Over 13,000 dual citizenship applications received

Posted on 17 October 2015 by admin


Ishara Mudugamuwa – Courtesy: Daily News.

The Department of Immigration and Emigration (DIE) has already received about 13,300 dual citizenship applications since it was reintroduced by the present government, DIE Citizenship Division Deputy Controller Chamika Gamage told the Daily News.

With the Amendment of Act No. 45 of 1987, the granting of Dual Citizenship provisions which had been suspended by the previous regime since September 2011 was reintroduced. The provision of dual citizenship was restored on March 28, 2015.

"Normally, we provide dual citizenship for the applicants of nine countries,namely, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Italy. But, rarely do we receive applications from citizens of other European countries and if only those countries certified that they will not cancel their citizenship and have no objection, we would be prepared to grant dual citizenship for them as well. But, not for the citizens of SAARC or Middle East countries," he said. He also said of the 13,300 applications for dual citizenship, only 5,000 applications have been taken in to the consideration and dual citizenship granted to around 700-800 applicants.

A person whose citizenship of Sri Lanka has ceased under Sections 19, 20 and 21 of Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948 or a person whose citizenship in Sri Lanka is likely to cease, can apply for dual citizenship.

The status will be issued under two categories as resumption and retention. The Section 19 (2) of the Act makes provisions in respect of a person whose citizenship of Sri Lanka has ceased due to obtaining of citizenship in another country and who there after desires to resume the status of a citizen of Sri Lanla and Section 19 (3) of the Act makes provisions in respect of a person who is having a desire to obtain citizenship in another country, while intends to retain the citizenship of Sri Lanka. 


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SRI LANKA: Six-point criteria for dual citizenship

Posted on 18 March 2015 by admin

Courtesy: Ceylon Today – By Niranjala Ariyawansha.

Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Public Peace, Disaster Management and Christian Religious Affairs, Chulananda Perera, said the government has decided to declare the six-point criteria required to qualify for dual citizenship. Expressing his views to Ceylon Today, Perera said the qualifications required to obtain dual citizenship have been prepared according to a new administrative system and that Cabinet approval was granted last week. Accordingly, among the requirements to qualify in order to obtain dual citizenship, a person should possess professional or educational qualifications and own immovable property worth Rs 2.5 million or more in Sri Lanka.

In addition, an individual who has maintained a deposit of Rs 2.5 million at a bank approved by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) can also apply for dual citizenship in this country.

Also, a person who has the ability to open with any Commercial Bank approved by the CBSL, a Non Resident Foreign Currency Account or a Resident Foreign Currency Account for US$ 25,000 or more for a period of three years is also eligible to apply for dual citizenship. Another criterion is being over 55 years of age. Perera further said anyone who fulfills any one of the above qualifications will be able to apply for dual citizenship in this country.

The husband or wife of the person who qualifies for dual citizenship under the new criteria and unmarried children under the age of 22 years of age will also be eligible for dual citizenship.
He also said a media briefing is to be held next week in order to raise awareness among the public in connection with these new criteria required for being eligible for dual citizenship.

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Sunday Times: Dual citizenship process: Background checks, security clearance from Interpol required

Posted on 05 January 2015 by admin

The new system to grant dual citizenship will scrutinise the applicants in greater detail than under the earlier system, and will require security clearance from Interpol and other intelligence services. The system which has a two step assessment process does not provide for appeals either.
The new application, which would be uploaded to the Immigration Department website next week, will also seek to obtain more information from the applicant regarding his/her education and social background, Immigration and Emigration Acting Controller M. N. Ranasinghe said.

Former Sri Lankan citizens from ten countries – the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Switzerland will be eligible for dual citizenship.

None of the Asian countries have been included in the list of countries eligible for dual citizenship under the new policy system introduced last week.

