India is the most populous country in the world, home to over 1.4 billion people as of spring 2023. And this figure is projected to rise. According to UN forecasts, the population will increase by 250 million people by 2050. This is the main reason why the Indian government is not really that interested in granting citizenship to foreigners. So it is hard to get an Indian passport.
At the same time, the International Wealth website states that India is the number one country in terms of the renunciation of citizenship. Over 600,000 people have given up Indian nationality over the past five years. This is happening due to a law adopted in 1995 which prohibits dual citizenship. Whenever Indian citizens obtain the passport of another country, they automatically forfeit their Indian citizenship. However, there are some ways to cheat. Read on to learn how to get Indian citizenship.
Actually, you cannot get dual citizenship in India. However, the Indian government, under pressure from discontented Indians abroad, launched two initiatives which enabled people to live in India without an Indian passport for an unlimited period. Now, there is only one programme left.
Persons of Indian Origin Card Scheme (PIO Card)
The PIO Card allowed foreigners of Indian descent to enter India visa-free and stay for up to 15 years.
Despite its name, not only people of Indian origin could obtain the PIO Card. The programme was also open to their relatives up to the fourth generation: children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Anyone with a PIO Card could work and study in India and buy residential or commercial properties. Unfortunately, the programme was cancelled in 2015. Then the government decided to launch an Overseas Citizenship of India Card.
Taj Mahal. Photo: Sylwia Bartyzel (Unsplash)
The Overseas Citizenship of India Card
The replacement card – the Overseas Citizenship of India Card (OCI Card) - guarantees holders lifelong visa-free entry to India for people of Indian descent.
OCI Card holders can work, study, buy real estate and open bank accounts in India, but cannot vote or hold public office here.
Individuals eligible for the OCI Card:
- relatives (children, grandchildren and others) of Indian citizens who got their passports after 26 January 1950;
- children who are still minors if one of their parents is Indian;
- the spouse of an Indian citizen or of an OCI Card holder.
People living in territories which became part of India after 1947 are also eligible for getting an OCI Card.
The list of required documents includes:
- an ID;
- a visa allowing the applicant to be in India (if applicable);
- documents confirming kinship with an Indian citizen. These may be an ID, a birth certificate, PIO or OCI Cards, as well as the documents which were used to apply for any of those cards.
To get the OCI Card by marriage, you should submit a marriage certificate, an ID or any other document proving that your spouse is of Indian descent.
The OCI Card holders have equal civil rights as Indian citizens. However, there are a few exceptions.
- You cannot take part in any elections.
- You cannot vote.
- You cannot run for public office.
- You cannot invest in agriculture.
Kolkata. Photo: Sylwia Bartyzel (Unsplash)
In a Nutshell
The Indian government is still opposed to dual citizenship, but offers opportunities to get an OCI Card. This card gives the holder almost the full set of civil rights accorded to Indian citizens. So this might be a great option if you are a foreigner who does not want to lose touch with India.
Cover photo: Pulak Bhagawati (Unsplash)