The acquisition of citizenship is a crucial aspect for individuals seeking to establish their legal status and rights within a country. In Pakistan, the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 governs the rules and regulations surrounding the acquisition of Pakistani citizenship.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the various provisions and conditions related to acquiring Pakistani citizenship.

  1. Citizenship by Descent: a) Any person whose parents or grandparents were born in territories now included in Pakistan and who has not been permanently residing outside Pakistan since August 14, 1947, is deemed to be a citizen of Pakistan. b) Individuals who have a parent or grandparent born in territories included in India on March 31, 1937, and have been domiciled in Pakistan or its territories at the commencement of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951, are eligible for Pakistani citizenship. c) Persons naturalized as British subjects in Pakistan, who have renounced their citizenship of the United Kingdom and any foreign state before the commencement of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951, are eligible for Pakistani citizenship. d) Individuals who migrated to territories now included in Pakistan from any territory in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent before the commencement of the Act, with the intention of permanently settling there, are eligible for Pakistani citizenship.
  2. Citizenship by Birth: a) Every person born in Pakistan after the commencement of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 is a citizen of Pakistan by birth, unless their father possesses immunity from suit and legal process as accorded to an envoy of an external sovereign accredited in Pakistan and is not a citizen of Pakistan. b) If the father of a person is an enemy alien and the birth occurs in a place under enemy occupation, the person is not eligible for Pakistani citizenship.
  3. Citizenship by Naturalization: Individuals can acquire Pakistani citizenship through naturalization, subject to fulfilling certain criteria and requirements specified under the Pakistan Citizenship Act.
  4. Dual Nationality: Under the Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance 1972, dual nationality is permissible for Pakistani citizens who also hold citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies or any other country specified by the Federal Government through an official gazette notification.
  5. Citizenship of State of Jammu and Kashmir: Under the Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1973, a subject of the State of Jammu and Kashmir who holds a Pakistan passport and resides in the United Kingdom or any other country specified by the Federal Government through an official gazette notification is deemed to be a citizen of Pakistan, without prejudice to their rights and status as a subject of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
  6. Citizenship through Investment: According to the latest Investment Policy, individuals from recognized countries can obtain Pakistani citizenship by investing a minimum of US$0.75 million in tangible assets and US$0.25 million in cash, subject to fulfillment of the conditions specified under the Pakistan Citizenship Act.

Immigration: Entry into Pakistan: Foreigners generally require a visa to enter Pakistan, except for countries with reciprocal arrangements. All foreigners (excluding Commonwealth citizens) must register with the police within 24 hours of their arrival. If they wish to stay in Pakistan after their visa expires, they must obtain permission from the Police Department.

Emigration: The Emigration Ordinance 1979 regulates the emigration of Pakistanis for employment abroad. The Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment, headed by the Director General, controls emigration and is responsible for the welfare of emigrants. Emigrants must appear before the Protectorate of Emigrants, furnish the required information, and obtain necessary permissions before emigrating.

Offences and Penalties: Offences against the Emigration Ordinance are treated as criminal offenses and are tried by Special Courts established by the Federal Government. Penalties for such offenses may include fines and imprisonment for up to five years.

 Understanding the provisions and conditions related to the acquisition of Pakistani citizenship and the rules surrounding immigration and emigration is vital for individuals seeking to establish their legal status in Pakistan. By adhering to the requirements outlined under the Pakistan Citizenship Act and relevant regulations, individuals can navigate the process of acquiring citizenship and ensure compliance with immigration laws.

Useful links on Pakistani citizenship & domicile

The Evolution of Citizenship in Pakistan

1. Introduction: The 1951 Act of Citizenship

Pakistan introduced its inaugural citizenship legislation, the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 (“the Act”), on 13 April 1951. Prior to gaining independence in 1947, Pakistan was a segment of the British-Indian colony. Many procedural and substantive laws were inherited by Pakistan as a part of the colonial legacy. Remarkably, there was no specific legislation concerning citizenship in the British-India colony. The Act was meticulously crafted to address the diverse populace residing in Pakistan during that period. It laid down various methods through which citizenship could be acquired and also enumerated circumstances leading to the forfeiture of citizenship. The Act has undergone numerous amendments since 1951 to reflect the changing political dynamics of the nation. It’s pertinent to note that citizenship, as a legislative topic, falls squarely within the purview of the Federal Legislature, and consequently, all amendments to the Act are endorsed by it.


