Rwanda: Top Highlights of the New Law on Rwandan Nationality

Last week, the much-awaited Organic Law governing Rwandan nationality was gazetted outlining procedures and requirements for acquisition and application of Rwandan nationality.

The new law highlights that one can either become a citizen by origin or by acquisition. While most of the pathways to citizenship were previously well known, The New Times explains in detail some of the new ways.

Below are top highlights of the new law especially on acquiring citizenship.

1. Ways one could acquire Rwandan citizenship

The new law highlights that foreign citizens could become Rwandan citizens in one of 11 ways. These include; 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 and statelessness.

Being a foundling in this instance refers to infants found on the territory of Rwanda or Rwandan registered vessels or found in an area that is not subject to the sovereignty of any State.

2. Citizenship by marriage and adoption

For one to acquire citizenship by marriage, they will be required to prove that they have been legally married to a Rwandan national for at least 5 years. Legal marriage includes civil marriage. One will also be expected to be still living in a marital union with his or her spouse. During the application process, one could also be required to have knowledge and respect for Rwandan culture and traditions as well as civic values. A foreign child adopted by a Rwandan also qualifies for citizenship.

3. Citizenship on grounds of national interests and special skills

According to the new law, foreigners can also acquire Rwandan nationality by acquisition on national interest grounds and special skills. This is the case for foreigners whose citizenship would be of benefit to the country through their skills, abilities and talents.

The new law notes that the process will consider aspects such as existence of national interest in connection with the applicant or procession of special skills or talent that are needed in Rwanda.

"Existence of a document that the relevant organ addresses to the organ in charge of Rwandan nationality, describing the national interest that would justify granting Rwandan nationality by acquisition to the applicant," the law reads in part.

4. Citizenship on basis of investment, residence and honour

The new law also has provisions for citizenship for foreigners with substantial sustainable investment or activities in Rwanda as well as those who have legally resided in the country for at least 15 years.

While the document does not put a threshold on an amount that will be considered substantial investment, it notes that a relevant government agency will recommend an applicant describing the applicant's substantial sustainable investment or activities that would justify granting Rwandan nationality.

One could also be granted citizenship on grounds of honour in recognition of one's distinguished character or one's distinguished achievements.

5. Immigrants and stateless persons

The law takes into consideration immigrants and stateless persons and has provisions for their incorporation as citizens. The law has provisions for citizenship for stateless persons, immigrants for social, political or economic reasons, their descendants as well as those who have been physically living on the territory of Rwanda at least for twenty-five (25) years and have lost connection with their countries of origin.

6. Citizenship granted by cabinet or by the President

According to the new law, the power to grant Rwandan nationality by acquisition is also vested in the Cabinet while the power to grant Rwandan nationality on grounds of honour is vested in the President.

7. Revocation of acquired citizenship

Beyond highlighting provisions for acquisition of citizenship, the law also outlines circumstances that could lead to revocation of acquired citizenship. This includes instances such as if the holder acquired it through fraud, false statements, falsified or erroneous documents.

Citizenship can also be revoked if it is established that the holder applied with the intention of committing treason or if their behaviour threatens national security or other national interests.

Acquired citizenship by marriage can also be revoked if it is established that the marriage was concluded in order to acquire or to facilitate the person to acquire Rwandan nationality.

In all the above circumstances, the government can however not revoke Rwandan nationality if it could result in its holder being stateless.

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