India regained its position as the top country of origin of the newly naturalised citizens of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in 2019, following a sharp increase in the number of Indians granted citizenship of Canada and Australia. India had lost that position to Mexico in 2017.
More than 1.56 lakh individuals surrendered Indian citizenship for more powerful passports of the OECD countries in the pre-pandemic year, a recent report from the 38-country economic bloc said.
The number of Indians who secured Canadian and Australian citizenship rose 61 percent, faster than the 28 percent rise in the Indians getting citizenship in any OECD country.
Yet, more Indians secured the US passport than the combined total of those who acquired the Canadian or the Australian passport that year. A total of 63,578 Indians became naturalised US citizens in 2019, the highest since 2008 when nearly 66,000 individuals did.
At 31,329, the number of Indians securing Canadian citizenship was the highest since 2006. A large number of highly skilled Indians, particularly techies, rushed to apply for residency in the vast but thinly populated country after the Justin Trudeau government that came to power first in 2015 eased migration rules.
Australia conferred citizenship to 28,470 Indians, perhaps a record number for any year, the latest edition of the International Migration Outlook, published annually by the OECD reported.
The UK was the fourth most sought after passport among Indians but at 14,680, the number of new citizens of Indian origin in Britain was the lowest since 2008.
The OECD data also shows that 40 percent of the 1.56 lakh who surrendered their Indian passports in 2019 had become US citizens, while 20 percent chose Canada, 18 percent Australia and 10 percent the UK.
Despite the large intake of Indians as citizens of the US, they were just 8 percent of all the foreigners who became American citizens that year.
In contrast, Indians were 22 percent of those who gained Australian citizenship and 13 percent of the newly naturalised Canadians.
New Zealand, Italy and Germany were also among the top countries where Indians took up citizenship. Nearly 4,800 Indians became citizens of New Zealand in 2019, the third consecutive year that more than 4,750 Indians acquired the nationality of the island nation in the Pacific Ocean.
About 4,700 became Italians that year but the numbers getting Italian citizenship had halved since 2016. Other OECD countries that granted citizenship to 500-1,000 Indians in 2019 were Sweden, the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland.
The COVID stop
The report also showed a sharp rise in the flow of Indian migrants, including students to the UK. About 92,000 Indians moved to the UK in 2019, nearly 50 percent more than in the previous year.
The flow of Indians into the UK has been on the rise since 2017, the year the Theresa May government formally began the country’s exit from the European Union.
In all, 3.94 lakh Indians migrated to OECD nations in 2019. Not surprisingly, the flow of Indians to Canada also gained that year, with 85,600 individuals migrating to the North American country. The US, Germany and Australia also received a large flow of Indian migrants during the year.
China continued to be the top country of origin for international migrants in the OECD, with their numbers rising from 4.30 lakh to 4.66 lakh. Romania was in the third position.
The OECD said that it expected a 30 percent drop in the flow of migrants due to the pandemic in 2020 to about 37 lakh, the lowest since 2003. The data on the flow of migrants to all OECD nations was not available when the report was published.
The impact on permanent migration was estimated to be much higher. It said that there was a sharp drop in all categories of migration—family migration, inter-company transfers, temporary labour and students.Study permits issued by the US and Canada were estimated to have dropped 70 percent and those by the OECD EU countries by 40 percent.