Status of Tibetans in India

More than 80,000 Tibetans sought refuge in India along with the Dalai Lama in 1959 after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The population of Tibetans in India according to CTA’s survey in 2009 is 94,203.

The Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC), under the Department of Home of the Central Tibetan Administration, coordinates relief and rehabilitation works for thousands of Tibetan refugees in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. CTRC works in association with individuals, aid agencies, and the Government of India.

The Government of India grants a stay permit for Tibetans to live in India. The permit is stamped on a booklet or a paper called the Registration Certificate (RC) and renewed every year/five years. Some related information is below.

Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy 2014

In October 2014, the government of India adopted the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy 2014 to provide for the rehabilitation and welfare of Tibetan refugees living in India.

See more details, and download PDF and image files of all pages of the 2014 Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy, on the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy page on this website.

Indian Citizenship, Passport, and Voting Rights for Tibetans in exile


Indian law provides automatic citizenship for Tibetans born in India between 26 January 1950 and 1 July 1987, and their descendants [View summary of Citizenship Act 1955]

This was confirmed in a judgement by the Delhi High Court on 22 September 2016.


The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a letter dated 17 March 2017, ordered all Indian passport issuing authorities in India and Indian missions abroad to issue passports to eligible Tibetans [View MEA letter]

Apply for Indian passport at

Summary of passport process as of April 2017, at

History of passport law:

  • MEA streamlines RC/IC surrender process for applying for passport – 17 September 2018 [Download PDF] [Download PDF from]
  • Delhi High Court order to cease obstruction of RC/IC surrender process – 14 September 2018 [Download PDF]
  • Delhi High Court judgment on the contempt petition against MEA, by Justice Manmohan – 21 February 2017 [Download PDF]
  • Delhi High Court – Contempt petition against MEA – 14 February 2017 [Download PDF]
  • Delhi High Court judgment orders government to issue passport to Tibetans – 22 September 2016 [Download PDF]
  • Delhi High Court – Petition asking for issuance of passport for qualified Tibetans filed against the Government of India – 10 May 2016 [Download PDF]

Background and more information about the Indian passport for Tibetans in exile is on the passport issues page on this website.

Voting rights for Tibetans

The Election Commission of India on 7 February 2014 directed all Indian states to include Tibetans born in India and their offspring in the electoral rolls. This followed a 2013 court order that granted Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees born in India after 26 January 1950 and before 1 July 1987. [Download the EC order]

Background and more information about voting rights for Tibetans in exile:

Non-Citizen and Refugee Papers and Permits

Registration Certificate (RC)

The Registration Certificate (RC) is a booklet or a paper issued by the Government of India which is the stay permit for Tibetans to be allowed to live in India. At 16 years of age a Tibetan must register and obtain an RC. It is renewed every year or five years.

Identity Certificate (IC, or Yellow Book)

The Identity Certificate (popularly known as the Yellow Book because of the colour of the cover) is issued by the government of India to Tibetans as a travel document, in lieu of a passport.

It is issued following a lengthy procedure taking at least one year. When travelling abroad, an exit permit to leave India, and then a return visa to re-enter are needed. There are no clear rules about these permits and the responsible authorities in various states all follow their own procedures.

Apply for IC online at

Travelling on the IC

It is harder to get a visa for another country on the Yellow Book, as the embassies have paranoia about a refugee not returning to India.

There are hassles when travelling with the Yellow Book, as many officials are not at all familiar with it. The worst encounter for carrying the Yellow Book is when passing through immigration. The officials see an “Identity Certificate” instead of a passport, so you are taken aside while all the other travellers look on with curiosity, a sense of intimidation is created for no reason, and the questioning and waiting can take hours. At times, even the Indian immigration officials are perplexed to see the Yellow Book.

The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) handles all the services related to foreigners living in India. Many of their forms (Exit Permit, Return Visa) are available online at

Travelling on IC: Exit Permit

While travelling on the Yellow Book (IC), Tibetans need a permit to leave India, called an Exit Permit.

The exit permit rules are obscure. Immigration officials at Indian airports seem to have no idea at all about it, or have their own version of the rules for it. The rules say an exit permit is not needed if leaving India for less than 15 days. However there are reports of various officials ignoring this and requiring an exit permit in these cases.

Travelling on IC: Return visa

To come back in to India, since the Tibetan refugee is not a citizen, India requires a return visa, to be obtained at the Indian embassy in the other country. The return visa has no fee, but many times the officials working in the Indian embassies have no understanding of the rules, and either Tibetans end up paying for the visa, or the procedure to get it becomes very lengthy.

Tibetan Settlements

The Office of Tibet

10-B, Ring Road, Lajpat Nagar IV
New Delhi 110024
p: +91-11-26474798, 26439745
e: info(at)

Other issues

This page was posted on 14 April 2013; last updated 21 June 2019.

There are 3 comments so far. Have your say at the bottom of the page

  1. 3.
    Tashi, from South India, sayson 30 August 2017 at 10:25 am

    Would highly appreciate if below two permits procedural are shared. As far i know.. we do not need exit permit if leaving india for not more than 15 days. But do not have clear picture on return entry. kindly share if you have the info.

    Exit permit
    Info about exit permit will be posted when it becomes available.
    Return visa
    Info about the return visa will be posted when it becomes available.

    • 2.
      Web admin sayson 8 April 2018 at 8:27 am

      Tashi so sorry, i somehow missed this comment.
      Good question — I will check if we have this info yet and add it if i can!

      — Web Admin

  2. 1.
    Kargue dechen, from Mussoorie, sayson 30 March 2017 at 10:23 am

    This is long overdue for the Tibetan refugees settled in India.

    Politics apart, it boils down to an individual to take this facility or not. No one can absolve of his or her status.

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