TONGAN EXPATRIATES ELIGIBLE FOR DUAL CITIZENSHIP

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NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 4, 2008) - Tongans who lost their Tongan citizenship because they became citizens of other countries can now apply for readmission of their citizenship, and the stateless children of some Tongan mothers abroad will now have the opportunity to register as Tongan nationals.

A spokesperson at the Crown Law Office said today that although the Act amending the Nationality Act was passed on August 14 last year, the Regulations detailing the procedure for readmission were not passed until January 4, making it effective.

Now those eligible for readmission are persons who ceased to be a Tongan prior to the enactment of the Tonga Nationality (Amendment) Act 2007. They now may apply to the Minister responsible for Immigration for a certificate of re-admission to the Tongan nationality.

They are Tongans who lost their Tongan citizenship by voluntarily taking up citizenship in a foreign country, or a Tongan woman who marries a foreigner and takes on her husband’s nationality.

The new amended act also declares that persons deemed to be Tongans are those born in Tonga to a Tongan parent; persons born abroad of a Tongan father or mother; any non-Tongan who married a Tongan provided they lodge a written declaration with the Minister of Foreign Affairs wishing to assume Tongan nationality.

The Minister also has the discretion in granting or withholding a certificate of re-admission. And a certificate of re-admission will not be issued until the applicant has taken the oath of allegiance.

The Crown Law office spokesperson also advised that Tongans in the United States and United Kingdom can lodge their application through their Tongan Consular Office while those in New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world can lodge their readmission to the Tonga Immigration by sending it to their families for submission here. However they have to be present in Tonga when the interview takes place.

Tongans born overseas follow a different procedure.

Children who were born overseas to either a Tongan mother or father who was born in Tonga can now apply for a registration of a foreign birth certificate to the Tonga Registrar. They will have to take an oath of allegiance before being granted a Tongan birth certificate.

Before the Act was amended to accommodate Dual Citizenship, a person born out of wedlock to a Tongan mother in a foreign country could be a stateless child. Similarly, children of Tongan persons who took up citizenship in another country and who take on the new nationality of their parents also lose their Tongan nationality. Now that is changed, forms can be picked up from the Tonga Immigration office or the Crown Law office.

The Crown Law office is working closely with the Immigration Department to make sure that applicants are informed clearly of the requirements and procedure.

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