Africa Coming to Terms With a Growing Diaspora’s Dual Citizenship

Of interest:

Earlier this year, Jawar Mohammed, the prominent political activist and media entrepreneur, who had returned home to Ethiopia from the US, looked set to challenge his former ally, prime minister Abiy Ahmed, in the country’s election. But there was immediately uncertainty created over Jawar’s eligibility simply because he had been a US citizen. Ethiopian law does not allow dual nationality and even though he written letters saying he’s renounced his US citizenship that uncertainty remains.

Jawar’s case is one of many that highlights an increasingly common issue for many African countries, who after years of battles with Western imperialism and colonial rule were determined at independence for their citizens to literally pick a side and not be allowed to carry the passports of other countries.

But in the 60 years since independence across the continent, the forces of globalization and transatlantic migration has seen dual nationality come up more frequently as an issue which needs to be addressed across politics and business through to sports.

Back in 1985, Saudi Arabia’s soccer authorities initially refused to hand over the trophy of the Afro-Asian Cup after losing to Cameroon in the finals of the tournament. They claimed Cameroon had fielded an ineligible player who was none other than legendary star Roger Milla, who had traveled to Jeddah on a French passport as he couldn’t also have a Cameroonian one.

Now, Cameroon is considering a revision of its nationality code which was enacted in 1968. The current law stipulates any Cameroonian adult who willfully acquires a foreign nationality automatically loses their Cameroon nationality.

But a new draft bill—a copy of which Quartz Africa has seen—says “a Cameroonian who has acquired another nationality shall retain Cameroon nationality unless it is expressly relinquished by the concerned.” The bill is expected to pass through with little challenge.

Some African governments have been reluctant to legalize dual citizenship, arguing the patriotism of people with dual citizenship could be questioned. But there’s also anecdotal evidence some of these governments are more concerned an influential and economically independent diaspora, able to move freely between countries, could support a challenge to the leadership.

Passport limits

By 2010, a comprehensive study showed that 21 African countries, including DR Congo, Liberia, Algeria and Zimbabwe, prohibited dual citizenship. Meanwhile, 23 others permitted dual citizenship under certain circumstances like if acquired by marriage to a foreign spouse or allowed for citizens from birth only. Other countries did not address the issue of dual citizenship in their laws.

Despite these restrictions it is not unusual among middle class Africans to find people holding dual nationality in countries which don’t allow dual nationality, in part because many countries don’t have comprehensive systems for checking until they vie for office. In 2017, up to two-thirds of the presidential candidates in Somalia’s election held foreign passports while as many as 100 of its 275 legislators also held foreign passports. Eventual winner, now president, Mohamed Farmaajo, also held American citizenship. He had previously worked for the state transportation department in  Buffalo, New York.

Many African countries today have sizable diaspora communities, notably in Europe and North America, with an increasing economic, social and political influence aided by the improvement in communications and travel networks over the last couple of decades.

The World Bank estimates the African diaspora around the world at 30.6 million, but the figure could be even higher when unrecorded African migrants are considered. In 2019, remittance inflow from the African diaspora topped $48 billion. Such remittances in 2010 contributed to 2.6% of the continent’s GDP.

The IMF has estimated the African diaspora save an around $53 billion every year outside of the continent. There is a belief that if it was easier to invest in their countries of origin as dual nationals more of those savings would come to Africa.

Last year, Ethiopia’s parliament passed a bill to allow members of the Ethiopian diaspora, who have taken up nationalities in other countries, to invest, buy shares, and set up lending businesses in the country’s state-dominated financial sector.

Ghana seems to be one of the African countries which has been quick to recognise the potential of its diaspora and the advantage of granting them the possibility to hold dual citizenship. As early as 2000, it passed a law to recognize dual nationality for its citizens. The government of Ghana has since made efforts to attract its Ghanaian origin and other African descendant diaspora to return home, with the Year of Return, Ghana 2019 recording remarkable success.

Practicalities

Many African professionals and businessmen at home and in the diaspora want to pick up foreign passports for very practical reasons—they want to be able to move freely around the globe.

According to the Africa Visa Openness Report 2019, on average, Africans can only travel to 25% of other African countries without a visa. But holders of passports from North America and Europe can travel visa-free to more African countries than Africans.

