Strict and new criteria have been evolved for processing the applications, Secretary Rajapaksa said.
Cabinet granted approval to amend the Citizenship Act No 18 of 1948 and the Immigration and Emigration Act No 20 of 1948 to formalise the granting of dual citizenship under the ‘Overseas Sri Lankans Scheme’ a few month ago.
A pre- screening procedure will be employed to check if a person applying for dual citizenship has the eligibility and requirements to seek dual citizenship to acquire dual citizenship under the new conditions. The Defence Secretary said no country issues duel citizenship at once but offers resident visas first. After a certain period, such persons staying on resident visas are considered duel citizenship after considering the value of the applicant for that country. The persons who possess duel citizenship can be engaged in investment, business or any other legal activity, he said.
The Defence Secretary said as per the new criteria, a Sri Lankan applicant having a passport of another country will initially be given permanent residency for five years after which he or she will become eligible to receive 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.
Mean while the emirates 24/7 reported that the legal draftsman and the immigration authorities are in dispute that may further delay the dual citizenship process..
Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration & Emigration (DIE) and the office of the Legal Draftsman are at loggerheads over the new amendments to the Dual Citizenship Act.
The two departments are forwarding papers to and fro, between their offices, while having a disagreement as to how the new amendments could be accommodated.
In an interesting twist to the year-long drawn out amendment, it is learnt that the two departments have also lost track as to where the documents are at present.
While the Controller, DIE, Chulananda Perera, said the draft amendment to the Dual Citizenship Act is still with the Legal Draftsman and they are awaiting his observations, the Legal Draftsman, GAS de Silva, said he had sent the observations to the DIE.
Dual Citizenship for Sri Lankans living overseas was suspended on January 28, 2011. While many applicants are anxiously waiting to obtain dual citizenship, the DIE is waiting for the new amendments to the Act so as to proceed with processing the applications.
According to the DIE, the amendments are not feasible to be incorporated into the Citizenship Act. Earlier, dual citizenship was covered under the Citizenship Act. However, the current procedure where applicants are given visas for five years enabling them to live in Sri Lanka during that period, and which period is considered as a term of probation for the applicants, apparently does not fit into the Citizenship Act.
“The new system to grant dual citizenship will initially be akin to granting a visa, and therefore, will not fit into the Citizenship Act,” DIE Deputy Controller, Harsha Ilukpitiya said.
“The Legal Draftsman’s office has incorporated this amendment under the Citizenship Act, which is not appropriate” he added.
The process explaining the process that has taken over a year to be implemented, while officials tasked to formulate the conditions for dual citizenship continue to shuffle their feet, Ilukpitiya said: “Following the discontinuation of granting dual citizenship in January 2011, a new system to grant dual citizenship to Sri Lankans living overseas was prepared under the guidance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The amendments had been carefully vetted by a four-member committee and submitted to the Cabinet on 11 January 2012. The Cabinet granted approval for the new amendments on 12 April 2012, and the preliminary draft which was finalized on 16 July 2012, was sent to the Legal Draftsman’s office for approval the next day, through the Ministry of Defence, as is the required protocol