20 June, 2024


Dual Citizenship At A Price!

By Bandula Kothalawala

Dr. Bandula Kothalawala

Dr. Bandula Kothalawala

According to a news item in today’s papers, some 2,000 Sri Lankan expatriates were “awarded” certificates of dual citizenship at a ceremony held at Temple Trees on 17 November 2015 by HE Maitripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka. One is struck by the solemnity and grandeur of the occasion, apparently, graced by a constellation of local dignitaries including the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, there seems to be something odd about this particular spectacle.

In the first place, Sri Lankans who became citizens of another country should not have been stripped of their nationality. They should have been allowed to retain their nationality. In fact, Sri Lanka is one of the very few countries in the world, the citizens of which automatically lose the right to the nationality of their own country when they become citizens of another country. It is the prerogative of each and every nation to define the rules governing the retention and/or the acquisition of nationality. However, the state should exercise that right with fairness. It is hard to understand why a Sri Lankan citizen should automatically lose his/her nationality just because s/he becomes a citizen of another country. Many of us have obtained foreign nationality for a variety of reasons including hassle free travel. I have been working in the International Department of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in London for over 26 years now. It would have been impossible for me to do my job as an international policy officer, as it involves frequent travel to various parts of the world. A Sri Lankan passport holder has to secure an entry visa for all but a few countries in the world. Very often, s/he has to apply for a visa, at least, three or four weeks in advance, depending on the destination and often cough up a tidy sum, in addition to filling in numerous forms accompanied with voluminous supporting documentation.

It is hard to understand why the acquisition of foreign nationality by a Sri Lankan is considered an offence punishable by withdrawal of his/her nationality. In the recent past, the media have reported on a spate of financial and other scandals involving people of all walks of life including prominent politicians of all hues. The lurid details published in the media would certainly make many a politician in the so-called banana republics blush. Curiously, those allegedly involved in the unsavoury deals are all deemed fit and proper persons to continue to be Sri Lankans unlike the expatriates who have chosen foreign citizenship for whatever reason. I hasten to add that I am not suggesting for a second that they be deprived of their nationality. I am only pointing to the fact that there seems to be limitless tolerance for one category of citizens and zero tolerance for others. If the acquisition of foreign nationality is so serious an offence, one wonders why it has been made possible to recover it, albeit at a price! According to the criteria for dual nationality published by the Department of Immigration and Emigration only those who have considerable financial resources at their disposal are eligible to apply for it. http://www.immigration.gov.lk. The fee per applicant is LKR 250,000, with some reductions for spouse and children.

As far as I am aware, South Africa is one of the few countries whose citizens lose their citizenship when they become citizens of another country. However, South African nationals have the option of applying for the retention of their citizenship when they apply for the citizenship of another country – choice not available to Sri Lankans. Moreover, those who lost their citizenship under the apartheid regime are retrospectively exempted from the loss of their SA citizenship under the SA Citizenship Act of 1995. In other words, they are allowed to resume their citizenship. Furthermore, the fee for the resumption of SA citizenship is only ZAR 300, which, in comparison, makes the fee for SL dual citizenship about eighty-three times more expensive based on today’s (18/11/2015) exchange rates. If the comparison is made on the basis of purchasing power parities (PPP), Sri Lanka charges over hundred times more for her dual citizenship than the Republic of South Africa! It is possible that ordinary Sri Lankans dazzled by mind-boggling sums incessantly bandied about in the media have lost their sense of proportion and tend to believe that all SL expatriates have struck gold abroad, especially, those living in the west. After all, in Sri Lanka, hardly a day goes by without someone making a demand of, at least, Rs 500m as compensation for alleged defamation or making allegations of fraud running into billions of US dollars! Therefore, ordinary people may be convinced that the eligibility criteria and fees are not, after all, so onerous and that many can afford them without difficulty. One can only hope that they will disabuse themselves of the myth. Of course, there are wealthy individuals among Sri Lankans, as there are among other expatriate communities.

It is often said that the SL Government has been forced to restrict dual citizenship for security reasons. While there may be some truth in it, it is worth pointing out that the legal provisions relating to the automatic loss of citizenship date back to the Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948. Other nations do not seem to have resorted to drastic measures due to civil strife. Colombia is a case in point. Colombians have gone through immense suffering due to the on-going civil war in their country for more than five decades now. Yet, the Government of Colombo has imposed no restrictions on dual citizenship.

Strangely enough, even dual citizenship is viewed with suspicion in Sri Lanka. The 19th amendment to the Constitution bars individuals with dual citizenship from being members of parliament. Nevertheless, the authorities seem to have no qualms about appointing a foreigner to the post of the governor of the Central Bank. Please, note that I am not commenting on the suitability or otherwise of the past or present incumbents.

It is, indeed, a pity that the SL authorities have failed to realise the benefits of granting dual citizenship for Sri Lankan expatriates who are able and willing to make a significant contribution to the economic and social development of the country. They seem content to tinker with rules and regulations for political expediency. Of course, it is all about good governance! Sri Lanka – land like no other!

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Latest comments

  • 6

    I would like some clarification.

    If a person lives in Sri Lanka for more than 183 days in a tax year, he becomes a resident for tax reasons. In which case he would be charged income tax on Global income. However I understand that if he is a foreigner (not Sri Lankan), he is exempt from income tax on foreign income. He would have to pay tax only on Sri Lankan income.

    In case of a Dual Citizen Sri Lankan, how does this rule apply. Would he have to pay income tax on global income? Would appreciate anyone advice.

    • 2

      Based on Canadian tax system it is not the Citizenship but residency that matters for tax purposes. If he or she stays out of the country for 183 days they have the option to deem themselves as a non resident for tax purposes and pay no taxes to SL.

  • 6

    Bandula Kothalawela makes sense.
    Been born a Sri Lankan should make one proud to die been a Sri Lankan; one could call it an accident of life if one intends to be cynical.
    There are also enormous potential benefits as well;love of country,freedom to visit friends and relatives at will,freedom and the pleasure of seeing the country and the fellow citizens do well in other “countries of residence” for what ever reason and the possibility of investing in the motherland whatever money earned in an adopted country for whatever reason.
    The potential benefits are enormous.
    The most important benefit will be a change in attitudes of how people think and behave and be generous to fellow citizens and get rid of the silly pettiness which is prevalent in the country—to get rid of politics when it comes to citizenship and be GENEROUS>

    • 7

      dual PP for boat people confirms the lie of the economic refugee who killed to flee for economic reasons.

      even with economic oneness holding dual european is a pain.

      very soon europe would ban immigrants on dual for security reasons.

      Lanka a land of liars with a no value passport for sale to carry out money laundering as Ravi K associate Galleon Group wants investments and no questions asked. Financial hub new colombo development for kuddu from pakistan.

  • 5

    Dual Citizenship At A Price!
    You can not have the cake and eat the cake, at least be sincere to your damn conscience .

    You gave up the Sri Lankan citizenship to enjoy the benefits of first word countries , either be loyal and grateful ,or renounce that citizenship , or tell us why the heck should you deserve such a VIP privilege ?

    What is the benefits we citizens and the country have from it?

    Sri Lanka dual nationality is even cheaper than the Canadian super visit Visa for the aged parents f The Citizens ..

    what can we do with this petty cash of $.2500 a disgrace

    • 28

      You sound like a jealous man who couldn’t get Canadian PR

      What do you loose if someone takes the citizenship of another country. It’s their choice. It is not a VIP privilege.

      You are ok when our economy is dependent on foreign currency sent by people living and working abroad but you don’t want them to have a good life. You only want people to suffer in the middle easy and send money to SL. If they are in a developed country and do a decent job t and get citizenship you hate them. That is typical Sri Lankan mentality.

      Allowing these ppl to have dual citizenship easily helps them to contribute to our economy more.

    • 11

      Sri Lankan born foreign passport holders are applying for dual citizenship in 1000’s. 1For example, 1000 of them contribute USD2.5 million to the taxman. They also bring foreign currency to spend in Sri Lanka, which gives employment to many. It’s their freedom and there is mutual benefit to all, to the country of their birth and themselves.

  • 1

    The fee per applicant is LKR 250,000, with some reductions for spouse and children.
    ah ! You will come nicely .. more discounts ?, what you thought you are buying vegetables at manning market .?

  • 13

    Insanity at it’s worse.

    Typical SL logic and petty mindedness. You obviously do not like Sri Lankans doing well outside their motherland.
    Would you also advocate objecting to the economically less well off Sri Lankans who do menial jobs in the Middle Eastern countries and send back home huge sums of money enriching the treasury.
    You don’t seem to realise that the country is in a poor economic state.
    Get real,man;you ignoramious.
    The country will benefit from the talents of Sri Lankans abroad.

  • 7

    its just about money . nothing else

    • 0

      Abhaya one antoher henchman of MR et al – always behaves as if they know it better… what is not about money on this earth ?This pole cat will never see it right, whenever he appeared all about being partial to criminals.

  • 3

    Srilankan dual citizenship is just another money making enterprise for a govt that has no clue on development.The concept is just, soak the foreign expatiates as they make more money.The comments of some are immical of being envious and the undertones of patriotism are mentioned. I feel sorry for these individuals for not having opportunities to get a better and bigger piece of the pie,try politics this is the fastest way to get rich for your self and your kith and kin

  • 3

    Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is a scheme that was introduced in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora, particularly in developed countries. … Therefore, Overseas Citizenship of India is not actual citizenship of India and thus, does not amount to dual citizenship or dual nationality.
    1. Sri Lanka should consider this reform, given its security problems and expat LTTE carders are still there in London etc, and should not have a say in domestic politics or voting.
    2. Overseas Citizenship of sri lanka, if introduced, should be subject to biometric identification.
    3. subject to Sri Lankan law of extradition for finanacial and other humanitarian crimes committed in Sri Lanka or in foreign territory where the act is consummated in sri lanka.

  • 14

    I don’t understand how someone makes up rules to cancel the citizenship of a person who was born in that country. What I think is, nobody should be allowed to take away the citizenship of a person from the country where he was born. It is a birth right, and it should not be allowed to be manipulated.

  • 2


  • 2

    The global Diaspora can bring ll their black money earned during the terrorist period and invest in SL or use them to rekindle terrorism

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