The Parliament of Rwanda has adopted a new law governing the Rwandan Nationality replacing a law of 2008.
According to the new law, foreign investors and skilled persons will be facilitated to acquire Rwandan nationality, a move that intends to boost foreign investment and to increase the number of people who would contribute expertise.
The Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration recently announced that since 2009 when it was given the mandate to manage nationality applications, 935 applicants were given Rwandan nationality.
The new law increases the grounds for applicants with special skills, talent and substantial and sustainable investment or activities.
Both categories may apply and be granted Rwandan nationality regardless of the five years (5) required to the applicant to have resided in the country.
Among others, the applicant will be required to “have substantial sustainable investment or activities in Rwanda” and to possess a recommendation letter.
The later emanates from a relevant organ address to the competent authority describing the applicant’s substantial sustainable investment or activities in Rwanda that would justify granting Rwandan nationality by acquisition.
In this recommendation letter, it has to be clearly indicated that the applicants’ skills are highly needed in the c0untry.
In general, the new law provides for 11 conditions for granting Rwandan nationality for non-origin: Birth on the territory of Rwanda, foundling, marriage, adoption, national interest, special skills or talent, substantial sustainable investments or activities; residence in Rwanda, honour, being an immigrant, statelessness.
This law provides also the Rwandan nationality acquired by marriage if the applicant is married to a Rwandan national, to have been married for at least 5 years among others.
*Rwandan nationality by acquisition on grounds of residence in Rwanda
With regard to Rwandan nationality due to residency in Rwanda, this new law in Article 16 stipulates that a foreigner may apply for it after fifteen (15) years of legal residency in Rwanda, and must have knowledge of civic values, social integration in Rwandan society and to not pose a threat to national security.
This is a significant change because the 2008 law, which is still in force today, stipulates that any foreigner applying for Rwandan nationality must legally reside in Rwanda for 5 years while applying for Rwandan nationality.
The difference in years tells it all; Rwanda is prioritising applications that would clearly add up to national development and skills.
There is also Rwandan nationality on the basis of immigration, where the applicant must have moved to Rwanda for social, political or economic reasons, or have to be descended from a person who has immigrated to Rwanda for these reasons.
In this context, the applicant must have lived in Rwanda for at least 25 years, and must be also a person of integrity, good conduct, and to be a person who poses no threat to national security.
Meanwhile, the power to grant Rwandan nationality by acquisition is vested in Cabinet.
However, the power to grant Rwandan nationality by acquisition on grounds of honour is vested in the President of the Republic.
An employee of the organ in charge of Rwandan nationality who is involved in fraudulently granting a certificate of Rwandan nationality by acquisition to a person who is not entitled to it commits an offence.
Upon conviction, he or she is liable to a term of imprisonment of not less than seven (7) years but not more than ten (10) years and a fine of not less than five million Rwandan francs (FRW 5,000,000) but not more than seven million Rwandan francs (FRW 7,000,000).
It is the same with anyone who will be convicted of helping another person in any way for fraudulent Rwandan citizenship. They will be sentenced to imprisonment not less than five years but not more than seven years, and a fine not less than Rwf 3 million but not more than Rwf 5 million.
Also very important to note is that in case a Rwandan national holds dual nationality, only Rwandan nationality is considered in case involving compliance with the laws of Rwanda.
The bill which was passed by the Chamber of Deputies must be sent to members of the Rwandan Senate and approved by the President of the Republic of Rwanda for approval.
As usual, the bill will take effect only upon publiocation in official gazette.