Chapter 2 Citizenship:
The Two Stage Process
First we will consider the various categories under which all applications for rights of residence and citizenship fall.
The gaining of a new nationality almost always involves two steps:
- first, gaining the right to reside in the new country; and,
- second, qualifying, by a period of residence, for citizenship. Normally the qualification for citizenship is a period of residence which can be up to 12 years depending on the country. The important step is obtaining the right of residence. Once you have that right, provided you do actually reside for the required period, the naturalisation process is almost automatic.
But not all rights to reside will result in the possibility of citizenship. For example, the US offers a number of residence-visa classifications but only two of them are helpful in having the holder’s residence qualify for naturalisation; and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to change from one US visa class to another that will help you obtain citizenship.
There is one major exception to the general rule concerning the two-stage process.
Citizenship by birth.
In many countries, anyone born in that country, irrespective of his parents’ nationality, is automatically a citizen. Many Hong Kong people have travelled to Australia, the US or Canada, for the birth of their children, so that those children automatically have another citizenship. In international law this is known as the “jus solis,” or law of the soil.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US are the most popular destinations for Hong Kong residents. Except for the UK, birth in any one of those countries confers citizenship.
There is one exception to this general rule. When the parents are accredited diplomats to the host country, their children do not get its citizenship. Aside from that, your child’s birth in one of these four countries (not the UK) will confer on him that country’s nationality.
The UK recently changed its rules so that only people of British ancestry can be British, regardless of where they were born. This was of course designed to stop the influx of British passport-holders from India, Kenya, Hong Kong and other colonies or former colonies. It also excluded from British citizenship all persons, who though clearly by race and parentage of
British origin, were so unwise or unfortunate as to have been born upon soil not that of the UK. So any reader who is pregnant and British, living outside the magic circle of Britain’s frontiers, should travel back in time to ensure delivery inside the circle.
By contrast, citizenship of Switzerland by birth depends, not on the place of birth, but on Swiss parentage, regardless of place of birth.
Generally, having a child born in another country can provide — in due course — entry for the entire family. Aside from marriage, this is probably the cheapest, though not the quickest, method of obtaining a new citizenship for yourself and your entire family.
In addition to protecting your child, such a move may enable the child, when he or she comes of age, to sponsor the parents and brothers and sisters for entry into the country of the child’s birth. (Please see Appendix II.)
A Canadian may for example sponsor the entry into Canada of his parents, but not his brothers and sisters. A US citizen may sponsor the entry of relatives of various degrees, but their entry is subject to quota restrictions, the quotas being allocated to theft country of original-not-current-citizenship, and may also be affected by the different priority classifications accorded to the different degrees of relationship. Australia’s current policy of fostering family reunion makes Australia the best choice if your aim is eventually to procure the entry of your entire family this way.
On the subject of arranging birth, clearly some planning is advisable. Most airlines refuse to carry women who are more than seven months gone, so mother-to-be should travel at least two months ahead of time. The cost will be mitigated if you can stay with friends or relatives. Also, well ahead of that, at least ten months before the date you are planning delivery, you should take out medical insurance, and at the same time make sure that it will cover you for the relevant risks, both in the place where you plan to be and in an amount that will cover the expenses, which in certain places such as the US can be almost prohibitively high.
Mother precaution is for mother-to-be to travel well ahead of the foregoing schedule, even, if there is a possibility of her giving birth before the normal time or even if she just looks as if her term is more advanced than it really is. Tourist visas should be arranged well beforehand. Except for the US, the authorities are unlikely to refuse entry at the frontier. (In the case of the US, a visa does not confer a right of entry — this is granted only on arrival.)
You should also ensure that you obtain a letter of referral from your own doctor to a doctor in the other country, stating that for specified medical reasons (the more technical the better) it is necessary for the birth to take place, say, in a particular hospital because of possible complications that are best looked after there. Also you will want a little time when you get there to look around and settle on the hospital and doctor.
Qualifying for the right to reside.
Application for permanent residence rights in any country will normally fall vinto one of six categories.
Marriage to a national of another country is usually the quickest way to gain
residency, and then a passport. In a few countries, for example in Australia, even a fiance(e) is granted residency. The spouse of a US citizen is exempt from the quota requirements that can entail a wait of up to twelve years from the time the application for a resident visa is accepted.
There are numerous cases of arranged marriages, or marriages of convenience, where either as a favor or for payment a national has entered into a marriage contract for the sole purpose of assisting another person to change nationality. Once the papers have been issued a divorce follows.
However your new national status could be revoked if at any time later it came to light that your marriage was arranged, particularly if it was for payment.
I have also heard stories that the Immigration and Naturalisation Service of the US will, if suspicious, take each newly-wed into a separate room, for interrogation of a very personal nature.
In my view, if you are contemplating marriage as a way to get a second passport, it is preferable to marry someone you at least like well enough to live with for a year or so. While allowing that by all means it is not unreasonable for some money to change hands, if you can treat the relationship as meaning that you are living together for a time, you will be more comfortable in what for most people is not the most comfortable of situations.
Nevertheless, the condition of marriage is one of the more creative areas in immigration, and therefore I would like to relate two exemplary tales showing how marriages were made for the sake of the migratory instinct — though never consummated.
Example #1. A British lady and an American gentleman met in a bar, got chatting, and discovered each had opposite motives. She wanted to live and work in the US; he in Britain. They got married, and each was able to live happily ever after — he in Britain, she in the US.