Henley & Partners, the global citizenship and residency advisory firm which is set to open an office in Lagos, has pointed out that most Nigerians wishing to subscribe to their offerings have no plans to relocate. Instead, they just want to have a passport which makes it easier to travel without the unpredictability of visa applications.

The latest Henley Passport Index shows that two of Africa’s most populated countries, Nigeria and Ethiopia occupy the 97th and 98thpositions respectively on the index. The Nigerian passport offers its holders visa-free travel to just 46 countries mostly in Africa, while the number is 44 for Ethiopia.

Source: Africa Coming to Terms With a Growing Diaspora’s Dual Citizenship

‘It feels something was missing’: Pandemic forces new Canadians’ citizenship ceremonies onto Zoom

Hopefully we will be back to more regular in person ceremonies but with social distancing, no handshakes and likely masks, in the next few months:

It’s a moment that Haseena Hotaki and all immigrants long for: taking the oath, shaking hands with the citizenship judge, waving the Canadian flag and cheering with other new citizens.

Instead, on this big day, the 29-year-old Afghani immigrant found herself alone in the living room of her Toronto apartment, in front of her laptop awaiting the appearance of Judge Hardish Dhaliwal on her computer screen so she could be sworn in on Zoom.

“I have heard all these stories from others about what happened at these ceremonies. I pictured what my own ceremony would look like, holding a Canadian flag in a room with other new citizens,” said Hotaki, who came here in 2012 under a government sponsorship.

“Did it really just happen? I just had this over an online meeting through Zoom?” asked the Kandahar native after the 30-minute solo virtual event hosted recently by the judge and four immigration and citizenship officers. “It feels something was missing.”

It wasn’t the dream ceremony Hotaki envisioned when she passed her citizenship exam last September, but it’s still better than a further delay in becoming a full Canadian.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada had to cancel all citizenship ceremonies in mid-March because it’s impossible to enforce social-distancing at these functions attended by new citizens and their loved ones.

Immigration department spokesperson Beatrice Fenelon said officials began holding virtual ceremonies on April 1, beginning with individuals and families whose ceremonies had been cancelled and who had contacted IRCC with urgent reasons for needing citizenship, such as employment requirements.

Last year, an average of 20,000 immigrants became new citizens each month. To date since April, 96 ceremonies have been held.

“An important aspect of holding online group ceremonies is the verification of applicants’ identities, which is important to the integrity of the program, especially in an online environment,” said Fenelon.

A virtual ceremony is similar to an in-person one.

In Hotaki’s case, she was asked to show the immigration officers on the screen three pieces of picture ID before she took her oath in English and French with Dhaliwal and signed her citizenship certificate — with an e-signature.

There were no RCMP officers in Red Serge present or singing of the national anthem.

The process wasn’t without its hiccups. Hotaki said her ceremony was twice disrupted due to internet problems that forced her to log onto Zoom again.

“It made me nervous,” said Hotaki, who worked for international aid groups as an English translator in Afghanistan and in the not-for-profit sector after coming to Canada. She started her bachelor program in international development at the University of Toronto last fall.

Hotaki picked a traditional Afghan kochi dress, worn only for celebrations, for her citizenship ceremony to honour this special moment of her life. But she was disappointed there was no one around her to share her joy other than her two young daughters.

The whole experience was surreal, she said, until a citizenship officer asked her to cut and void her permanent residence card.

“The whole ceremony was like a dream. When I looked at my PR card in small pieces, that’s the only thing that seemed real,” said Hotaki, who has founded her own group, Humanity First for Peace, to provide education programs for girls and women in Afghanistan.

“I am grateful for the opportunities Canada has given me and I am extremely proud of who I am today. I have come a long way and feel I finally belong.”

Hotaki kissed and hugged her daughters after the ceremony, then called her parents in Afghanistan to share the news before ordering takeout from her favourite Thai restaurant to celebrate a new leaf of her life in Canada.

One million passports: Putin has weaponized citizenship in occupied eastern Ukraine

Of note:

Moscow plans to issue one million Russian passports to residents of Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine by the end of 2020, officials confirmed last week. By creating new demographic facts on the ground, the Kremlin hopes to alter the geopolitical balance in the region and derail efforts to end the six-year undeclared war between Russia and Ukraine. Despite these grave consequences, the international community has yet to impose any additional sanctions on Russia. Instead, Russian President Vladimir Putin is able to continue pursuing policies of passport imperialism in Ukraine with apparent impunity.

