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HomeImmigration & VisaDual Citizenship Policies Across South Asian Nations - A Comparative Overview

Dual Citizenship Policies Across South Asian Nations – A Comparative Overview

South Asian "Desi" India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan & Nepal & Afghanistan

Dr.Tausif Malik

The issue of dual citizenship has been a topic of interest and debate in several South Asian countries, with each nation having its own distinct policies and regulations regarding the holding of dual nationality.

Dual citizenship arises from the interplay of laws between two countries. People can become dual citizens through automatic means, typically by birth or marriage, or by going through a successful application process for citizenship in another country.

Regarding dual or multiple citizenship, there is a global division: certain countries permit their citizens to obtain citizenship of another nation without forfeiting their current one. On the other hand, some countries prohibit their citizens from acquiring or holding another citizenship, and obtaining citizenship elsewhere may result in the loss of their current citizenship.

Let’s take a closer look at the stance of some key South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka, on dual citizenship.

South Asian countries offering Dual Citizenship:

Pakistan: Pakistan allows its citizens to hold dual nationality. Individuals who possess Pakistani citizenship can also acquire the citizenship of another country without forfeiting their Pakistani citizenship. This policy has been implemented to foster closer ties with the Pakistani diaspora and encourage investments and expertise from overseas Pakistanis.

Bangladesh: Similar to Pakistan, Bangladesh also permits dual citizenship for its citizens. This policy was introduced to facilitate the Bangladeshi diaspora’s engagement with their homeland and encourage them to contribute to the country’s development and progress.

South Asian countries not offering Dual Citizenship:

India: The Constitution of India explicitly prohibits the holding of Indian citizenship with that of a foreign country simultaneously. This means that Indian citizens who acquire citizenship in another nation automatically lose their Indian citizenship. The aim of this policy is to ensure singular allegiance to the country and avoid potential conflicts of interest.

The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is a special immigration status that grants foreign citizens of Indian origin the right to live and work in India indefinitely. Introduced by the Government of India in response to the demands of Indians residing overseas who sought dual citizenship, the OCI card serves as an excellent alternative for many Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) living abroad. As per the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2005, India’s constitution does not permit Indian citizens to possess dual citizenship. To address the aspirations of the Indian diaspora who wanted stronger ties to their homeland, the OCI card was established in 2005.

It allows foreign nationals with Indian roots to enjoy various benefits, such as residing and working in India without any restrictions on their stay duration. It’s essential to understand that there is a significant distinction between being an NRI and holding an OCI card. NRIs are Indian citizens residing abroad for work, study, or other reasons but are subject to the laws and limitations of their host country.

In contrast, OCI cardholders are foreign citizens of Indian origin who have the privilege of living in India with certain rights akin to Indian citizens, except for specific political and governance-related rights. For individuals with Indian heritage living overseas, the OCI card offers a valuable opportunity to maintain close connections with their roots, engage in economic activities in India, and contribute to the nation’s growth and development. The OCI scheme has been warmly embraced by the Indian diaspora, fostering a stronger bridge between India and its global community.

Nepal: Nepal’s Constitution does not allow its citizens to hold dual nationality. However, there is a provision for Non-Resident Nepali (NRN) citizenship, which is granted to nationals of other countries of Nepali origin. NRN citizens enjoy certain economic, social, and cultural rights, enabling them to maintain strong ties with Nepal while residing abroad.

Afghanistan: Article 7 of the Afghanistan Citizenship Law explicitly states that a person who is an Afghanistan Emirates citizen according to the law cannot hold dual citizenship. This law emphasizes the importance of singular loyalty to the country and prohibits the status of dual citizenship in practice.

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka, similar to India and Afghanistan, does not recognize dual citizenship. However, there is an exception to the dual citizenship laws. In certain circumstances, the Sri Lankan government may consider granting dual citizenship if it is deemed to be of benefit to the country. This exception allows for special cases where dual citizenship may be in the nation’s best interest.

