Dual Citizenship – good or bad?
It is difficult for someone who has lived in one country most of their life to understand why anyone would want Dual Citizenship. Dual citizenship automatically implies dual loyalties and that is what throws up the very uncomfortable question:
How is it possible for a person to be loyal to two countries, particularly if one has political rights or works in government jobs?
Many governments feel it isn’t…India for example. It had mulled over giving dual citizenship to its citizens but finally decided not to. On the other hand countries like the United States have allowed dual citizenship, recognizing the fact that an immigrant could have loyalties to both the U.S. and to his/her home country.
Disadvantages (Cons) of Dual Citizenship from a government’s point of view
Not that there isn’t criticism in the United States about this… as far as back as 1998, Mark Fritz termed this in the Los Angeles Times as portable patriotism. Others like him feel that enemies of America could misuse the dual citizenship to do harm to the country. As dual citizenship means ease of travel (no requirement for visas) it could come of use to anyone with a terrorist intention. Other critics may not see a nefarious design on the part of a dual citizenship holder, but they do fear that a dual citizenship could prevent immigrants from properly “assimilating” in their new country. This article says that though the United States government “allows” dual citizenship, of late they have become uncomfortable with the idea
There is also a view (article by Dan Eden) that American citizens who are also citizens of Israel and in powerful governmental positions have Israeli interests in mind rather than American, and that decisions pertaining to the middle east (example Iraq war) were more to benefit Israel’s strategic interests rather than America’s. The bbc has written about a book by two US academics which also talks in critical terms of the “Israel” lobby. Not surprisingly, this book received a lot of flak and was accused of being anti-semitic. I don’t want to go into the merits of the case here…the point I am trying to make is that there will always be suspicions that an immigrant with dual nationality (who holds an important governmental position) will try and benefit his home country.
Some countries which allow Dual Citizenship
Some countries which forbid Dual Citizenship
Advantages of a Dual Citizenship (Pros)
There are a huge number of advantages that a dual passport holder has…and many of them are financial. If he/she is a business traveler then it means less wastage of time in getting visas, permissions etc if he travels to his other country. It also means that there is no problem buying property in that country or getting access to restricted areas. And he can avail of these benefits from both countries! There is also the infinite advantage…of belonging. It’s not easy to get a sense of belonging to the adopted country unless one is born and brought up there…and a citizenship of the home country can give that sense of being rooted, or a sense of emotional satisfaction. This will vary from person to person but I suspect that giving up one’s Indian citizenship would be a heart wrenching decision for most people.
India will not give its citizens dual citizenship
There were strong rumours that the Indian government was going to allow its citizens to be the citizens of two countries but now it is extremely unlikely this will happen. There are too many security concerns. In fact it’s not just Pakistan or China that India is wary of, there are groups in India (communist and to some extent the BJP) who do not trust the United States and they will never agree to this.
Overseas Citizenship (OCI)
To assuage its citizens abroad India has come out with the Overseas Citizenship (OCI) scheme. It gives the holder financial benefits and ease of travel…but it’s important to remember that the OCI does not entitle one to an Indian passport. Some might call the OCI Indian citizenship but no way does it mean Indian nationality or real Indian citizenship. The OCI is simply a stamp on the existing foreign passport…in other words something akin to a life-long visa. Those eligible are Indian migrants from Independent India (and their children and grandchildren) who have acquired foreign citizenship…but not those who have acquired citizenship of Pakistan or Bangladesh or ever were the citizens of these countries. The OCI gives the following benefits:
- right to indefinitely visit, study or work in India
- right to own most types of property in India (excluding agricultural properties)
- Dispenses with the need to register with local police/immigration authorities
But what it does not give is:
- Right to vote
- Eligibility for government employment
- Unrestricted access to restricted/protected areas
(For more details on the OCI, please visit the links above and make inquiries with the Indian embassy as these are just brief details)
The Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card
This is very similar to the OCI, and so are the eligibility criteria….if there is a difference in the eligibility criteria, I was not able to access this information. The main difference between the OCI and the PIO is that the PIO is temporary and lasts for 15 years from the date of issue. Also, PIO Card holders are usually required to register with police/immigration authorities if they stay more than 180 days.
The other benefits are similar…and as in the case of the OCI, holders of the POI have no political rights and cannot hold jobs in the government.
(For more details on the PIO, please visit the links above and make inquiries with the Indian embassy as these are just brief details)
Good or bad, no chance of dual citizenship for Indians
As of now Indians will have to be satisfied with the OCI or the PIO. It is bound to hurt those who desperately want to maintain a link with India by keeping their Indian nationality but at the same time do not want to forgo the benefits that their host country will offer if they become its citizens. And why should they? After all, they give their sweat and blood to that foreign country and should expect something in return…but well, for that they need to become citizens. And if they do that, they have to perforce sever their relationship with India…officially I mean.
I personally do not know whether the dual citizenship concept will work in India. What I do know is that it works very well between two peaceful countries that share mutual trust. For example Canada and Britain or Britain and Australia.
(It was Amit who gave me the idea to write about Dual Citizenship. Thanks Amit.)
(photo credits: photo of passports is from howtogermany, the second photo has been made by me by combining two separate flag pictures)
Related Reading: Indian Americans in the United States
Asian countries like America even if they don’t like each other
Does India share common values with the west?
Why foreigners like to work in India
Will Indians start to return to India in large numbers?
America becoming wary of immigration