Speaking on June 9 in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, United Russia MP Viktor Vodolatsky confirmed that more than 180,000 Ukrainians had received Russian passports since the introduction of a new fast-track procedure a little over a year ago. According to Vodolatsky, a further 98,000 applications are currently being processed and up to 800,000 more passports are expected to be issued in the second half of the current year.

Plans for simplified passport distribution in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine were first unveiled in April 2019, just days after Volodymyr Zelenskyy has won the Ukrainian presidency via a landslide victory. Throughout the spring 2019 Ukrainian presidential election campaign, Zelenskyy had been markedly less confrontational towards Russia than his rival, the incumbent Petro Poroshenko. This had led to widespread speculation that Zelenskyy’s election could serve to break the deadlock in a peace process that had witnessed little concrete progress since the end of large-scale hostilities in early 2015.

This initial optimism was soon tempered by the publication of Putin’s presidential decree granting Ukrainians from the occupied east of the country the right to apply for Russian passports via a special streamlined procedure. “These actions are yet more confirmation for the world community of Russia’s true role as an aggressor state, which is waging a war against Ukraine,” commented Zelenskyy at the time. “Unfortunately, this decree does not bring us closer to the ultimate goal of a ceasefire.”

Emboldened by the lack of a robust international response to his initial decree, Putin then escalated his passport imperialism against Ukraine. The Russian leader issued a second decree on July 17, 2019 that extended the citizenship offer to all Ukrainians living in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts – the two eastern regions of Ukraine that are currently under partial Russian occupation.

This is far from the first time the Kremlin has employed passports as a foreign policy tool to project its influence across the former Soviet Union. The tactic was first seen in Moldova in the early 1990s. The distribution of Russian passports also helped cement Moscow’s grip on the two breakaway regions of Georgia prior to the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Meanwhile, Russian passports have played an important role in the Kremlin’s Crimean policy, both before and after the 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Putin’s passport ploy in eastern Ukraine is as clear an indication as you could possibly wish for that Russia has no intention of allowing Ukraine to regain full control over the occupied regions. If the Kremlin’s current forecasts are accurate, there will be one million Russian citizens living in occupied eastern Ukraine by the end of 2020, representing at least a quarter of the entire population. This will transform the so-called separatist republics of eastern Ukraine into Russian passport protectorates.

With Russian citizens representing a large percentage of the region’s overall population, Moscow will claim the legal right to intervene at will in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Such arguments bear little relation to the realities of international law. Nevertheless, they represent a far more convincing pretext for endless interference than the protestations about oppressed Russian-speakers that Moscow has relied upon since Russia’s military intervention began in 2014.

The war Russia unleashed six years ago is far from over and Moscow remains as committed as ever to limiting Ukraine’s independence. Putin’s passport imperialism is central to these ongoing efforts, offering the potential to entrench Russian influence in the country while fatally weakening Ukrainian sovereignty. If it is allowed to proceed unimpeded in occupied eastern Ukraine, the same strategy could then be expanded to additional regions throughout the country, allowing Russia to slowly but surely undermine the Ukrainian government’s ability to function. Sadly, there is nothing particularly far-fetched or fanciful about such nightmare scenarios. Indeed, the passport distribution phase is already underway in unoccupied parts of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has framed its passport offensive as a purely humanitarian policy designed to ease the suffering of a population trapped in a conflict zone, but these claims are no more credible than the Kremlin’s attempts to portray its well-equipped proxy armies in eastern Ukraine as a ragtag collection of disgruntled miners and tractor drivers. In reality, the weaponization of Russian citizenship is a well-known element of the hybrid arsenal developed by the Kremlin since 1991 and deployed throughout the former USSR as Moscow has fought to retain its imperial influence.

Only an emphatic international response can now prevent the Kremlin from using the same passport tactics to consolidate control over occupied eastern Ukraine and destabilize the rest of the country indefinitely. The European Commission has already taken steps to prevent EU member states from recognizing passports issued via Putin’s April 24, 2019 decree. Further measures targeting the Kremlin are also necessary, including additional sanctions.

