Citizenship Act: An Overview

In the sixth year of the Republic of India, Parliament passed the Citizenship Act of 1955. The broad guidelines for obtaining citizenship, obtaining citizenship abroad, and terminating citizenship are as provided under the Citizenship Act of 1955. Commonwealth Citizenship was initially included in the Citizenship Act of 1955. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2003, however, repealed this clause.


In the context of the country's proclamation of independence, it was split into two parts: Pakistan and India. The freedom to affix their nationality to any nation they chose was granted to the populace. As a result, strong rules were needed to establish India's nationality policy before the constitution took effect.

What is the Citizenship Act of 1955?

The Citizenship Act was passed by the Indian Parliament on December 30, 1955. The Act specifies guidelines for "acquiring and terminating" Indian citizenship. Parliament has the authority to make a law on citizenship according to Part II of the Indian Constitution, which states that citizenship is defined as "the beginning of the Constitution" (January 26, 1950). (For information on the topic of Part II of the Constituent Assembly Debates, consult this source.) 1985, 1992, 2003, 2005, and 2015 saw amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1955.


Major amendments are −

The Amendment Act of 1986

A person who was not born in India would be given citizenship under the terms of this amendment. However, at the time of the child's birth, at least one of the parents had to be an Indian citizen. The maximum amount of time that must pass before registering, naturalizing, or getting married to become an Indian citizen has changed.

The Amendment Act of 1992

It stated that a person would be deemed an Indian citizen if they were born after January 26, 1950, but before the beginning of this Act. However, their father had to be an Indian citizen at the time of their birth. If the person was born after the Act went into effect, he or she would be regarded as an Indian citizen if either of his or her parents was an Indian at the time of the person's birth.

The Amendment Act of 2003

This act amended the registration provisions and the rights of foreign nationals. The dual citizenship system was included.

The Amendment Act of 2005

Except for those who had been citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh, this applied to nationals of all nations. As a result of this bill, minority communities like the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis, or Christians who immigrated illegally from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan were granted Indian citizenship.

The Amendment Act of 2016

However, citizenship was not granted to Muslim groups from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan. The maximum amount of time a person must remain in India to become a citizen has been lowered from 11 years to 6 years. Minority populations like Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who immigrated illegally from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan are affected by this.

Modes of Acquiring Nationality

Citizenship by Birth

The Citizenship Act's Section 3 states that 

  • A person is eligible for citizenship by birth if they were born on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987.

  • A person is eligible to receive citizenship by birth if either of their parents is an Indian citizen or if both parents are Indian citizens.

  • It is important to prove that the other parent was not an illegal immigrant at the time of the child's birth if just one parent is an Indian citizen and the other is not. 

Citizenship by Registration

The Citizenship Act's Section 5 states that 

  • Any person of Indian descent who, before requesting registration, had lived in India for seven years.

  • A person with Indian ancestry who resides in a nation other than unbroken India.

  • Those who have been legally residing in India for at least seven years before seeking registration must be married to Indian citizens.

  • Children who are minors and who have Indian citizenship.

Citizenship by Descent

As per Section 4 

  • If a person's father was an Indian citizen by birth and they were born outside of India on or after January 26, 1950, they are Indian citizens by descent.

  • A minor covered by this clause who is also a citizen of another nation must renounce that citizenship within six months.


Section 6 states when a person who is fully grown or has reached adulthood applies for a certificate of naturalization and the Central Government determines that all requirements have been met, the person is given the certificate of naturalization. A person must take an oath by the Third Schedule to receive a certificate of citizenship by naturalization.

Indian Citizenship Abroad

  • Overseas Citizenship of India is the legal status that allows a foreign national of Indian descent to immigrate to the Republic of India and work there.

  • It was created to grant dual citizenship.

  • It was revealed by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2005.

Termination of Citizenship

Section 9 of Citizenship Act of 1995 stipulates the following conditions for citizenship termination. However, if an Indian citizen chooses to take on the citizenship of another nation during a time of war, his citizenship will not end until the Central Government orders it to.

Renunciation of Citizenship

The provisions for renunciation of citizenship have been outlined in Section 8 of the Citizenship Act of 1995.

  • After turning eighteen and both parents have ceased to be Indian citizens, the minor child has the right to select the country of his or her choice within a certain time frame.

  • The person loses their Indian citizenship after submitting to the required authority.

  • When an Indian citizen reaches the required age of maturity or capacity and desires to renounce his Indian citizenship, he may do so by registering with the appropriate government.

Dual Citizenship

  • When a person from another nation works in India and their child is born there, the child is given dual citizenship while the parent is employed there.

  • A minor of Indian descent are permitted to hold dual citizenship with India and another nation. The minor is granted dual citizenship so that they can choose their preferred country of citizenship before they reach the age of majority.


Complete participation in any society or state in which a person enjoys civil and political rights is referred to as citizenship. It is defined as a person's legal relationship with a particular state, symbolized by pledging his loyalty to the state. Following the passage of the Constitution, the Citizenship Act of 1955 regulates the acquisition and determination of citizenship. The loss of citizenship in certain situations and the renunciation of citizenship generally are covered by these regulations. The registration of overseas Indian citizens and their entitlements are also covered by these regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What exactly is citizenship abroad?

Ans. An Overseas Citizen of India is a person with Indian heritage who is legally a citizen of another nation (OCI). Even for overseas citizens, the 1955 law included regulations for registration of the Overseas Citizen Card, Overseas Citizen Rights, and renunciation and cancellation of the Overseas Citizen Card.

Q2. What are the procedures for obtaining Indian citizenship?

Ans. The following options are available for obtaining citizenship under the Citizenship Act of 1955

  • Birthright citizenship for those born in Indian territory

  • Citizenship by descent for people having Indian parents who were born outside of India

  • Registration as a citizen for those whose ancestors were Indian citizens.

  • Naturalization citizenship for those who have lived in India for a long time.

  • Citizenship by territorial incorporation (by the Government of India)

  • Special rules regarding the citizenship of those who fall under the Assam Accord

Updated on: 07-Mar-2023


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