It is important to note that each country’s dual citizenship policies are shaped by its unique historical, cultural, and geopolitical context. The decision to permit or prohibit dual citizenship often reflects a nation’s priorities and considerations regarding national security, identity, and diplomatic relations.

What are the benefits of having dual citizenship?
Having dual citizenship comes with numerous advantages beyond enjoying the rights and privileges of two countries, including the following:

Freedom of International Travel: Dual citizens benefit from holding two passports, enabling them to travel more easily to various countries without the hassle of obtaining travel visas in advance. For instance, American dual citizens can visit over a hundred countries for short stays or vacations without needing a visa.

Freedom to Work: Dual citizens can freely work and conduct business in both countries they are citizens of, without requiring employment authorization. This can open up new job opportunities that are exclusive to citizens in certain fields, such as certain federal employment positions in the United States.

Freedom to Own Property: Unlike foreign nationals, dual citizens can own property in either of their two countries of citizenship, providing them with greater flexibility and investment opportunities.

Quality of Life and Education: Dual citizens can choose to live in the country that offers them a better quality of life and can access education in their preferred country without paying international tuition rates.

Simplified Immigration: Once someone becomes a naturalized citizen of a country, they no longer have to deal with complicated immigration processes, such as visa renewals and fee payments. As citizens, they can live in the country as they please without notifying immigration authorities of employment or address changes.

Family Sponsorship: Depending on the countries involved, dual citizens may have the ability to sponsor their family members for citizenship or residency. For instance, American dual citizens can sponsor their spouses, parents, children, and siblings for green cards, and their children born abroad automatically become U.S. citizens.

What are the disadvantages of dual citizenship?

While dual citizenship offers numerous privileges and benefits, it also entails certain obligations and potential drawbacks:

Double Tax Burden: Dual citizens may face the challenge of double taxation, as they are required to pay taxes in both countries where they hold citizenship. For instance, U.S. citizens are subject to taxation on their worldwide income, in addition to taxes in their country of residence. Although income tax treaties between countries can help mitigate the impact of double taxation, navigating complex tax laws may necessitate seeking advice from a tax specialist.

Military Obligations: In some countries with mandatory military service, engaging in combat with a foreign military of another country where the individual holds citizenship could lead to the loss of their other citizenship. This situation, however, is relatively uncommon and can depend on the specific countries involved. In the U.S., most dual citizens can fulfill their military obligations abroad without jeopardizing their citizenship status.

Employment Limitations: Dual nationals seeking employment in certain professions that require a security clearance or access to classified information may face limitations due to their dual citizenship. Some positions may exclude individuals with dual nationality from consideration. It’s important to weigh these potential disadvantages alongside the benefits of dual citizenship to make informed decisions about one’s citizenship status. Each individual’s circumstances and the specific
laws of the countries involved should be carefully considered.

Which countries offer Dual citizenship?
However, here are some examples of countries that generally allow dual citizenship:

United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Philippines, India, Israel, South Africa, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands & Ireland.

Please note that each country’s laws and regulations regarding dual citizenship may vary, and some countries may have certain restrictions or conditions for acquiring and maintaining dual citizenship.

It’s essential to consult with the relevant government authorities or legal professionals for the most up-to-date and accurate information on dual citizenship for specific countries.

Overall, dual citizenship can provide greater opportunities, flexibility, and convenience for those who hold it.

As the world becomes more interconnected, the issue of dual citizenship continues to be a complex and evolving matter. For individuals with ties to multiple countries, navigating the various citizenship laws can present unique challenges. It is crucial for those considering dual citizenship or seeking clarity on their citizenship status to consult with legal authorities and relevant government agencies in the respective countries to ensure compliance with applicable regulations.

In the context of the diverse South Asian region, where countries share historical, cultural, and economic ties, the issue of dual citizenship remains an important aspect of national identity and sovereignty. As nations continue to evolve and adapt to changing global dynamics, it is likely that citizenship policies will also be subject to ongoing review and revision.

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