Russia is currently in the process of establishing passport protectorates in eastern Ukraine. It is doing so methodically and shamelessly, in front of the watching world. If such brazen aggression is allowed to go unpunished, it will lead to a further erosion of international security, with implications that will be felt far beyond the borders of Ukraine.

Source: One million passports: Putin has weaponized citizenship in occupied eastern Ukraine

Virtual citizenship ceremonies coming for new Canadians whose dreams were crushed by COVID-19

Needed albeit imperfect compared to in-person ceremonies:

Citizenship tests and ceremonies have been cancelled for more than two months because of the global pandemic — but newcomers could soon be taking their oaths online through virtual citizenship events.

On March 14, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it would cancel the ceremonies “until further notice.”

Dhiti Nanavati has been working hard for years to reach her “life goal” of becoming a Canadian citizen. The Toronto-based software company marketing manager said she was deeply disappointed when her scheduled March 27 ceremony was called off.

“I was really looking forward to becoming a Canadian citizen and not knowing when the oath ceremony will take place is naturally very distressing,” she said.”A lot of personal sacrifices have gone into making this a reality and the uncertainty about the ceremony is unsettling. It’s like you’re almost at the finish line of a race, only to be told you have stop because the race is cancelled.”

She said she would welcome an online option. She may soon get one.

In a statement to CBC, the department said the citizenship ceremony represents “the culmination of years of hard work for new Canadians and their families.” It said it will begin scheduling virtual ceremonies, starting with those who already had ceremonies scheduled and have a pressing need for Canadian citizenship.

“IRCC will then work to implement virtual citizenship ceremonies for other cases as quickly as possible,” it said.

Since the pandemic hit, IRCC has considered granting citizenship only in exceptional cases, to people who need it for employment or essential travel.

Last month, University of Manitoba researcher Adolf Ng, who is working on a study related to supply chain management issues during the pandemic, became the first person to be awarded Canadian citizenship through a virtual ceremony.The government says it’s working out a way to administer the ceremonies that protects the integrity of the legal process and also reflects the significance of the occasion. No firm timeframe has been established.

Andrew Griffith — author, fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former senior immigration official — said that in a pandemic climate, virtual ceremonies are probably the most efficient and practical way to avoid a growing backlog of citizenship cases. No one who has paid the fees and passed the tests should be forced to wait, he said.

But Griffith said something will be lost in the translation from an in-person ceremony to an online one.

“I think there’s something particularly special about when the group of 30 or 40, or however many there are, actually sit down together, look around the room and see the diversity of the people who are applying for Canadian citizenship and take the oath as a group,” he said.

Typically, a person takes the solemn oath before a citizenship judge or official, usually in a group setting. Taking the oath of citizenship is the final legal requirement that applicants older than 14 years old must meet to become Canadian citizens.

A sense of security

“It gives you that security,” Griffith said, adding that a sense of security “is pretty valuable, given the state of the world right now.”

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Zool Suleman said those who have “gone through all the hoops” to become a Canadian should be granted citizenship, even during a pandemic.

Despite global travel restrictions, some people may still need to obtain passports quickly for essential work or other types of travel, he said. Others, he said, might have other reasons for not wanting to wait to obtain their citizenship — tax reasons, for example, or a wish to relinquish citizenship in another country.

“There could be financial reasons, or purely political or social reasons,” he said.

Suleman agrees that the communal experience of becoming a Canadian is precious, but he predicts people will find their own ways to mark the special day.

“Legally, it will all be the same,” he said.

Once people get to the point of taking the oath at a citizenship ceremony, they’ve already checked off a number of other requirements regarding residency and language. They’ve also passed a test on Canadian history and values and paid fees of $630 each.

Stuck in limbo

Citizenship comes with the right to vote and apply for a Canadian passport. Some jobs, including employment with the Canadian Armed Forces, require citizenship.

Last year, nearly 250,000 people became Canadian citizens.

Yasir Naqvi, chief executive officer of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, said that final step of taking the oath provides a profound sense of belonging. It’s also a way for people to express affection for their adopted home, he said.

“They understand why the process is halted at the moment, but at the moment the delay is a source of anxiety because they want to become Canadian citizens and move on with the next chapter of their life as a Canadian,” Naqvi said.

Soran Kareem of Hamilton, Ont. arrived as a refugee from the Kurdistan region of Iraq five years ago.

