Dual citizenship for expat Sri Lankans hangs in the balance

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.

'Ceylon Today' reported that 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."

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