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 Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
External Affairs Ministry Secretary Karunatilaka Amunugama and Public Administration Secretary P.B. Abeykoon would also be a part of the interview panel.
Amunugama 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 Chulananda Perera 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.
Perera 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.