He said 2020 was shaping up to be a joyous year: his college studies were wrapping up, his son was learning to walk and he and his wife were on their way to becoming Canadian citizens.They filed their applications in October 2019 but are now in limbo due to delays caused by the pandemic.

“We have been living in stress and uncertainty because we do not know when we can do the test and the ceremony,” he said.

“My wife and I have a lot of stress and worry about this situation because we have many plans (for) when we get the citizenship, especially for studying and moving to another city. We cannot do anything because we do not want to change our address. That could make the citizenship process longer.”

Kareem said allowing people go through the citizenship process online could put to rest many of those concerns.

Parvinder Singh of Toronto took his test on March 10 and hasn’t heard anything since. He said he understands the unprecedented situation officials are dealing with but hopes the government will act fast to help those waiting for citizenship.

“It’s a long process and just coming on to the last point and finding yourself stuck is frustrating,” he said.

Source: Virtual citizenship ceremonies coming for new Canadians whose dreams were crushed by COVID-19

China could keep dual citizenship Canadians from leaving Hong Kong amid protests: lawyer

Legitimate worry:

A Canadian legal activist is warning the federal government to grant asylum to democracy activists in Hong Kong and expanded settlement to those with links to Canada before China prevents them from leaving.

The warning came Monday from Avvy Go, the director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, which has already helped bring Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to Canada.

There are 300,000 Canadians of Hong Kong descent in China, and Go says if Ottawa doesn’t act now to accommodate those who want to leave, Beijing will prevent them from leaving in the future.

“The time to act is now. As China continues to crack down on the democracy movement in Hong Kong, it may soon find ways to prohibit Hong Kong activists from leaving that city, period,” Go said Monday at a joint video press conference hosted by Amnesty International.

“Even with those who are Canadian citizens, China may refuse to recognize their dual citizenship status and deny their exit from Hong Kong.”

MPs from the four major Canadian political parties and one independent senator stood in solidarity with the proposals Go put forward at a virtual press conference convened by Amnesty International.

Canada, along with the United States, Britain and Australia, have condemned Beijing’s imposition of a new national security law that they say violates Hong Kong’s freedom from Chinese communist interference.

“This is the Beijing government’s most breathtaking, threatening and callous attack yet … discarding any pretence of fulfilling China’s international promises made when Hong Kong was handed over in 1997,” said Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty’s Canadian branch.

Go called on the federal government to implement several immigration and asylum measures, to help people get out of Hong Kong before it is too late. They are:

— Expediting family sponsorship applications by Canadians with spouses and parents in Hong Kong.

— Expanding family-reunification sponsorship programs beyond parents and spouses.

— Issuing more temporary-resident permits, work visas and student visas.

— Granting refugee status to democracy advocates, and offering them stepped-up resettlement options.

Last year, Hong Kong residents took to the streets in mass protests against a proposed extradition law from Beijing that was eventually abandoned.

During that unrest, Go’s clinic received requests from Canadians of Hong Kong descent whose relatives participated in pro-democracy protests, she said.

Since Beijing announced the new security law, the clinic is getting calls from Canadians who are worried about their families even though they may not have been involved with the democracy movement, said Go.

“These are our people. And as parliamentarians dedicated to promoting and protecting democracy, we cannot stand by silently. I endorse all of the actions,” said Independent Sen. Marilou McPhedran.

McPhedran said she has travelled across Africa and seen the effect of China’s massive development spending, an influence-buying effort that many analysts say is a power play by Beijing’s ruling communist party.

“The weaponization of economic support is something that we need to understand better as we look at what is happening in Hong Kong,” said McPhedran.

“The violation of the Hong Kong Basic Law, which is the essence of what China is saying it is going to do, is in fact a precursor to threats to democracies in many other countries as well.”

Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, who was born in Hong Kong, said the people of his homeland respect human rights and the rule of law, and they are prepared to commemorate Thursday’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre that saw the Chinese army kill scores of pro-democracy student protesters in 1989.

“We’re witnessing in Hong Kong basic dictatorship in disguise, exerting its power out of fear for these values,” said Chiu.

Source: China could keep dual citizenship Canadians from leaving Hong Kong amid protests: lawyer

Anger as wait times for Australian #citizenship blow out during coronavirus pandemic

Looks like Australia has been able to ramp up virtual citizenship ceremonies dramatically to about 750 per day, showing it can be done although less meaningful than in person:

More than 16,800 people have received Australian citizenship via virtual ceremonies during the pandemic but many more are still waiting.