The subsequent segment of this article delves into the historical milieu preceding the introduction of the Act. This section examines the partition of British India and the mass exodus to Pakistan, discussing the legal intricacies and landmark cases pertaining to citizenship. The ensuing sections elucidate the contemporary citizenship structure, elaborating on various modes of acquiring and losing citizenship, along with a detailed account of the dual nationality laws in Pakistan.

2. Citizenship and the Partition

To fully grasp the essence of the Act, one must first understand the historical backdrop. Before the pivotal year of 1947, both Pakistan and India were territories within the British India colony. This colony was bifurcated based on religious lines, with the Muslim-majority provinces forming Pakistan and the Hindu-majority regions constituting India. This historic division, which occurred on 14 and 15 August 1947, is commonly referred to as the partition of British India. The partition precipitated a colossal migration in both newly formed nations. A vast number of Muslims relocated from what is now India to Pakistan, while Hindus from Pakistan moved to India. Additionally, given that British India was formally a part of the British Empire, there existed a population segment that had either served the British or had been naturalised as British subjects. The Act’s Section 3 governs the citizenship of these distinct populations. Presently, this provision is largely dormant in terms of litigation, as most citizenship disputes stemming from the partition era have been resolved.

Distinct categories of individuals are conferred citizenship under this provision:

  • Individuals (or their ancestors) born within Pakistan’s borders during its inception who are currently permanent residents.
  • Those born in territories now part of India but currently domiciled in Pakistan.
  • Individuals who were naturalised as British subjects within Pakistan and renounced their foreign citizenship before the Act’s enforcement.
  • Individuals migrating from various regions of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent to Pakistan.

Several landmark cases have arisen in Pakistan, addressing various facets of citizenship, including the notion of domicile, the intent to reside permanently, and the criteria for acquiring citizenship.

Apart from bestowing citizenship post-partition, migrants from India were also allocated immovable assets in Pakistan under a settlement initiative. These migrants were categorised as displaced persons under the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act, 1958. Several court cases have revolved around the nuances of this act, delineating the criteria for eligibility and the various intricacies involved.

Citizenship by Birth

The Act recognises the principle of jus soli or citizenship by birth (under Sections 3 and 4). Initially, the Act allowed anyone born within Pakistan to claim citizenship if they were residing in the country. As it stands, anyone born in Pakistan after the Act came into effect is considered a Pakistani citizen by birth. However, the law denies citizenship to those whose fathers have diplomatic immunity in Pakistan or if their fathers were considered enemies or aliens in the country at the time of their birth. Thus, children of aliens born in Pakistan are not granted citizenship.

 Citizenship Claims by Afghan Refugees

There isn’t a specific statutory provision that addresses the citizenship status of refugees, especially Afghan refugees, in Pakistan. The situation of Afghan refugees is particularly significant regarding citizenship by birth, as they are not granted citizenship even if they are born in Pakistan. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, a significant number of Afghan nationals sought refuge in neighbouring countries, with Pakistan accommodating about three million refugees. On 14 April 1988, the Geneva Accords were signed, aiming for the withdrawal of Soviet forces and the restoration of peace in Afghanistan. One of the agreements was specifically about the voluntary return of Afghan refugees to their homeland. Despite the accords, many refugees have remained in Pakistan due to ongoing instability in Afghanistan. Over the years, many Afghan refugees have tried to become naturalised Pakistani citizens, but their efforts have mostly been in vain. Some Afghan refugees have reportedly obtained Pakistani Identity Cards by settling in smaller towns and misinforming Pakistani officials. Nevertheless, children of these Afghan refugees, born in Pakistan, are not recognised as citizens, as their parents are considered aliens under Pakistani citizenship laws.

