Overview of The Citizenship Act, 1955

What is the Citizenship Act, 1955?

The Citizenship Act, 1955 specifies the ways by which Citizenship of India are often acquired. It says that Citizenship in India are often acquired by five ways: by birth, by descent, registration, naturalisation (increased residence), and by the incorporation of a territory into India.

The process for the acquisition of Citizenship under the Act:

Citizenship by birth – Section 3

Every person shall be a citizen of India by birth who is born in India:

  • On and after 26th January 1950 but before 1st July 1987.
  • On or after the 1st July 1987 but before the initiation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 where one of his parents may be a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
  • On or after the inception of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 where―

(i) both of his parents are citizens of India; or

(ii) one among his parents may be a citizen of India and therefore the other isn’t an illegal migrant at the time of his birth.

  • A person shall not be a citizen by a reason of  their birth where his father or mother own such immunity from suits as is given to an envoy of foreign sovereign power authorized to the President of India and is not a citizen of India; or
  • His father or mother is an enemy alien and his birth happens in a territory inhabited  by the enemy.

Position of minor

A minor who is an Indian Citizen under this section and is additionally a citizen of another country shall cease to be a citizen of India if he does not renounce the citizenship of that country within six months of achieving the complete age.

Citizenship by Registration – Section 5

Any person may be registered by the Central Government as a citizen of India, on his application, if such person is not an illegal immigrant and belongs to following categories:-

  1. One who is of Indian origin and is ordinarily citizen of India for 7 years before making an application under Section 5(a). 
  2. One who is of Indian origin and is ordinarily inhabitant in any country or place outside undivided India. 
  3. One who is a minor and his parents are citizens of India.
  4. One who is of full age and capacity and his parents are registered as residents of India.
  5. Who is of full age and capacity and registered as a foreign Citizen of India for five years and has been residing in India for one year before making an application.
  6. For the needs of clauses (1) and (3), an individual is deemed to be ordinarily resident if he resided in Indian for twelve months immediately before making the appliance and for the six years within the aggregate within the eight years preceding twelve months.

Citizenship by Naturalisation – Section 6

A foreigner who isn’t an outlawed  immigrant and is ordinarily resident in India for 12 years (All around the amount of 12 months instantly preceding the date of application and for 11 years in aggregate within the fourteen years immediately preceding twelve months) can get Citizenship of India by Naturalisation subject to other qualifications as laid out in the Third Schedule to the Act.

Who are Illegal Immigrants under the Citizenship Act, 1955?

As per Section 2(1)(b) of the Act, “illegal alien” means a foreigner who enters India:

  • Without a legitimate passport or other travel documents and such other document or authority as could also be prescribed by or under any law therein behalf; or
  • With valid documents but stays in India beyond the permitted period of your time .

Laws governing Illegal Immigrants

Illegal immigrants can be deported or imprisoned according to the Passport Act, 1920 and Foreigners Act, 1946. These Acts provide for regulation regarding entry and exit. 

  • Foreigners Act, 1946

    • Under Section 3(2)(c) of the Foreigners Act, the Central Government has the power to order the deportation of a foreign national. This power to deport or identify foreign nationals has also been given to State Governments, Union Territories and therefore the Bureau of Immigration.
  • Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920

    • Section 5 of this Act says that the Central Government has the facility to directly remove a person who has entered into India illegally. It covers such an individual who has entered without a Passport or has not complied with the conditions of the Passport.

What was the necessity for amending the Citizenship Amendment Act, 1955?

The need for amending the Act was to offer an identity to a particular specific class of illegal immigrants. There are thousands of people who have faced religious persecution in the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As a results of which, they fled to India to urge a secure haven. Before this Act, these immigrants were not allowed to apply for Indian Citizenship they came to India illegally.

What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 pursue to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by giving citizenship rights to outlawed immigrants, belonging to certain religious minorities who have entered into India on or before 31st december 2014, post facing mistreatment in the countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It has even ease the time limit for getting Citizenship by Naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years for these communities. The amendment has also made new arrangements regarding OCI cardholders.

It was passed by the Lok Sabha on 10th December and by Rajya Sabha on 11th and finally after receiving the consent of the President on 12th December has become an Act.


The prime issue with the amendment is that it furnishes citizenship only to non-muslim immigrants  who have live for 5 years from the three countries. Although, any foreigner can still apply for citizenship but can only be registered after they have lived in India for 11 years i.e by the normal process of naturalisation.

Author: Ananya Kashyap,
Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur/ 1 year

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