Source: The New Times (Kigali)
By James Karuhanga
From 2009 to date, the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration has granted nationality to 935 foreign nationals, Jean-Damascène Rusanganwa, the Director of Citizen Services, told The New Times on Wednesday, September 30.
About 11 years ago, the Directorate started duties of assessing and eventually approving which foreign nationals can acquire Rwandan citizenship, upon application.
This was in line with the revised 2008 organic law relating to Rwandan nationality, which transferred the services and responsibility of approving foreigners interested in acquiring Rwandan citizenship from the Ministry of Justice to the Directorate.
A presidential order of May 2009 also helped clarify things.
At the time, Rusanganwa indicated that the reason for the change was not only because of security.
As noted, it was realized that Immigration is the only department that has a foreigners’ database and thus the institution best placed to handle matters of citizenship approval.
From June 2009, the first applications were received by the department in charge of such services.
159 new applications
“Now we have 159 new applications under process, as well as around 100 others temporarily closed for different reasons since they don’t qualify,” Rusanganwa said.
The application process includes application files, interviews, cabinet approval and, the taking of oath for the successful applicants. Publication in the Official Gazette is the last step of the process.
There had been other amendments to nationality laws in the past but, in the July 2008 law, one of the key developments was special consideration given to a foreigner in the interest of Rwanda.
This time, unlike in the past, there were special considerations to foreign experts.
Unlike in old laws where only a child born to a Rwandan father was eligible, now children born to either a father or a mother could also be given nationality.
Outgoing University of Rwanda Vice Chancellor, Scottish Prof. Philip Cotton, takes oath marking his acquisition of Rwandan citizenship at Nyarugenge District headquarters on September 30. / Photo: Courtesy
The purpose of the July 2008 law was to determine the conditions of acquisition, enjoyment and deprivation of Rwandan nationality.
The law states that majority age, or the authorized age for anyone applying for nationality, is at least 18 years. Any foreigner born on Rwandan territory from alien parents may acquire nationality if he or she applies for it.
A child born in Rwanda, to unknown or stateless parents, or who cannot acquire the nationality of either parent, shall be Rwandan. In addition, foreigners who want to can also become Rwandan nationals by naturalization and after three years of a legally registered marriage to a Rwandan, upon application.
The legal conditions relating to naturalization include ownership of sustainable activities in the country, respecting Rwandan culture and being patriotic.
According to the law, someone may be deprived of acquired nationality if this nationality was illegally acquired or if someone acquired it with the intention of betraying the country.
In such circumstances, the deprived person’s spouse and children – if they subsequently acquired nationality – would not be adversely affected.