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 Citizenship by Descent

Citizenship by descent can be acquired if a child is born outside Pakistan but has at least one parent who is a Pakistani citizen. Initially, only the father’s nationality was considered, but a 2000 amendment made the law gender-neutral by replacing the term ‘father’ with ‘parent’. Additionally, someone living abroad can acquire Pakistani citizenship if their father or paternal grandfather was a Pakistani citizen, provided they either obtain a domicile certificate or hold a Pakistani passport. The principle of citizenship by descent has been recognised and upheld in several court cases in Pakistan.

For instance, in the case of Muhammad Younas vs. Shahzad Qamar, the court ruled that children, born in the UK to Pakistani parents, were also Pakistani nationals by descent. In another case, John Deneys Vanrenen Taylor vs. The State, a British passport holder, whose mother was a Pakistani citizen, claimed Pakistani citizenship by descent and was exempted from criminal charges related to his unauthorised entry into Pakistan.

Citizenship by Migration

Under Section 6 of the Act, individuals who migrated to Pakistan from Indo-Pak territories after the Act’s commencement, but before 1952, can register as citizens of Pakistan upon obtaining a domicile certificate from the Federal Government. Conversely, individuals who migrated from Pakistan to Indian territories are not considered Pakistani citizens. Still, those who initially migrated but later returned to Pakistan with a resettlement permit maintain their citizenship.

Citizenship by Naturalisation

The Pakistani law provides for the acquisition of citizenship through naturalisation. To achieve this, an individual must first secure a naturalisation certificate from the Federal Government under the Naturalisation Act, 1926. Essential criteria for this include a residency requirement in Pakistan, being of legal age, good character, proficiency in a Pakistani vernacular language, and not being a citizen of a country where Pakistani citizens are barred from naturalisation. Once the naturalisation certificate is acquired, the individual can then apply for citizenship. The Federal Government, at its discretion, may then grant the status of citizenship.

The courts have differentiated between the permanent residence certificate, issued under provincial rules, and the domicile certificate, issued under the Pakistan Citizenship Rules, 1952. The two are seen as distinct legal concepts. The permanent residence certificate is granted by the District Magistrate and is commonly referred to as the domicile certificate. In contrast, the domicile certificate, as per the Pakistan Citizenship Rules, is provided by the Federal Government.

Citizenship, Commonwealth Citizens, and Investment Policy

Commonwealth citizens enjoy a unique status under Pakistani law. The Act allows the Federal Government to register citizens of Commonwealth countries as Pakistani citizens under specific terms and conditions. Additionally, a Commonwealth citizen can acquire Pakistani citizenship by transferring PKR 5 Million worth of foreign exchange to Pakistan. Once the transaction is confirmed by the State Bank of Pakistan, an immigrant visa is issued to the applicant, who can then obtain a Pakistani citizenship certificate upon arrival.

In 1998, Pakistan introduced an investment policy to attract foreign investment. This policy allowed individuals who invested a minimum of US$ 0.75 Million in tangible assets and US$ 0.25 Million in cash (or its equivalent in a major foreign currency), both on a non-repatriable basis, to acquire Pakistani citizenship. However, this policy is no longer active, and subsequent investment policies did not include this incentive.

Citizenship of Kashmiri Subjects

The state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir remains a disputed territory between India and Pakistan since 1947. Due to its complex historical and political background, the Act was amended in 1973 to cater to Kashmiri migrants. Two critical provisions were added:

i. A subject of the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir who possesses a Pakistani passport and resides in the United Kingdom or another country specified by the Federal Government is always deemed a citizen of Pakistan.

ii. Any individual migrating to Pakistan from the State of Jammu and Kashmir with the intention of residing there is granted citizenship status until the final determination of Kashmir’s status.

Kashmiri subjects who obtain Pakistani citizenship are entitled to the same rights and privileges as any other Pakistani citizen. Various court rulings in Pakistan have reaffirmed these rights and addressed cases involving individuals of Kashmiri descent.