Example #2. A Chinese lady from Hong Kong wanted to move to the US. By chance she met a homosexual man from San Francisco, who preferred that his public image in that city should be heterosexual. They too got married and lived happily ever after in San Francisco.
Normally a spouse acquires right of residence on marriage but must maintain actual residence for a qualifying period before becoming entitled to citizenship.
In many though not all countries, a permanent resident or a citizen may sponsor the entry of close family members. The definition of close varies from country to country. The following list shows which countries will accept the differing degrees of relative.
Spouse: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.
Children: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. (Restrictions: Canada — single children under 21; New Zealand — dependent children.)
Parents: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US. (Restrictions: New Zealand — parents without other relatives in their country of residence.)
Brothers and sisters: Australia, New Zealand and the US. (Restrictions:
New Zealand — as for parents.)
In none of these countries can the entry of more distant relatives be sponsored, such as uncles, aunts, or cousins.
Policies vary among countries. For example, the Australian government is actively pursuing a policy of family reunion, under which applications are approved within a matter of months.
The US, on the other hand, has an annual quota system. In any one year it will admit only 20,000 people born in any one country — regardless of where that person may now be living. The annual quota for colonies, such as Hong Kong, which are not countries in their own right, was until recently only 600; it is now 5,000 (as of October 1987). This could change: under the possible compromise between the Kennedy and Simpson/Schumer proposals referred to elsewhere in this work, it’s possible that the unfilled portion of the UK’s annual quota of 20,000 places — of which only a minor proportion are now taken up by strictly UK people — may be made available to people from Hong Kong. But this remains to be seen.
As a result of the existing (as opposed to possible future) quotas, there has been a waiting list of up to 20 years (depending on priority classification) for applicants born in Hong Kong, although the recent quota increase has brought the period down and may continue to do so. If you were born in China, however, you would only have had to wait one or two years. The waiting period begins when the application is approved; and if the sponsor dies, the application dies with him.
To qualify for residency via employment, you normally have to find a job in your target country which your prospective employer cannot fill with a local person.
Some governments compile a list of skills deemed to be in demand. If you have one of these, you will be granted residency without a firm job offer, on the assumption that your skills will enable you to find a job without difficulty.
However not all employments or work permits will lead to citizenship. This is particularly true of the US, where there are only two categories of work permit or visa — the P3 and P6 — that carry with them the eventual possibility of naturalisation. The P3 category is for the professions: the minimum qualification is a college degree or internationally recognised professional qualification, plus several years of experience (in practice a post-graduate degree is preferred). Category P6 is for skills that cannot be filled with American labor. The employer has to show that he has tried to hire an American national, but failed.
A big snag with both these categories is that they come under the quota system. If that system produces a waiting list for people born where you were born, there is a risk that any job that was available when you applied and got your application approved will no longer be available when the waiting period is over. Things are better than they were for Hong Kong applicants. As of early 1988, P3 applications approved in 1986, and P6 applications approved in 1983, were getting to the top of their respective waiting lists.
All other US visa classifications giving you the right to live and work in the US entail a change of status in order to qualify for citizenship. In theory this change is not permitted; in practice it happens all the time but it is difficult and depends on what kind of visa you start off with.
Australia is much more liberal provided you have one of the officially recognised needed skills. There are about 46 of these at the time this is written, the number having steadily increased in recent years. This could change.
Today’s need can become tomorrow’s sufficiency, just as yesterday’s sufficiency has become today’s need. But if you get in with one of the officially needed skills you can become an Australian citizen after the qualifying period of residence.
In Appendix II there are lists of occupations on the wanted lists of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Both Canada and Australia operate “points” systems. Applicants are awarded different numbers of points according to their education, qualifications, working experience, age, employability, and in some cases family relationship with people already in the country. As the detailed rules change from time to time, they are not set out in this Report, but up-to-date information can of course be obtained from the relevant consulate.
Some countries will grant residency or citizenship to retired persons who can show that they will not become a charge on public funds.
This means ownership of a house and proof that you have an income sufficient to support you. Sometimes it can involve a fairly arbitrary standard. For example entry into the Philippines is granted to retired persons if they deposit $US50,000 in an account (opened in their own name) with the Philippines Central Bank.
Australia, Canada and the UK are among the major countries that accept retired and relatively wealthy people. Strangely New Zealand, which has the space and the climate, and needs the money, does not admit foreign retired persons, however well-heeled. The official line is that New Zealanders are reluctant to share with others the benefits of their welfare state, but this hardly justifies keeping out people who are well able to pay their own way.
If you can make out a case showing that you would be persecuted on account of your political or religious beliefs if repatriated to your country of origin, you may be able to claim refugee status or political asylum.
Otherwise you can normally only claim to be a refugee if you are from an area designated as a source of refugees by the United Nations. Most countries accept a certain number of such refugees every year, but this program will not enable you to choose your destination.
The US has perhaps the most liberal policy towards political refugees — if you come from a communist country.
Most countries will grant residency, and possibly citizenship, if you qualify
on a combination of two counts. Either —
- you invest a certain amount of money in the country; or,
- you start up or take over a business, resulting in the creation, or
preservation, of jobs for local people.
The most popular countries offering opportunities under this heading are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. I will try to deal with these, and other countries, in greater detail in other chapters.