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Dual citizenship: To offer or not to offer

20 November 2013 06:14 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Kirthi Hewamanne
* 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.

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 formalizing 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 Defence 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.

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 instalments in the two stages - permanent residency and dual citizenship of the process.

The 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.

(Kirthi Hewamanne, a graduate of the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, is an award-winning realtor in Canada, with wide experience in all aspects of real estate development, including the condominium concept. He is a Canadian/Sri Lankan dual citizen presently living in Sri Lanka and an independent consultant promoting investments from overseas. He can be contacted at kirtionebiz@gmail.com)
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