“We cannot include any of the Asian countries as we cannot reciprocate the policies of those countries. Former Sri Lankans have the option of revoking their citizenship in such countries and obtaining Sri Lankan citizenship again under Section 6,” Mr. Ranasinghe explained.
Under the new system special attention will be paid to the method by which the applicant obtained citizenship in the foreign country. If the individual has gone abroad for education and obtained citizenship through that channel, there would be no issue for such applicants, Mr. Ranasinghe claimed.

However if an individual has claimed refugee status or sought asylum in another country, such applicants will be disqualified.
“If the person has defamed the country in any way or worked towards bringing discredit to the country they will not be able to obtain citizenship”, he said.

The system will include an in-person interview by a Cabinet approved panel which would include the Assistant Secretary of the Defence Ministry and the Immigration Controller. The assessment of the applications will be done by the Immigration Department. Recommendations from Sri Lankan missions in relevant countries will be obtained during this process.

“This will be a case by case process. We will obtain intelligence reports and other reports from the missions and other intelligence services to make an informed decision. Earlier we did not have rigorous background checks. We only assessed the documents provided,” Mr. Ranasinghe said explaining the difference between the earlier system and the new.

There are four categories under which applications for dual citizenship could be filed. If an applicant is filing under the professional category the individual is required to have two years of post qualifying experience, while a person who is above the age of 55 can apply under a different category. Former citizens could also apply if they have maintained $25,000, in a local bank for two to five years. If the fixed deposit has been maintained for five years, such applicants would be exempt from application fees. If an individual has assets amounting to Rs. 25 million in Sri Lanka, such applicants may also be granted citizenship.

Only applicants who obtain a positive assessment in the first stage through the document verification and background check process which is conducted by the Immigration Department will be called for interviews.Interviews will take place on a single day every month, and all applicants should come to Sri Lanka to face the interview. The application fees remain unchanged at Rs.200,000 for the main applicant and another 50,000 per application submitted under the main applicant.

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Dual citizenship still in suspense – Foreign spouses, mixed marriage children face uncertain future

Posted on 18 May 2014 by admin


The Government has suspended the granting of citizenship to foreign spouses of Sri Lankans along with the dual nationality facility on which no finality has yet been reached. A senior Immigration official said this week that both issues were recently discussed at a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, a decision had been deferred.

The website of the Department of Immigration and Emigration still states that foreign spouses or widows (not widowers) of Sri Lankan citizens resident in the country for a minimum of seven years are qualified to apply for citizenship. But the official said there was no practical implementation of that provision.
Meanwhile, the Government continues to bar the transfer of private or State land to foreigners without amending the legislation to make such prohibition legal. This uncodified ban came into effect through the 2013 budget.

By: Namini Wijedasa – Sunday Times

There is now a legal vacuum regarding property and inheritance rights – not only of foreign spouses, but of those children of mixed marriages who do not have Sri Lankan citizenship and who cannot hold dual nationality due to the facility being suspended. Following two reports written by the Sunday Times on citizenship and property rights, several foreign spouses made representations saying they live in “a state of limbo”. New spouses were particularly ill-informed while even long-time residents of Sri Lanka were not aware of specifics such as entitlement to work and current inheritance rights. None of those interviewed consented to being identified by name.

“There is no policy in Sri Lanka of granting foreign spouses resident visas,” said Harsha Ilukpitiya, Deputy Controller (Citizenship). “They only get the spouse visa and they know this at the outset. Also, the law says foreign spouses can get citizenship after seven years of living here but implementation has been temporarily suspended.”

At present, the Department issues ‘spouse visas’ to foreigners free of charge. They must be renewed every two years on the production of a letter from the Sri Lankan partner saying he or she has no objection to the spouse staying on in the country. Some men or women, who have been married to Sri Lankans for decades, have fat files of documents and still trudge to the Department every two years for permission to live here.

