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HomeIndiaRecord no. of Indians applied to give up citizenship last year. Lockdown...

Record no. of Indians applied to give up citizenship last year. Lockdown backlog, say officials

A total of 1,63,370 Indian nationals renounced their citizenship in 2021. In 2020, the number had fallen to just 85,248 from 1,44,217 in 2019, the highest until then.

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New Delhi: A record 1,63,370 Indian nationals renounced their citizenship in 2021,  Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai told the Lok Sabha Tuesday. The highest number of applications to renounce Indian citizenship, the data reveals, came from the United States of America, with 78,284, followed by Australia, with 23,533, Canada, with 21,597, the United Kingdom, with 14,637, and Italy, with 5,986.

The minister did not comment on the reasons for the record number, saying only that individuals renounced their citizenship for “for reasons personal to them”.

India, unlike some other countries, does not allow for dual citizenship — and all Indian nationals who acquire foreign nationalities are legally required to renounce their Indian citizenship. Although the law is not always enforceable, most Indians who acquire citizenship overseas voluntarily apply, an official at the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

Figures released by the Ministry of External Affairs in September had shown a significant uptick in citizenship renunciation from 2020, when pandemic-related closures had led the numbers to fall to just 85,248, from 1,44,217 in 2019 — the highest until then.

The new figures revise the total number of people who have renounced their citizenship since 2017 from 8,81,254 to over 9,32,000.

A senior official at the Ministry of Home Affairs said the record numbers reflected a sharp drop in applications in 2020, likely because of pandemic-related closures. “This isn’t some kind of sudden no-confidence vote in India,” the official said, adding: “The numbers only tell us many people who could not apply in 2020, did so last year.”

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‘Lag’ between applying for & being granted new nationality

Last year, the government had eased procedures for Indians to renounce their citizenship, and enabled online applications.

In 2020, the United States gave citizenship to 6,25,400 individuals. Indians made up 7.7 per cent of this number, or 48,125 people. The number of Indians who renounced their citizenship in both 2020 or 2021, though, is significantly higher than that number — suggesting that there has indeed been some accumulated backlog in applications.

The data does not reveal when those who applied to renounce their citizenship, applied for their new nationalities. “There is generally a lag of several years between citizenship being applied for and granted,” a diplomat at the Indian embassy in Washington said.

“People likely made the decision years before they applied to renounce their citizenship. The figures we see now are for individuals who applied for US citizenship many years ago.”

Fascinating insights into the global movement of Indians is available from the data. The number of Indians who renounced their citizenship after acquiring Pakistani nationality rose to 41 in 2021, from 7 in 2020 and zero in 2019. A small number of Indians living in China (362) also renounced their citizenship, having obtained nationality in that country, Canada, New Zealand, USA, Thailand, Germany and Italy.

Small numbers of Indians also obtained citizenship of countries from Kenya, Botswana and South Korea. Vietnam, Sudan, Mongolia and Zimbabwe were among countries from where no Indians applied to renounce their citizenship.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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