Govt. reforms issuance of citizenship

By Nicole Kamanzi M.
On 1 October 2020 at 03:39

The Rwandan government has already amended a draft law on Rwandan citizenship, which stipulates that a foreigner may be granted Rwandan citizenship on the grounds that he or she has special talents, investments or large and sustainable activities in the country.

It is a bill approved by the Cabinet on July 15, 2020, and has already been submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, for a valid date, to be discussed in the commission. The bill consists of 58 articles, with the approval of the successor to Organic Law n ° 30/2008 of 25/07/2008 on citizenship.

It is a law in the definition of a new project, which is said to need to be amended to reflect the laws that have been in place since 2008, as well as the national policy that Rwanda prioritizes.

In this project, it is planned to simplify the process of applying for and obtaining Rwandan citizenship, that is, based on the birth of at least one parent of Rwandan origin.

It will be requested and launched at the Rwanda Registrar’s Office, the person requesting registration as a Rwandan to be done will be issued with an identity card "after consultation with the competent authority".

The power to grant other citizenship shall be retained by the Cabinet, while the granting of honorary citizenship shall be vested in the President of the Republic.

Added reasons for citizenship acquisition

The bill seeks to increase the grounds for applying for and granting Rwandan citizenship, including to foreigners who are “of national interest”, regardless of the five years they are said to must have been in the country.

These include the granting of Rwandan citizenship to a foreigner with special talents, investment or sustainable activities.

In general, the bill provides 11 reasons for granting Rwandan citizenship, namely of non-origin.

These include being born on Rwandan soil, an unborn child, marriage, due to the mother of an unborn child, national interests, special talents, investment or large and sustainable activities, living in Rwanda, dignity, immigration and statelessness.

Acquisition through marriage

A non-Rwandan citizen may acquire Rwandan nationality through a lawful marriage to a Rwandan spouse.

Under Rwandan law, a marriage must be in existence for at least three years to grant eligibility for Rwandan nationality.

On this point, changes were made preventing people to get married in order to easily access the citizenship.

It also says that marriage alone, even when fulfilling the time requirement, cannot guarantee the acquisition of Rwandan nationality if it has not been registered in a Rwandan registry of civil status.

But if the marriage was done in “bad faith” to facilitate the acquisition of nationality, it will be revoked, the Bill says, while the effect of revocation will be extended to children and dependants.

In the current law, the deprivation of Rwandan nationality cannot have adverse effects on the deprived person’s spouse and children neither will divorce — if the marriage was in “good faith”.

Another dramatic change includes the tripling of time required for a foreigner to acquire nationality on grounds of residency. Whereas it required a foreigner to reside in Rwanda for five years before applying for citizenship, it will now take 15 years if the Bill is passed into law.

Dual citizenship is still protected under the bill. Individuals must declare their dual citizenship status within three months of the date on which they acquired a second nationality.

The move also comes on the heels of the government’s announcement that it will phase out ordinary passports by June 2021 and replace them with the East African Community passport.