“My mother has been in Sri Lanka for 30 years,” said a mixed marriage child who is now living abroad. “She has a file the size of goodness-knows-what! I think at one time she put them into a new file because hers was falling to pieces.” The older foreign wives are worried about what would happen should their spouses pass away before they do. “Since the day of my marriage, I have to go to the Immigration Department to renew my residence visa every two years,” said a European woman married to her Sri Lankan husband for more than 20 years. “Each time, my husband has to write a letter to the Controller Immigration asking him to grant me a residence visa for another two years. What is going to happen to me in case I survive my husband and there are no children or relatives to write this letter? Am I going to be deported from the only home I have?”

According to Mr. Ilukpitiya, a foreign widow or widower could seek visa renewal with the spouse’s death certificate. Many of those interviewed said they did not know of this provision and that “it wasn’t written down anywhere”.

Meanwhile, recent newspaper articles stating that those wishing to renew residence visas would have to undergo medical checks have also bred concerns. “It is not clear yet whether this applies also to a foreign spouse who lives with the husband or wife in Sri Lanka,” said the European wife earlier quoted.

There is ambiguity, too, about the rights of foreign spouses to work. The Department of Immigration and Emigration says they are not permitted to do so. “They cannot work on the spouse visa but there is no impediment to a foreign spouse obtaining a separate work visa while he or she is here,” said Mr. Ilukpitiya. “It is only the spouse visa that does not entitle them to work. At the same time, if the family runs a business, the foreigner is able to handle affairs related to that business even on his or her spouse visa.”

Restrictions are not strictly enforced where freelance work is concerned. It is when a spouse contemplates permanent employment that more conditions under a separate visa regime apply. One male foreign spouse said that, during the first six years of his marriage to his Sri Lankan wife, he obtained a visa through his place of work.

Thereafter, he opted for the spouse visa and has been doing freelance consultancy work ever since. He had no real objection to getting his visa renewed every two years. “I think it’s an unfortunate administrative model that is unhelpful whenever you have to do it,” he reflected. “But it isn’t actually difficult to do it. I’ve never had any problem getting my visa renewed.”

“Where work is concerned, it doesn’t say you can work and it doesn’t say you can’t work,” was his interpretation. “Citizenship, on the other hand, is a horrible grey area. Even Immigration has a problem. They cannot tell you one way or the other what the position is.”

When it comes to property and inheritance rights, things become more complicated. “As far as transfers and gifting of properties are concerned, even lawyers don’t know the present status quo,” said one foreign spouse. “But on the other hand my husband can buy properties with both our monies, but I will be deprived of owing those properties in future. As things stand, foreign spouses are having nightmares at the thought of losing their husbands and of being forced to vacate their only home.”

“What is going to happen to me if I would be a widow who can’t inherit my husband’s properties, on which we are living?” she asked. “As a widow, will I be penniless and chased away from our residence my only home. Will I be deported?” It also doesn’t help that foreigners are barred from taking their money – including that which they have invested here – out of Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the children of mixed marriages are entitled to Sri Lankan citizenship until the age of 21. After that, they must choose whether they wished to retain it or to give it up in favour of citizenship from the country of their foreign parent. Because dual citizenship is suspended here, they would be treated as foreigners if they renounce their Sri Lankan citizenship. The same uncertainty regarding inheritance, transfer and gifting of property and land rights would then prevail until the Government decides what it wants to do.

Mr Ilukpitiya admitted that some laws needed to be changed to reflect recent developments and policy changes. He could not say when this would be done.

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A Canadian-Sri Lankan reviews “Dual Citizenship”

Posted on 06 January 2014 by admin

Courtesy: Daily News – Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dual Citizenship: To offer or not to offer…. Strict new laws should be introduced for the benefit of the country and the applicant… Some investment in Sri Lanka should be made mandatory for applicants. Having Dual Citizenship status is literally having the best of both worlds. Many Sri Lankans who hold Dual Citizenship had a sense of superiority. They can enjoy all the benefits and facilities enjoyed by any Sri Lankan and also entitled to all the benefits and facilities of their adopted country.

