Representational image
Representational image

I am an NRI living abroad. However, I have family in India, I have some shares, insurance policies and bank accounts in India. I routinely transfer money to my parents / siblings in India for various purposes. I also have a credit card here that I use when I visit. Lastly, I have recently bought a property in India for which I am paying EMIs. Do I require Aadhaar?

Before answering the question, let’s first briefly understand what Aadhaar is all about. The Aadhaar number is a 12-digit random number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to the residents of India after satisfying the laid down verification process Any individual, irrespective of age and gender, who is a resident of India, may voluntarily enroll to obtain Aadhaar number.

Person enrolling has to provide basic demographic and biometric information during the enrolment process which is totally free of cost. An individual needs to enroll for Aadhaar only once during his or her lifetime.  Aadhaar number is verifiable in an online, cost-effective way.

It is unique and robust enough to eliminate duplicates and fake identities and may be used as a basis/primary identifier to roll out several Government welfare schemes and programmes for effective service delivery thereby promoting transparency and good governance.

This is the only program of its kind globally, wherein a state-of-the-art digital and online Id is being provided free of cost at such a large scale to people, and has the potential to change the way service delivery functions in the country. The Aadhaar number does not seek to profile people based on caste, religion, income, health and geography. It is only a proof of identity and as such it does not confer any right of citizenship or domicile in respect of an Aadhaar number holder.

Aadhaar is a strategic policy tool for social and financial inclusion, public sector delivery reforms, managing fiscal budgets, increase convenience and promote hassle-free people-centric governance.

It can also be used as a permanent Financial Address and facilitates financial inclusion of the underprivileged and weaker sections of the society and is therefore a tool of distributive justice and equality. The Aadhaar identity platform is one of the key pillars of the ‘Digital India’, wherein every resident of the country is provided with a unique identity.

Aadhar not applicable to NRIs / PIOs / OCIs In a circular issued by UIDAI, it is clarified by the UIDAI that NRIs /PIOs do not require to enroll for Aadhar i.e. they are exempted from obtaining an Aadhar number as they are not Residents of India. The following is the general gist of the circular.

It has been brought to notice that some of the Ministries/Departments/Implementing agencies concerned are insisting that NRIs/PIOs/OCIs submit or link their Aadhaar for availing of / enjoying the benefits etc. that are directly or indirectly connected with NRIs/OCIs/PIO, regardless of the fact that they may not be entitled to Aadhaar as per the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (Aadhaar Act, 2016)

In this regard, attention is invited to Section 3(1) of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, which inter-alia, lays down that “every resident shall be entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number by submitting his demographic information and biometric information by undergoing the process of enrolment.”

Further Section 2 (v) of the Aadhaar Act defines ‘resident’ as an individual who has resided in India for a period or periods amounting in all to 182 days or more in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of application for enrolment.

The laws regarding submitting/linking of Aadhaar for availing the services/benefits applies to the Resident as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016. In view of the foregoing, most of the NRIs/PIOs/OCIs may not eligible for Aadhaar enrolment as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016. However, the implementing agency may devise a mechanism to ascertain the genuineness of status of such NRIs/PIOs/OCIs.

Further, Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, inter-alia, provides that “If an Aadhaar number is not assigned to an individual, the individual shall be offered alternate and viable means of identification for delivery of subsidy, benefit or service”. Moreover, it has been recapitulated through various notifications/circulars that the requirement of getting Aadhaar is only in respect of those individuals who are entitled for it as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016.

In this regard, reference may be drawn to Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Rules, 2017 and Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, 1961 which clearly stipulate that the linking of Bank Accounts and PAN respectively., is for those persons who are eligible to enroll for Aadhaar as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016.

In view of the above, it is suggested that all Central Ministries / Departments / State Governments and other implementing agencies may keep in consideration the following while seeking Aadhaar as a proof of identity:
a) Aadhaar as an identity document may be sought only from those who are eligible for it as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016.
b) Most of NRIs/PIOs/OCIs may not eligible for Aadhaar enrolment as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016.

To Sum
Basically, this circular makes it clear that NRIs / PIOs living abroad (or living in India for less than 182 days) are not Residents of India. One needs to be a Resident in India to be eligible to obtain Aadhar.

As the above mentioned NRIs / PIOs do not qualify to be Residents, they need not apply for Aadhar – in other words, the entire system of Aadhar would not be applicable to them. However, on the other hand, a person staying in India for182 days has to be compulsorily enroll for and obtain Aadhaar, irrespective of whether he / she is an NRI or a PIO.

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