India and Dual citizenship

For those considering retirement to another country, the best immigration option is dual citizenship. The catch, of course, is that not many countries allow this.

Countries that allow dual citizenship, such as Australia and the US, allow their citizens to become citizens of other nations. For example, an Australian citizen can become a citizen of the US, while still keeping his or her Australian citizenship.

A common misconception among those who read news in the Indian media is that India now allows dual citizenship. Unfortunately, this is not true. What India does allow (only for people who are Indian by descent) is a status called Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). Note that the word "dual" is missing.

India does not allow dual citizenship, and there doesn't seem to be any plan to allow this in the future either. If you hold an Indian passport and become the citizen of any other country, your Indian passport immediately becomes invalid. Yes, you can then apply for OCI status, but it is not at all the same as being an Indian citizen. It is roughly analogous to a permanent residency status.

Overseas citizens get the following benefits:

1. A lifelong multiple-entry visa for traveling to India.
2. Permission to stay indefinitely in India without having to "report" to any authorities.

For those considering retirement or a long stay in India, OCI is a good status to be in, and I am glad that this option is available.

By the way, one could argue that even the US does not allow dual citizenship. This is because when you become a naturalized American citizen, you are required to take an oath where you renounce your allegiance to all other nations.

Here is the exact text of the relevant portion of the oath:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.

So even if India did allow you to keep your Indian passport, it would be difficult to claim with a clear conscience that you are a "dual" citizen when you have formally renounced all allegiance to India.

Related links:

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well.. with conscience yes.. But US respects your dual nationality if you already hold another passport.. and the passport does not become invalid automatically like it happens with the indian govt. policies.. when you are in the US, it considers you a US citizen no matter what.. I wish the Indian govt. would allow dual citizenship in the true sense

hilton said...

please help me on this...im a south african citizen, born and raised here. my parents and grandparents were also born in south africa.only my great granparents were citizens of India.im classified as indian in my country.do i qualify for that OCI?please respond to me hiltonnaidoo@polka.co.za

Anonymous said...

Mode details on OCI can be found here: http://www.indianembassy.org/consular/Overseas_Citizen/OCI.html

Nigel said...

hilton,
You may not qualify for OCI since your parents and grandparents were not Indian citizens. You may, however, qualify for the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) status since your great grandparents were Indian citizens. PIO is more limited compared to OCI so I'm not sure if this will meet your needs.

Anonymous said...

I am a little confused. If you are an american with American ancestry, is it possible to become a indian citizen and remain with American passport? If not what if you marry a Indian?

Nigel said...

Anon,
If you do not have any Indian ancestry, you cannot be an Indian citizen (either regular or overseas). If you marry a person of Indian descent, you may be eligible for the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) status which allows you to stay in India for up to 15 years.

See also my post on Retirement visa to India for non-Indians.

Anonymous said...

Hi all.. I have a question - I am an Indian Citizen, however, I am eligible to qualify as an Australian citizen as I have been in Aus long enough to be eligible to get the citizenship. If I get the OCI status and then go live in India in the long run would it be a wise move? Any Sugesstions

Anonymous said...

WORD OF ADVICE TO THE GUY WHO WANTS TO BE AN AUSI CITIZEN THAN FILE FOR OCI AND GO TO INDIA FOR GOOD.
Do not be a FOOL. You came to Australia to make a good life for your self so stay in Australia. Go to India only for vacation. You left India because you wanted to make a good life for your self. There is too much competition in India because there is a big population with fewer amenities. There is a big line for every thing. The money earned in India is not much. History has shone for most Indians that the standard of living of every Indian has improved when they went abroad. This is why millions of Indians leave India soon after graduation. You can get the OCI once you get your Ausi Citizenship and use it as if it as a life long Visa and may be use to retire once you have made a lot of money.It will take 20 years for India to reach the standatd of living atained in Australia.

Anonymous said...

The post about a person of non Indian origin not being able to become an Indian citizen is incorrect. Anyone, reagrdless of national origin can become an Indian citizen after living in India for the requsite number of years just like most other countries. You would lose your other citizenship accoring to Indian law as India doesn't allow dual citizenship.