Section 4 of The Citizenship Act, 1955 (as amended by subsequent law) states that a child born outside India to an Indian parent has Indian "citizenship by descent" (which can coexist with citizenships of other countries until the child reaches "full age"), but then caveats this with a further condition that:

a person shall not be a citizen of India by virtue of this section, unless his birth is registered at an Indian consulate...
(i) within one year of its occurrence ...; or
(ii) with the permission of the Central Government

Dutch law, meanwhile, permits Dutch citizens to simultaneously hold other nationalities but not to voluntarily adopt them. Typically this would mean that if your circumstances of birth qualify you for automatic citizenship of multiple countries, including the Netherlands, and none of the other countries have restrictions on holding multiple citizenships by birth, then you are a citizen of all of them (since you acquired the non-Dutch citizenships automatically, not "voluntarily", and Dutch law permits this), but that if you naturalize in a foreign country (a voluntary act), you cease to be Dutch.

Indian citizenship by descent for a baby born outside India does not perfectly match the typical case, though, because it's not completely automatic; a voluntary act (registering his birth at an Indian consulate) is needed to secure the baby's Indian citizenship. As a matter of Dutch law, does this act constitute the baby voluntarily adopting another nationality and therefore cause him to forfeit his Dutch citizenship?

I can imagine multiple interpretations of how the registration requirement in The Citizenship Act works:

  • a baby born to an Indian parent outside India is an Indian citizen at the moment of birth, but loses their Indian citizenship after one year if the birth is not registered. Or maybe...
  • a baby born to an Indian parent outside India is not an Indian citizen at the moment of birth, and becomes an Indian citizen when the birth is registered. Or maybe...
  • at the moment of such a baby's birth, the matter of whether the baby has Indian citizenship is indeterminate, like the life or death of Schrödinger's cat, and will be determined retroactively. If the birth is registered within a year, then as a retroactive consequence, the baby was always Indian, from the moment of his birth. If the birth is not registered within a year, then as a retroactive consequence, the baby was never Indian. Any legal questions that arise in the baby's first year of life and are in some way contingent on the baby's citizenship status are likewise retroactively answered by the registration or non-registration of his birth.

I have no idea which of these interpretations is correct. The second and third both appear to me to be fully consistent with the wording of the Act, and the first option (with automatic forfeiting) could probably work somehow. (It's a bit more complicated because it's then unclear how registering a birth after the 1 year deadline with Central Government consent works; you'd need to handle that differently to registration within the 1-year deadline. Still, not impossible; for all I know, maybe the courts have ruled that's how it works?)

If either the first or third interpretation is correct, then our hypothetical Dutch/Indian mixed baby should be safe from losing Dutch citizenship as a consequence of his parents registering his birth with India. If the second interpretation is correct, and the baby acquires Indian citizenship when his birth is registered, then things might be more problematic (though even then, perhaps there is no problem; perhaps the citizenship was not "voluntarily" acquired, either because the baby is a baby and had no say in the matter, or because the citizenship was granted as an automatic, non-voluntary consequence of registering the birth and voluntarily registering the birth is not considered the same thing as voluntarily acquiring the citizenship).

Is this a matter of settled law? Can Dutch/Indian couples safely register a baby's birth with an Indian consulate without losing the baby his Dutch nationality?

2 Answers 2



First, you have a very advanced child if they are capable of filling out and submitting government forms before their first birthday. I’m University educated and some government forms baffle me. The point is, if a parent submits the form, the child isn’t doing anything voluntarily.

Second, the child is not acquiring another citizenship, they are Indian (and Dutch) at birth. There is an administrative process that must be followed to prevent it being lost, but it isn’t an acquisition.

Finally, even if this was a voluntary acquisition (which it isn’t), there’s an exemption (2.a.) for as long as at least one parent is still Dutch.

  • 1
    "Second, the child is not acquiring another citizenship, they are Indian at birth. There is an administrative process that must be followed to prevent it being lost" Where do you get that? A child who is under 1 and not registered, does not satisfy either of the conditions quoted, and therefore, if you take the quoted text literally, is not an Indian citizen, even if one of the conditions might subsequently be satisfied before they turn 1.
    – user102008
    Commented Mar 29 at 16:58
  • The point about "voluntarily" adopting is fair enough, and the exemption is a useful point and sufficient to convince me "No" is the right answer, but the claim that the baby is an Indian citizen from birth is just a bare assertion with no evidence or argument behind it. I'm not convinced that it's true, and it's kind of annoying that you just assert it here with no justification after I carefully outlined different ways of interpreting the registration requirement in The Citizenship Act and noted why this interpretation was problematic (namely: what happens if India lets you register late?)
    – Mark Amery
    Commented Apr 13 at 19:58
  • If we take your interpretation to be correct - that the baby is Indian from birth, but forfeits their Indian citizenship at 1 year old if their birth isn't registered with India - then it must be the case that if the Indian government exercises its discretion under the act to allow late registration after 1 year, either citizenship is regained or the loss is retroactively deemed never to have occurred. So you've still got to have either a mechanism gaining citizenship or some kind of retroactive action going on.
    – Mark Amery
    Commented Apr 13 at 20:00
  • It could of course be that in the case where you register in time, you're simply averting a loss of citizenship as you say, but when you register late, you're doing something fundamentally different - either regaining citizenship or retroactively writing a loss of citizenship out of history. But that's weird, because it implies that the effect of registration on your citizenship status is significantly different depending upon whether it's on time or late, in ways that could have all sorts of subtle implications, and there's no clear indication in the Act that such a difference exists.
    – Mark Amery
    Commented Apr 13 at 20:03


A key point I missed when asking the question is that the rule in Dutch law that you lose your Dutch citizenship if you gain another nationality only applies to adults - there are separate sections for adults and minors at https://ind.nl/en/dutch-citizenship/losing-dutch-nationality.

Furthermore, a general rule that applies to most possible causes of a minor losing Dutch nationality, per https://www.government.nl/documents/publications/2017/10/05/minors-and-loss-of-dutch-nationality, is that:

A minor will not lose his Dutch nationality if he ... has a father or mother who is a Dutch citizen

Thus - barring some exceptional situation where the baby is still Dutch yet no longer has a Dutch parent at the time that their birth is registered - the nuances of how Indian law works here are totally moot; even if registering the birth does indeed cause the baby to gain Indian citizenship, it doesn't matter.

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