More than two million Sri Lankans work and live abroad, some of whom are working in West Asian countries, others having obtained their permanent residence status in European countries and in the United States of America.
Out of those permanently settled groups, few have retained their Sri Lankan citizenship while the rest have renounced it for various reasons. In 1988, the Sri Lankan Government introduced the dual nationality option to those who had renounced their Sri Lankan citizenship. The dual nationality issue has metamorphosed since 1988 with the original fee of Rs 5,000 skyrocketing to Rs 100,000, Rs 250,000 and from 1 January 2016 to Rs 300,000 for new applicants, and a special rate for families when they apply simultaneously.
Despite the excessive fee, the procedure is somewhat complex described in Form ‘S’ under Citizenship Act, No. 18 of 1948 [Chapter 349]. There are several categories under which one qualifies to apply for, e.g. With documentary proof of assets worth Rs 2.5 million minimum, FD of US$ 25,000 (minimum for three years) or Treasury bonds valued at US$ 25,000 etc., plus a professional qualification, which should be a minimum one year diploma/degree from a recognized seat of learning). Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
The new government policy of Yahapalanaya has been to induce the Sri Lankan diaspora abroad to come back and contribute to the country’s forward economic march and general progress with foreign expertise. Despite such encouragements, there seems to be still grey areas concerning certain groups of offsprings of Sri Lankans who were born abroad. The legal procedure adopted by the government for years has been that only the father’s Sri Lankan citizenship is taken into consideration in registering a new born child abroad at an Embassy or a High Commission where the child is born.
Although provision existed to register the newly born at the appropriate Sri Lankan Missions abroad within one year of a new child’s birth, in order for the child to qualify as a Sri Lankan, there was an impediment that affected when such parents (fathers) who had relinquished their Sri Lankan nationality at the time of a child’s birth! All registered children were considered as Sri Lankans up to the age of 22 and at the end of which they had the option of remaining either as Sri Lankan citizens, foreigners or the option extended to qualify as dual nationals, with the advent of dual nationality scheme in Sri Lanka
Being Born British
The strong feelings of a young lady born to Sri Lankan parents (while her father was on a British passport) are rather poignant. This young female’s predicament was recently highlighted in the world wide web too as her desire to obtain dual nationality has created somewhat a disconnection to her parents’ motherland (Sri Lanka) and misplacement to her current land (England).
Referring to her early memories of her visits to Sri Lanka with parents, she explains although her childhood memories are now hazy like a ‘passing cloud’, yet when she reached the age of 16, her eyes to really began to open, when she started travelling round the world, and came to the conclusion that Sri Lanka could have been her home too, especially when she compared London to be a concrete jungle after seeing the beautiful greenery haven in Sri Lanka.
‘Defined by a piece of paper that says she is British‘, but she has strong feelings that connects her to Sri Lanka. She certainly appears to be in a paradox. At times when she becomes rather sentimental and does not seem to escape from the thoughts that if Sri Lanka is her parents’ roots, then should it not also be hers too? This she acknowledges with the the kind of general , freedom she enjoys in the UK simultaneously.
Describing her travels round the globe from the age of 21, with a broad sense of appreciation especially for nature, people, cultures and history and exploring the possibilities in a spirit as a tourist for what the English call it summer vacations, she says ‘there is still no other land that can quite captivate me more like beautiful Sri Lanka’.
On every occasion she visited Sri Lanka and the time spent had passed so fast leading her to psychologically ponder ‘what life would have been like’ or could be like’ if she were to have been born in Sri Lanka or even simply allowed non-restricted visits?
Despite so much of development in Sri Lanka from what she had seen, her situation seems to remain the same – frustrated and restricted always of having to travel as a tourist on a tourist’s visa! “What is thirty days to cover an endless fountain of beauty & reach all corners of the Island to visit various family members as much as the country? She poses the question and says, ‘of course the option is there to extend the visa but at a cost’ and the availability of leave from work!
“More I grow and experience Sri Lanka, greater I find myself connected to a wider and broader spectrum each time as if I am unveiling a little piece of myself in the process. I simply cannot escape the thought that this could have been my place of paradise too, if not for a mere birth location and piece of official government paper that separates me from my parent’s home; she technically believes it should be hers too.
Her ambition is somehow to find a way to overcome the present obstacle and obtain her dual nationality to settle down in Sri Lanka in the near future. With spirited and patriotic feelings towards Sri Lanka she firmly believes that it is Sri Lanka where she is destined to be!
She explains her prime obstacle in her own words viz:
“My father had taken British citizenship at the time of my birth in London. He was compelled by work to do so, and live within the Sri Lankan immigration regulations at the time, which stipulated that all children born to Sri Lankan parents abroad must be registered at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London that resulted my father not being able to register my birth at the time“.
“However, now things have changed rapidly as Dual Nationality is open to anyone indiscriminately. With the latest Government regulations on dual nationality issue, I believe my situation too can shift towards a better tomorrow as my father has become native to Sri Lanka and enjoys the dual nationality for the last decade or so”!
“I am wondering as to how I should go about in tackling this issue that has plagued and restricted me from applying for Dual Nationality just because my name was not registered at the Sri Lanka High Commission at the time of my birth! Despite my previous appeals in the internet and in newspapers too, no one has shown me an easy path as how to get my name registered in the Registry of Births and deaths in Sri Lanka to qualifies me to apply for dual nationality.
Reviewed for the blog from her appeal in the Ceylon Today in 2017.