The migration sector has voiced concern as the processing times for Australian citizenship applications have blown out amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figures from the Department of Home Affairs show 75 per cent of applications for citizenship by conferral now take 23 months – up from 16 months last June.

Ninety per cent of these applications are completed in 25 months compared to 20 months a year ago.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all face-to-face citizenship appointments, such as interviews and citizenship tests, have been placed on hold. This has meant an increase in overall processing times,” the spokesperson said.

“The department will recommence in-person interviews and citizenship tests when it is safe to do so,” they said, adding that new applications are still being accepted.

How long it is currently taking to process Australian citizenship by conferral.

How long it is currently taking to process Australian citizenship by conferral.
The Department of Home Affairs

But Carla Wilshire, CEO of the Migration Council Australia, said these numbers needed to be addressed.

“Once people go down the pathway of citizenship, a lot of decisions are put on hold until that citizenship comes through … It’s important we give them certainty as quickly as possible,” she said.

“Getting those waiting times down is critical in terms of really managing people’s sense that their lives are progressing and they are able to make decisions going forward around their commitment towards Australia.”

“Particularly during COVID, where people have a lot of generalised anxiety and feel a sense of insecurity, I think it’s really important that we take measures to … ensure resources are put to use to give citizenship as quickly as possible.”

It is a point echoed by Melbourne-based migration agent Kirk Yan.

“I haven’t seen the government offer a reasonable or acceptable explanation for the long processing times … They can’t explain why it takes two years,” he said.

“For citizenship, as long as you meet the requirements of a permanent resident, you are supposed to get it granted if you pass the citizenship test and the character or identity checks … I don’t know why it takes such a long time for the department.”

He said the latest rise in wait times left many of his clients anxious.

“The current situation has meant lots of people are waiting, just to get information or a response,” he said.

The sector has also pointed to climbing wait times as one reason why the demand for Australian citizenship is dropping.

Clearing the backlog

But even as wait times have gone up, the government has managed to address the backlog of citizenship applications this financial year.

The department spokesperson said during the year 2019-20, up to 22 May this year, 175,304 people were granted Australian citizenship – up 56 per cent on the same period last year.

Over recent months, it has been done via virtual citizenship ceremonies.

More than 750 people have received citizenship through online ceremonies each day since they began, and up to 22 May, more than 16,800 people received citizenship this way.

The latest backlog figure is now 123,727 applications, compared to 221,695 a year ago.

But Migration Council Australia’s Ms Wilshire said this number was “still significant by historical standards”.

“During COVID, there is so much insecurity as people are losing that sense of being able to visit their country of origin and connect with family as global movement is decreasing,” she said.

“I think that affirmation of being part of the Australian community is psychologically quite important for our migrant communities.”

Source: Anger as wait times for Australian citizenship blow out during coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19: Thousands of Canadians getting US$1,200 cheques simply because they’re still U.S. citizens

Including, presumably Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Green leader Elizabeth May:

Thousands of people in Canada can expect a letter shortly from the U.S. Treasury Department.

However, you’re (probably) not in trouble. In fact, you’re most likely receiving a US$1,200 cheque thanks to America’s stimulus package.

One of the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic put in place by the U.S. government was Economic Impact Payments. Through it, most current American citizens who filed taxes in 2018 or 2019 will automatically be sent US$1,200 ($1,680) as long they make less than US$75,000 if they are single or US$150,000 if married.

And that includes U.S. citizens in Canada. Unlike Canadian benefit programs put in place during the pandemic, the U.S. program doesn’t require beneficiaries to live in their own country.

“The reason being that the U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that tax based on citizenship. So a U.S. citizen, wherever they live in the world, is always subject to U.S. tax, which is different than Canada,” said Mark Feigenbaum, an Ontario-based attorney and accountant specialized in cross-border taxes.

But that doesn’t mean his Canadian clients aren’t surprised when the money suddenly arrives in their mailboxes.

“I get a couple of pictures of cheques every day from clients,” he said. “First of all, they weren’t maybe even aware that they were supposed to get a cheque, and secondly, that they were even qualified for a cheque. And then they got a bunch of money.”

