Foreigners may soon acquire Rwandan citizenship on the basis of “national interest” if they have special skills or talents, and the ability to offer sustainable investment activities if a Bill recently approved by Cabinet becomes law.
Under this clause, in a draft Organic Law Governing Rwandan Nationality that is expected to be debated by Parliament next month and which The EastAfrican has seen, Rwanda expects to woo more investors by offering them services and benefits reserved for citizens.
This will be the additional grounds to get citizenship. The other four are by birth on Rwandan territory, marriage, naturalisation, and Rwandan origin.
The procedure under “national interest” clause will require a competent authority to write to the Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration describing the national interest that would justify granting nationality to a particular foreigner.
The same will apply for possession of special skills or talents needed in Rwanda, and ability to offer sustainable investment activities. Names of foreigners who are granted citizenship will then be published in the official gazette.
Immigrants can now seek for nationality under the new law if they can demonstrate they are people of integrity.
In the Bill, Rwanda plans to limit the possibility of acquiring citizenship through “fake” marriages.
According to Article 12 of Draft Organic Law Governing Rwandan Nationality, a foreigner who marries a Rwandan can acquire citizenship after five years of their marriage, up from three years in the current law governing nationality.
The Bill says, such a person must “cohabit without interruption until the date that Rwandan nationality by acquisition is granted.”
Even then, the Bill adds, the applicant must “have knowledge and respect for Rwandan culture and traditions.”
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.