Strict new criteria for dual citizenship

Present holders to be interviewed and their status reviewed

By Anthony David

Foreign nationals now holding dual citizenship in Sri Lanka are to have their status reviewed. For this purpose they will be required to face an interview where their eligibility under new criteria will be examined.

“These are some of the new aspects now under consideration,” Immigration and Emigration Controller Chulananda Perera told the Sunday Times. He said the new procedures for granting dual citizenship would be discussed by him and his officials with President Mahinda Rajapaksa shortly.

On February 15, the government announced that it would suspend the dual citizenship scheme. More than 3,500 people of Sri Lankan origin who hold citizenship in foreign countries have enjoyed the dual citizenship status so far. The cases of a further 750 applicants, who want to obtain dual citizenship as Sri Lankans, are still pending.

“The dual citizenship scheme is not serving its purpose. It was introduced with a different intention. We are now concerned over who is obtaining dual citizenship,” Controller Perera said.

Other sources in the Department of Immigration said that the existing dual citizenship scheme had not benefited the country. In some instances, people holding dual citizenship as Sri Lankans 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. It has also come to light that several persons who had left Sri Lanka years ago and sought asylum in foreign countries had become dual Sri Lankan citizens.

“The new criteria will ensure those seeking dual Sri Lankan citizenship make a contribution to the country’s economy,” another senior official of the Department said.

At present, a person seeking dual citizenship in Sri Lanka is required to hold a university degree or at least a two-year diploma. They are required to have a deposit of Rs 2.5 million for over a year in a bank account in Sri Lanka. In the alternative, they are required to adduce proof of wealth including land in Sri Lanka valued at Rs 2.5 million. Holders of Non Resident Foreign Currency (NRFC) accounts with US $ 25,000 also qualify. Another category who are granted dual Sri Lankan citizenship are persons of stature, like for example, the late Arthur C. Clarke.

The main applicant, according to the scheme now suspended, is required to pay Rs 200,000. The spouse and children under 18 years are required to pay Rs 50,000 each.

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