According to Statistics Canada 2016 census data, 284,870 people in Canada declared having U.S. citizenship.

One of them is Charles Lewis, a dual U.S. and Canadian citizen who received a cheque in the mail last week.

“I read three weeks ago that the payment was coming to those who file so when it did come I was not surprised at all. It came in an envelope from the U.S. Treasury Department. Soon as I looked at the envelope I knew what it was. I had to laugh that Trump’s name was on the cheque, given it’s not his money,” Lewis told the National Post.

“I think those who get it and were not really in need should donate it to charity, which is what I’m going to do. It’s really found money. I did nothing to earn it. Though filling out all those tax forms every year was a pain in the ass.”

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the agency that administers the Economic Impact Payment program, nearly 750,000 stimulus cheques have gone out to “foreign addresses,” totalling $1.2 billion.

But the IRS can’t say how many of those went to people in Canada.

“Foreign addresses doesn’t necessarily imply non-Americans. Members of the military and U.S. citizens who live or work abroad would be in that category, along with non-citizens who may have, for tax purposes, U.S. resident alien status,” spokesman Eric Smith said via email.

“The domestic numbers likely also include resident aliens, and Canadians are likely in both the domestic and foreign categories,” Smith said.

A large number of U.S. citizens living in Canada are also interested in finding out how they can get their hands on an American stimulus cheque.

According to Steve Nardi, chair of Democrats Abroad Canada, a workshop his group hosted a few weeks ago about the American stimulus package attracted 600 people, 80 per cent of whom were from Canada.

“In the last two weeks, I’ve had another thousand people on tax filing webinars, and most of them are interested in at least accessing the information about the stimulus cheques,” Nardi said in an interview.

He said he’s mainly encountered two groups of recipients: those who knew from the very start that they’d receive a cheque, and those who were stunned (and sometimes concerned) when the money arrived at their door.

“I had emails from members asking if they were eligible, and the only thing that happened at that point was the Senate approved the (stimulus) bill late the night before. It hadn’t even gotten across the building to the House yet,” he recounted.

“And then we’ve had others who were completely shocked that they would be eligible with no expectation.”

But be warned, if you’re an American in Canada who’s eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) because you lost your job due to COVID-19, you may want to think twice before cashing that US$1,200 cheque.

To be eligible to receive CERB payments, you have to have made less than $1,000 in the period during which you’re applying. Depending on if the Canada Revenue Agency determines that stimulus money from the American government is revenue or not, depositing that cheque from the U.S. may make you ineligible for CERB.

Employment and Social Development Canada was not able to provide a comment.

Source: COVID-19: Thousands of Canadians getting US$1,200 cheques simply because they’re still U.S. citizens

Integration, Diversity and Inclusion: My Overview Deck, updated for 2019

This overview deck on immigration, integration, citizenship and multiculturalism has been updated with 2019 data.

A few sample slides, full deck via link below:

Integration – General Deck 2020

Australian #citizenship approvals up by 56 per cent but waiting period shoots up

More on Australian citizenship numbers and processing delays:

Highlights:

  • 170,819 people have been conferred Australian citizenship in 2019-20
  • 15,000 people have received citizenship online during the pandemic
  • 117,958 applicants still in the queue for citizenship

“The Government has moved to online citizenship ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 750 online ceremonies are being conducted each day, and to 20 May 2020, more than 15,000 people have received citizenship this way during the pandemic,” a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS Hindi.

“In 2019-20 to 15 May 2020, 170,819 people have been conferred Australian citizenship. This is up 56 per cent on the same period last year,” the spokesperson said.

However, those who have applied for citizenship and are awaiting the outcome of their Australian citizenship application will have to wait longer.

The latest processing times released by the Department of Home Affairs indicates the waiting period for Australian citizenship has shot up.

Compared to waiting period of 16 months, from date of application to ceremony, in June 2019, the average waiting period for 75 per cent of applicants has shot up to 23 months from date of application to ceremony in April 2020.

Australian Citizenship PRocessing times April 2020

The latest processing times released by the Department of Home Affairs indicates the waiting period for Australian citizenship has shot up.
Department of Home Affairs

“Due to the health risks, all face-to-face citizenship appointments, such as interviews and citizenship tests, have been placed on hold. This has meant an increase in overall processing times,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department will recommence in-person interviews and citizenship tests when it is safe to do so.

