on upholding humanity should rank over and above the citizenship and other concepts like race, tribe, and ethnicity.

The concept of citizenship with the globalization and fusion of State sovereignty through various international organizations which India is a State party to, has shown that the era of preserving nationality with undue attachment is long overdue.

Identity and citizenship at the rate of globalization should at least be ascribed on the regional union like the EU, AU, etc.


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