See also  LLP Registration in Pakistan

Other matters in the Act

1. Citizenship by Migration:

  • Section 6 of the Act discusses individuals who migrated to Pakistan from Indo-Pak territories post-Act commencement but before 1952. By obtaining a domicile certificate, these individuals can register as Pakistani citizens.
  • Those migrating from Pakistan to India won’t be considered Pakistani citizens. However, if they return to Pakistan under a resettlement permit, they won’t lose their citizenship.

2. Citizenship by Naturalisation:

  • Pakistan allows citizenship through naturalisation. Key requirements include residing in Pakistan for specific durations, knowledge of a Pakistani vernacular language, and the intention to reside in Pakistan.
  • The distinction between permanent residence and domicile certificates has been clarified by the courts, stating they are distinct concepts.

3. Citizenship, Commonwealth Citizens, and Investment Policy:

  • Commonwealth citizens can attain Pakistani citizenship by transferring PKR 5 Million worth of foreign exchange to Pakistan.
  • Pakistan’s investment policy in 1998 allowed foreign investors to acquire Pakistani citizenship under certain conditions, but this policy is no longer in effect.

4. Citizenship of Kashmiri Subjects:

  • Kashmir’s status as a disputed territory between India and Pakistan has implications for its residents. Certain provisions in the Act protect the rights of Kashmiri subjects, granting them Pakistani citizenship under specific conditions.
  • Courts in Pakistan have upheld the rights of Kashmiri subjects, ensuring they are treated on par with Pakistani citizens.

5. Dual Citizenship:

  • Initially, dual citizenship was not allowed. However, amendments in 1972 allowed for dual citizenship with specific countries. Currently, Pakistan has dual nationality agreements with 18 countries.
  • Dual nationals have limitations on their rights. They cannot contest elections for Parliament or Provincial Assembly in Pakistan.
  • The courts have upheld these limitations while recognising the rights of dual nationals in other spheres.
  • Special provisions exist for Pakistani women married to foreign nationals, allowing them to retain their Pakistani nationality even after acquiring another nationality through marriage.


1. Historical and Political Underpinnings:

  • Pakistan’s citizenship laws are deeply rooted in its tumultuous political history. The initial focus of the Act was to address the migrant crisis from India post-partition.
  • Subsequent amendments were reactions to significant events, such as the separation of East Pakistan and the conflict in Kashmir. The legal framework had to evolve to address these unique circumstances.
  • The Afghan refugee situation, although not formally addressed in the Act, has seen interpretations through judicial precedents from the 1980s onwards.

2. Legal Ramifications and Interconnectedness:

  • The citizenship laws did not operate in isolation. As the Act underwent changes, it brought about transformations in other legal areas.
  • New laws, such as the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act of 1958 and the Abandoned Properties (Management) Act of 1975, emerged as a consequence of amendments in the citizenship laws.

3. Social Norms and Cultural Values:

  • The Act’s provisions mirror societal norms and values prevalent in Pakistan. The initial framing of the law, where citizenship rights were derivable only from male ascendants, reflects traditional patriarchal structures.
  • It’s notable that the law has evolved to include female parents in acquiring citizenship by descent. This is a positive step towards gender inclusivity.
  • The special protection given to female citizens marrying foreigners and acquiring dual citizenship speaks volumes about cultural perspectives. It underscores the societal notion of women being perceived as having a diminished power dynamic in marital relationships. The Act’s provision ensures women have legal recourse in their homeland in the event of marital discord.
  • Conversely, the absence of such provisions for men is telling and underscores the gendered nature of the law.

4. Immigration Patterns:

  • The list of countries with which Pakistan has dual citizenship agreements is predominantly European, reflecting increasing immigration trends from Pakistan to western nations.

5. Future Developments:

  • Given the region’s dynamic political climate and ongoing shifts in global migration patterns, Pakistan’s citizenship laws will undoubtedly continue to evolve.

In essence, the evolution of Pakistan’s citizenship laws paints a vivid picture of its journey as a nation. The laws not only capture political events but also reflect societal values and norms. The interplay between politics, society, and law in Pakistan is a fascinating area of study, and it will be intriguing to see how the country’s legal landscape adapts to future challenges and changes.

By The Josh and Mak Team

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