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No dual citizenship for Lankans who sought political asylum:



M. N. Ranasinghe

"Although the dual citizenship has been reintroduced, the people who left the country seeking political asylum will not be considered as an eligible segment to hold dual citizenship in Sri Lanka.

We are not ready to grant dual citizenship for those who left the country claiming that this is not a suitable country to live.

Therefore the re-implementation is not applicable for those who rejected the country and went abroad as asylum seekers," speaking to Sunday Observer, Controller General of Immigration and Emigration and Commissioner for Registration of Persons of Indian Origin, M. N. Ranasinghe said.

"According to the Citizenship Act, there are provisions to say that any person who has been involved or acting against the Sri Lankan status, sovereignty, national security or social equity cannot be considered as a suitable person to be granted citizenship.

Therefore, the new implementation is only for people who went out of Sri Lanka voluntarily for their educational, occupational or any other reasons.

Cabinet decision

If anybody could accomplish the requirements that are needed by the revised procedure, they are eligible for dual citizenship in Sri Lanka," he further said. The granting of dual citizenship has been reintroduced following a Cabinet decision recently and the new implementation was announced by the Minister of Public Order, John Amaratunga last week.

The dual citizenship was temporarily suspended during the previous regime since 2011. Till then more than 3,500 people of Sri Lankan origin who held citizenship in foreign countries have obtained dual citizenship status. Explaining further the reasons why the dual citizenship was but on hold since 2011, Ranasinghe said, "Earlier it was not an updated procedure.

The previous dual citizenship scheme had not benefited the country. There were instances where people holding dual citizenship had returned to Sri Lanka only to buy properties and avoid paying higher taxes. Foreign nationals are required to pay tax to the value of the property they acquire. Therefore we wanted to bring in new requirements and also change the procedures of verifying the documents.

Recently we received Cabinet approval for the revised administrative procedure and therefore the new regulations for administering dual citizenship commenced again from last week." Dual citizenship is applicable for a person whose citizenship of Sri Lanka has ceased under sections 19, 20 or 21 of the Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948 or a person whose citizenship of Sri Lanka is likely to cease.

"There are two categories of dual citizenship; one is retention of Sri Lankan citizenship. According to the section 19(3) of the said Act provisions are made in respect of a person who is having a desire to obtain citizenship in another country, while he intends to retain the citizenship of Sri Lanka.

The second one is resumption, that is, a person whose citizenship of Sri Lanka has ceased due to his or her obtaining citizenship of another country and wishes to resume the status of a citizen of Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the section 19(2) of the said Act makes provisions in respect of these people."

Criteria

Explaining the criteria and the required qualifications to apply for dual citizenship, Ranasinghe further said, "The approved Cabinet paper declared six main criteria which required qualifying for dual citizenship.

"Among the requirements 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.

Also 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.

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. Anyone who fulfills any one of the above qualifications will be able to apply for dual citizenship in this country.

"The spouse of an applicant who qualifies for dual citizenship under the new criteria and unmarried children under the age of 22 years will also be eligible for dual citizenship."

"We also have revised the dual citizenship fees and for the main applicant the charges will be Rs. 250,000 and for the spouse of the applicant it will be Rs.50,000, and if there are unmarried children who are below 22 years of age, the charges will be Rs. 50,000 for each child.

Permanent Residency

Although earlier the process was to grant a five-year Permanent Residency Visa first and thereafter grants the Dual Citizenship, this time, the government has decided to grant the citizenship straightaway. The applications received at the department will be reviewed by a Cabinet approved special committee and will also be subject to an authenticity check of the certificates or documents produced by the applicants. Based on the suitability and authenticity of the documents together with the Head of Mission's recommendation the committee will act further.

The selected applicants have to face an interview with the committee and the findings of this process along with the committee decision of the applicant's eligibility will be forwarded to the minister for his approval.

The final approval will be certified by the minister for dual nationality," Ranasinghe further said.

Sri Lankans living in nine countries, namely USA, Australia, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Sweden, France, Italy and Switzerland only are eligible to apply for dual citizenship.

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