Current Affairs

Government Announces Guidelines for Enforcing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)

Government Announces Guidelines for Enforcing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)

On March 11, 2024, the Government officially released the guidelines for implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), marking a significant step in putting into effect this contentious legislation, more than four years after its passage in Parliament in December 2019. The CAA is aimed at granting citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 31, 2014, and have been residing in the country either illegally or on long-term visas (LTVs).


Eligibility and Documentation Requirements for CAA Applicants

The newly established rules under the CAA detail the necessary information and paperwork required for prospective beneficiaries to seek Indian citizenship. Individuals from the designated countries must provide evidence of their country of origin, religious affiliation, date of entry into India, and proficiency in an Indian language. The law operates on the presumption that members of these communities encountered religious persecution in their countries of origin, thus reducing the period of naturalization for citizenship from 11 years to five.

Establishing Country of Origin

The CAA guidelines have considerably relaxed the criteria for establishing one's country of origin. Instead of mandating a valid passport issued by Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan, accompanied by a copy of a valid Residential Permit of India, applicants can now submit various documents such as birth certificates, educational records, identity papers, licenses, land or property records, or any other official document issued by the aforementioned countries to substantiate their citizenship claims. Moreover, documents proving the citizenship of the applicant's ancestors, including parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents, from one of the three countries, are deemed acceptable, irrespective of their validity period.

Verification of Entry into India

To verify the date of entry into India, the guidelines enumerate 20 permissible documents, including valid visas or residential permits issued by the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO), census enumerator slips, driving licenses, Aadhaar cards, ration cards, official government or court correspondence, Indian birth certificates, land or property records, registered lease agreements, PAN card issuance documents, and various other official records.

Citizenship Application Processing

The Government has revised the procedure for granting citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from the designated countries, minimizing the involvement of states in the process. Applications will now be submitted electronically to a District Level Committee (DLC) and adjudicated by an Empowered Committee, both established by the Central Government. The Empowered Committee, led by a Director (Census Operations), will comprise representatives from the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, FRRO, National Informatics Centre, and State Postmaster General.

Previous Measures Addressing Refugee Concerns

The CAA represents a continuation of efforts by successive governments to address the predicament of refugees from neighboring countries. Beginning as early as 2002, under the Vajpayee administration, amendments were made to The Citizenship Rules to grant LTVs and citizenship to migrants in specific border districts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Subsequent administrations, led by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi, have issued notifications and amendments to facilitate LTVs and citizenship for select categories of migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The Citizenship (Amendment) bill was cleared by the Union Cabinet in 2019 and later passed in the Lok Sabha.

Benefits for LTV Holders

In 2018, prior to the enactment of the CAA, the Government issued a notification making Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian migrants from the designated countries eligible for LTVs if they sought Indian citizenship. This notification extended various privileges to LTV holders, including employment opportunities in the private sector, entrepreneurship, access to education for their children, freedom of movement within the state, banking services, property ownership, and obtaining licenses such as PAN and Aadhaar.

Opposition to CAA Implementation

Despite efforts by the Central Government to streamline the citizenship process for non-Muslim migrants from the designated countries, several states governed by opposition parties, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, have expressed their refusal to implement the CAA. Nonetheless, the new guidelines aim to reduce the role of states in the citizenship application process, with the Empowered Committee and DLC established directly by the Central Government.

India opposed the European Parliament's resolution against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in 2020, and the United Nations Human Rights Commission took the matter of the Citizenship Amendment Act to the Supreme Court.

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Government Announces Guidelines for Enforcing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)