The principal ways of acquiring Indian citizenship include by birth, by descent, by registration, and by naturalisation.
The Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) scheme was introduced by the Indian Government in 2005. An individual is eligible to apply for Indian citizenship if he/she has acquired an OCI card for 5 years and has legally resided in India for at least a year prior to the application. If not an OCI card holder, the individual can become an Indian citizen by naturalisation on the condition of having lived in India for 12 of the 14 years preceding the application, including one full calendar year prior to applying.
Acquiring an OCI card is not the same as being a regular Indian citizen because OCIs do not have an Indian passport; have no voting rights; cannot be candidates for LokSabha/RajyaSabha/Legislative Assembly/Council; cannot hold constitutional posts; and cannot normally hold employment within the Government or Government organizations.
The Constitution of India does not allow dual citizenship, that is, holding Indian citizenship and citizenship of a foreign country simultaneously. Automatic loss of Indian citizenship covered in Section 9(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 provides that any citizen of India who by naturalisation or registration acquires the citizenship of another country shall cease to be a citizen of India.
It is a punishable offence under the Indian Passports Act of 1957 that an Indian passport holder continues to use his/her Indian passport after acquiring the nationality of another country. Similarly, if an individual wishes to become an Indian citizen, he/she would have to renounce his/her other citizenship/s.
While this OCI programme is not synonymous with dual citizenship, it does afford some extra rights to eligible applicants with Indian heritage who are now citizens of different countries, including a multi-purpose lifelong visa to India, exemption from reporting to Police authorities for any length of stay in India, and some parity with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs).