Source: Seychelles News Agency
By: Salifa Karapetyan
Given the great beauty and laid-back atmosphere of Seychelles, the thought of staying for good must cross the mind of many foreigners visiting or working in the island nation.
But what does it take to become a Seychellois citizen?
According to the local Department of Immigration and Civil Status’ website, there are two ways to get Seychellois citizenship — through registration or naturalisation.
While the Merriam-Webster dictionary states that to naturalise is “to confer the rights of a national on; or to admit to citizenship,” naturalisation in Seychelles has a different meaning.
In Seychelles, naturalisation is covered under the Constitution Article 12 clause 1. It states: “A person who, on or after the coming into force of this Constitution, marries another person who is or become a citizen of Seychelles shall, subject to any Act, be eligible to become a citizen of Seychelles by naturalisation.”
To be eligible, an applicant must be married to a Seychellois for at least 10 years and has been a legal resident in the country for five years or more immediately before making the application.
Candidates have to pass a citizenship eligibility exam, in one of the three national languages – Creole, English or French — with a score of 80 percent or above.
Held every two months at the Guy Morel Institute at Ma Joie, the exam consists of 20 questions based on the history of Seychelles, the people, culture and country, the economy and environment, the national symbol and Constitution, the government, and current affairs.
“The exam was drawn up in collaboration with Unisey (University of Seychelles) and comprises a pool of 100 questions,” said Mervin Laporte, a senior immigration officer.
It is only after having passed the exam that an applicant can submit necessary documents to the immigration office, processed at a fee of $73. Once approved the same amount needs to be paid. The naturalisation certificate costs around $1,100.
The applicant and spouse need to attend an interview before a 5-member Citizenship Committee, which meets every month. The committee reviews the eligibility and fitness of the applicant before citizenship is granted.
From 2012 to May this year, 118 foreigners have been granted citizenship through naturalisation. The highest number of naturalised Seychellois is from India, 20 in total.
Apart from naturalisation, a foreigner may also be granted citizenship through registration.
A person is illegible to apply under special circumstances – ‘marriage to a Seychellois’, ‘students’, ‘priority worker’ and ‘investor’. Regardless of the category, an applicant has to pay a processing fee of $73 and a registration fee of $1,100.
Under the category ‘marriage to Seychellois,’ the applicant must have resided in Seychelles for an aggregated period of 15 years and have been in the country for 13 years.
Citizenship can be granted even if the spouse of the applicant is no longer alive and the marriage no longer exists.
A university graduate who has lived and studied in Seychelles for at least five years up to secondary level is eligible to apply for the ‘student’ registration. The applicant must have held a Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) for two years and a Permanent Residence Permit for more than five years.
Should you possess an extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, economics, law, business or sports, you are a candidate eligible for the ‘priority worker’ registration. A candidate must hold a university degree at Doctorate, Master or Bachelor level in an area likely to contribute significantly to the development of Seychelles. The person must also have lived in the island nation for a total of 15 years or more.
Under ‘investors’ category, an applicant is eligible to apply if they have invested one million US Dollars or more in a business in Seychelles and has resided an aggregate period of 11 years in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
All applicants have to sit for the citizenship eligibility exam and fees for registration vary between $1,100 and $25,700.