DOUBLE TROUBLE: India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 does not permit dual citizenship. Portugal, on the hand, has very lenient laws on dual nationality.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 does not permit dual citizenship. Portugal, on the hand, has very lenient laws on dual nationality.Photo: Gomantak Times

Goa’s plea for dual citizenship stems from its bond with Portugal

Most Goans want to keep their ties with both India and Portugal alive; but India’s citizenship law does not permit an Indian to simultaneously hold the nationality of two countries

Some years ago, I met an ardent admirer of Goa – a Mumbaikar settled in the tiny coastal State for over a decade – who, while explaining the surreal quality of Goa, said, “Goa is not from India. It’s not even from the Planet Earth. It’s from another planet.”

That’s how Goans see themselves – apart or distinctly different from the rest of the world. And, that’s where the problem or the beauty of it lies, depending on which side of the Goan identity debate you’re on.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 does not permit dual citizenship. Portugal, on the hand, has very lenient laws on dual nationality.
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Adding to this identity crisis is the fact that the ties of many Goans with Portugal continue to remain as strong as they were at the time of the State’s liberation from the Portuguese rule in 1961.

Most of them have kept the window of Portuguese citizenship – through which they can escape to the Iberian country whenever they want – open for themselves.

Adding to this identity crisis is the fact that the ties of many Goans with Portugal continue to remain as strong as they were at the time of the State’s liberation from the Portuguese rule in 1961.

Portuguese law allows a person born in Goa before December 19, 1961, (the day Goa was liberated from the Portuguese) their children and grandchildren to register as Portuguese citizens.

This friendly legislation of Goa’s former colonial ruler has helped many Goans acquire Portuguese citizenship.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 does not permit dual citizenship. Portugal, on the hand, has very lenient laws on dual nationality.
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That, however, has not quietened the Goans’ dilemma about their dual identity. In Portugal, they pine to return to their roots. And, here’s when the odds get stacked against them.

India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 does not permit dual citizenship. Portugal, on the hand, has very lenient laws on dual nationality.

Under India’s citizenship law, its citizens cannot simultaneously hold the nationality of two countries. At best, Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) – except those who were, or are, citizens of Pakistan or Bangladesh – can apply for Overseas Citizen of India (OCI).

This was made possible with the introduction of the OCI scheme by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955, in the Parliament in 2005.

Under India’s citizenship law, its citizens cannot simultaneously hold the nationality of two countries.

Goans were using this scheme to get the best of both worlds – Goa and Portugal – till the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) threw the spanner in the works.

In November 2022, the ministry sent out a circular to the Passport Issuing Authorities (PIAs) to stop issuing surrender certificate in lieu of surrendered Indian passport to persons who had acquired citizenship in foreign countries.

This directive came on the grounds of “suppressed material information about acquiring foreign nationality” (specifically targeting Goans’ Portuguese citizenship).

DOUBLE TROUBLE: India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 does not permit dual citizenship. Portugal, on the hand, has very lenient laws on dual nationality.
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In response to South Goa MP Francisco Sardinha’s query in the Parliament early this year, the ministry revealed, of the over 2,000 requests for surrender of Indian passports received by the Panjim Regional Passport Office (RPO), around 114 passports were revoked over the last three years.

With no surrender certificate and their Indian passports revoked, Goans could not apply for OCI.

This led to a huge outcry against the external affairs ministry’s move. Several petitions were filed on the matter in the High Court of Bombay at Goa and grievance letters were dashed to the Central government.

The ministry revealed, of the over 2,000 requests for surrender of Indian passports received by the Panjim Regional Passport Office (RPO), around 114 passports were revoked over the last three years.

Earlier this month, in a major reprieve to Goans seeking OCI, the MEA issued a missive to the PIAs to compulsorily issue a ‘revocation order’ against surrendered Indian passports that could be accepted in lieu of ‘surrender certificate’.

This has removed a huge roadblock for Goans, whose Indian passports were revoked and, therefore, could not apply for an OCI card.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 does not permit dual citizenship. Portugal, on the hand, has very lenient laws on dual nationality.
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This, though, has not brought a closure to a Goan’s aspiration to keep his bonds with both nations alive. South Goa Lok Sabha candidate Capt Viriato Fernandes’ urgent plea for a dual citizenship emanates from this intrinsic desire of every Goan.

Essentially, many see an OCI cardholder as a lesser Indian citizen with no political rights. He is denied the rights, under Article 16 of the Constitution, of equal opportunity of public employment.

Essentially, many see an OCI cardholder as a lesser Indian citizen with no political rights. He is denied the rights, under Article 16 of the Constitution, of equal opportunity of public employment.

The benefits accruing to him include multiple entry, life-long visa, exemption from registration with Foreign Registration Office and special privileges in matters relating to economic, financial, education and acquisition of agricultural land or farm house or plantation properties.

In contrast, a Bipatride – someone with a dual citizenship of countries with different citizenship regulations – can avail of all benefits from both countries where he is a citizen.

These include right to vote, access social benefits, employment, healthcare, conduct business and others.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 does not permit dual citizenship. Portugal, on the hand, has very lenient laws on dual nationality.
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The glaring downsides of dual citizenship are its long-drawn process, double taxation and double obligations.

A persistent argument in the Indian context has been that rights to dual citizenship should not be restricted to just Goans, but should be conferred on every citizen.

The other issue to be addressed in this regard would be; for which country should India ease its citizenship law? Here, Goans’ show of hands may well be for Portugal.

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