Some Diaspora who obtained dual citizenship in the past used to engage in activities detrimental to the country. They used the status to fund terrorist organisations in Sri Lanka. Using facilities and the benefits offered by the government they misused to create devastation in their motherland.

They make absolutely no contributions to their motherland. These selfish and crooked activities resulted in the government suspending offering of dual citizenship for Sri Lankans who are working overseas.

Acceptance of Dual Citizenship applications and the application already approved and due for payments are temporarily discontinued until further notice.

There are many Ex-Sri Lankans now holding foreign Citizenship or Sri Lankans qualified for grant of Citizenship of a foreign country have contributed to the socio – economic development of Sri Lanka. They should be offered dual citizenship as their experience and investment capabilities will definitely be a benefit to the country.

There was absolutely no contribution whatsoever from a large majority of Ex-Sri Lankans who were granted Sri Lankan citizenship. But to the contrary, some were involving rackets providing funds to terrorists and coordinating fund raising activities for terrorists. This is the opinion of many Diaspora.

However there are honest Ex-Sri Lankans who are genuinely interested in helping the country in the Socio Economic activities, using their expert knowledge and experience.

A pre-screening procedure

The Immigration and Emigration Department will restart processing dual citizenship applications from the expatriate Sri Lankans.

Strict and new criteria are said to have been evolved for processing the applications in the next three months. Early last year, Sri Lanka had suspended processing dual citizenship applications in order to outline the new conditions. Last month, under the “Overseas Sri Lankans” Scheme, the cabinet had granted approval to amend the Citizenship Act No.18 of 1948 and the Immigration and Emigration Act No.20 of 1948 with the objective of formalising the granting of dual citizenship.

Under the new set of conditions to acquire dual citizenship, a pre-screening procedure will be employed to check if a person applying for dual citizenship has the eligibility and the necessary requirements to seek dual citizenship. This would involve a one-to-one interview with a panel, headed by Defense Secretary.

External Affairs Ministry Secretary and Public Administration Secretary would also be a part of the interview panel. External Affairs Ministry Secretary has explained that the interview panel will look into the applicant’s professional qualifications, investment capability and the need to acquire dual citizenship.

As per new criteria, a Sri Lankan applicant having a passport of another country will initially be given a permanent residency for five years after which he/she will become eligible to receive the dual citizenship status.

Current legislation

Information relating to how they acquired a foreign citizenship has to be furnished by every applicant and the reason for seeking dual citizenship in Sri Lanka is also to be properly justified by every applicant.

Information provided by the applicants will be cross-checked with the relevant overseas Sri Lankan missions and officials of the Immigration and Emigration Department and other state stakeholders will evaluate the application before granting the permanent residency and dual citizenship status, Controller of Immigration and Emigration has said.

The revised fees for the process under the new system would be a total fee of Rs 200,000 that needs to be paid in two installments in the two stages – permanent residency and dual citizenship of the process.

Controller of Immigration and Emigration said that amendments to the current legislation that deals with the visa applications have already been drafted and given to the Legal Draftsman for fine-tuning.

He further said he is hopeful that it can be put into action within the next three months.

The dual citizenship scheme was introduced in 1987. Apparently some 2,000 applications for dual citizenship are awaiting approval before the Immigration and Emigration Department while 4000 have already been offered the facility.

This scheme should be introduced by the government and also should make sure that the scheme will benefit Sri Lanka as well as the applicant. There are many genuine Sri Lankan expatriates whose knowledge and experience can be utilized for the progress and development of the country in various aspects.

It is imperative that the applicants should get involved in at least small to large business projects according to their capabilities. They should discuss this with the authorities before they are granted the dual citizenship status.

The Writer Kirthi Hewamanne is a graduate of the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya. Award winning Realtor in Canada, with wide experience in all aspects of Real Estate Development including the Condominium concept. A Canadian / Sri Lankan dual citizen presently living in Sri Lanka. Independent consultant promoting investments from overseas.

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