DUAL CITIZENSHIP FOR PERSONS OF INDIAN ORIGIN
Hello Everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week’s edition of immigration matters.
On January 8, 2002, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced that the Indian government has resolved the issue of dual citizenship for Indian living overseas.
Under present Indian law, if an Indian citizen takes up the citizenship of another country, his or her Indian citizenship is automatically voided.
A high-level committee on the Indian diaspora, headed by noted Indian jurist L.M. Singhvi, examined the long-standing demand of Indians settled abroad to be given dual citizenship. Vajpayee reacted favorably to the committee’s suggestion that dual citizenship can be extended right away to those settled in the US, UK, Canada, European mainland, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. These countries either permit or tolerate dual citizenship. Indians settled in Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Malaysia may not be entitled to dual citizenship and would have to opt for “person of Indian origin” certificates.
The US government accepts but does not wholly approve of dual citizenship. Although one of the grounds for losing US citizenship is to become a citizen of a foreign country, this provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act will only be applicable if it is done with the intention to relinquish US citizenship. In rare instances, one could lose US citizenship if the other country requires the taking of an oath involving the renunciation of US citizenship. The US Supreme Court has held that a person could not be deprived of US citizenship without clear evidence that the person intended through the voluntary act of taking another country’s citizenship to relinquish US citizenship. Vance vs. Terrazas, 44 US 252 (1980).
This is not likely to happen in the case of Indian Americans taking up Indian citizenship. Vajpayee publicly stated: “We are in favor of dual citizenship but not dual loyalty.” Vajpayee also said that Indians settled abroad should also have loyalty to the countries where they had settled and should fulfil their responsibilities as citizens of those countries. This implies that people who opt to take up dual citizenship cannot contest in Indian elections and neither can they vote in them. Based on these indicators, it is unlikely that the opting of Indian citizenship would jeopardize an Indian American’s citizenship in the United States.
It is also unlikely that dual citizenship would make a huge difference in terms of the investment that non-resident Indians (NRIs) are likely to make in India. An NRI can either be an Indian citizen who has taken up residency in a foreign country (such as a green card holder) or citizen of a foreign country who was either previously been an Indian citizen or who has Indian ancestry.
NRIs do have certain benefits with respect to investing in India. There are also limits as to how much an NRI could repatriate his or her investment to the foreign country.
It remains to be seen whether a “dual citizen NRI” would be treated more favorably than a regular NRI. This may not be the case, as an NRI currently could also hold an Indian passport. It would make little sense to confer greater economic advantage to a “dual citizen” NRI over a regular NRI.
It appears that dual citizenship has been largely established to cater to the sentiments of people of Indian origin living in foreign countries. While it does not confer the right to vote or contest elections, it would give people the assurance that they could visit or live in India without any restrictions. It may also allow people to take up jobs in India that would otherwise be prohibited for non-Indian citizens. According to reports, dual citizenship could be introduced merely by amending the Citizenship Act 1955 instead of amending the Indian Constitution.
I hope you found this segment helpful and informative. This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks.