The number of Indians who renounced their citizenship in the first half of 2023 surpassed the total number in the entire 2020. Until June 30, a total of 87,026 renounced their Indian citizenship. The number was 85,256 in 2020.

This is according to the data presented by the Ministry of External Affairs in the Parliament. The dataset also shows a steady increase in the number of Indians who have been giving up their citizenship. For instance, while 1.34 lakh Indians renounced their citizenship in 2018, the number rose to 2.25 lakh in 2022.

The great Indian journey

Since the last three decades, the number of Indians who have been migrating to other countries has been rising significantly. This is according to the United Nations’ Migrant Stock Database. Similarly, MEA data shows a constant rise in the number of Indians renouncing their passports.

The top destinations for Indian migrants have been the UAE, the US, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Oman. However, this is not the exact list of countries where they gave up their passports.

For instance, between 2018 and 2023, 3.28 lakh Indians renounced their passports in the US. In Canada, it was 1.61 lakh and 1.31 lakh in Australia. The fourth on the list is the UK, where 0.83 lakh Indians renounced passports between January 2018 and June 2023.

Coincidentally, between 2018 and 2022, the US, the UK, Australia and Canada (in that order) were the countries that were the top international study destinations for Indian students. In those years, 3.73 lakh Indians went to the US to study. Another 3.17 lakh went to the UK, while 2.39 lakh went to Australia. This could also be because these countries provide improved social security to its residents.

The power of a passport

Another reason to renounce citizenship could be the desire to hold a passport that makes travel easy. According to Arton Capital’s Passport Index, the Indian passport is only the 70th strongest in the world, sharing that rank with Uzbekistan and Uganda. As of 2023, Indians would need a visa to travel to 125 countries. On the other hand, an American passport holder would need a visa to travel to just 25 countries. They could travel visa-free to 173 of them. Similar is the case with an Australian and a Canadian passport.

Currently, the UAE Passport is the strongest of all, and the holder of that passport needs a visa to travel to just 18 countries. However, acquiring the UAE citizenship is quite a tedious task. It can be acquired only through the Rulers’ and Crown Princes’ Courts, Offices of the Executive Councils and the Cabinet based on the nominations of federal entities.

In a separate answer in the Rajya Sabha, the MEA hinted at insufficient data on the State-wise breakdown of former Indian citizens who gave up their passports. This data is available for just 2.46 lakh people who gave up Indian citizenship between 2014 and 2022. Of them, 60,414, the maximum, are from Delhi. It is followed by Punjab, where 28,117 people gave up their Indian passports.