“New applications for Australian citizenship are still able to be accepted during this period.

“Processing continues for applications that do not require a face-to-face appointment. Processing also continues for lodged applications up to the point where an appointment is required so that the applicant will be able to undertake an appointment when it is safe to do so.”

Last month, as COVID-19 pandemic forced citizenship ceremonies to move online, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge said additional resources will be deployed once it is possible to resume tests and interviews.

‘Additional resources will be deployed to conduct testing and interviews as soon as social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ease,’ he said.

As of April 30, 2020, 117,958* applicants were still awaiting the outcome of their citizenship application.

India top source of Australian citizenship

India has been the top source of Australian citizenship for the last two years, with over 28,000 Indian nationals becoming Australian citizens in 2018-19.

Source of Australian Citizenship 2018-19

Source of Australian Citizenship 2018-19
Department of Home Affairs

Indian-born applicants also top the list of visa recipients by country under Australia’s annual permanent immigration program.

Source: Australian citizenship approvals up by 56 per cent but waiting period shoots up

With No Citizenship Question, Trump Officials Turn To Records

And so it continues, driven by political and partisan considerations:

You will not find a citizenship question on the 2020 census forms.

But in the months since federal courts permanently blocked the Trump administration from asking the hotly-contested question for this year’s national head count, the administration has been pushing ahead with a backup plan — amassing government records to try to determine the U.S. citizenship status of every adult living in the country.

Information from the U.S. Army, federal prisons and the Department of the Interior’s law enforcement system are among the newly disclosed batch of records the Census Bureau says it is using to comply with President Trump’s executive order for citizenship data, according to a memo the bureau quietly posted on its website earlier this month.

Previously released government documents have confirmed the bureau is also compiling IRS tax forms and data from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as records from the Department of Homeland Security, Social Security Administration, and State Department. The bureau has also asked states to share their driver’s license records, and in November, Nebraska’s Department of Motor Vehicles signed an agreement to turn over monthly data about license and ID card holders’ citizenship status, names, addresses, dates of birth, sex, race and eye color.

Put together, these records could be used to yield data that could radically change political mapmaking and shift the balance of political power across the U.S. over the next decade.

Instead of drawing voting districts based on the number of overall residents in an area, the citizenship data the Trump administration wants created — detailed down to the level of a census block — may allow mapmakers to redistrict using the number of citizens old enough to vote. A GOP strategist concluded that excluding U.S. citizens under the age of 18 and noncitizens, both those lawfully and unlawfully in the country, from the numbers used to remake political maps would be “advantageous to Republicans & Non-Hispanic Whites.”

That method of redistricting was one of the main uses of the data outlined in Trump’s executive order, which also noted that the information could help the government “generate a more reliable count of the unauthorized alien population in the country.”

Last year, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced in the White House Rose Garden that the citizenship data “may be relevant” in an ongoing federal lawsuit the state of Alabama and Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from that state, has filed against the Census Bureau to get unauthorized immigrants excluded from the 2020 census numbers used to redistribute congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states.

The coronavirus outbreak and the changes it’s forced upon the bureau’s 2020 census plans have interrupted the agency’s work on the citizenship data. Last month, the bureau said in a regulatory document that it plans to announce its final plans for citizenship data by Oct. 31.

The pandemic-related delays have led the bureau to ask Congress to push back by four months the legal deadlines for delivering the results of the 2020 census, including redistricting data the bureau now would like to provide to the states by the end of July 2021.

If a new law is passed that allows for that extension, the bureau is also expecting to release the citizenship data as ordered by Trump by July 31, 2021, James Whitehorne, the head of the Census Bureau’s redistricting and voting rights data office, told redistricting officials last month during a webinar organized by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The House Democrats’ new coronavirus relief bill does allow for a deadline extension for redistricting data from the 2020 census. But the bill — which is not expected to get support from the Republican-controlled Senate — also includes a provision that would stop the efforts to create the citizenship data requested by the Trump administration.

Asked how the more recently disclosed sources of records are helping the Census Bureau’s researchers develop citizenship data, the bureau’s public information office directed NPR to slides the agency’s officials presented last year that said they help researchers link records about the same individual and determine whether that person is a U.S. citizen.

The Census Bureau is obtaining these records through sharing agreements negotiated with the other agencies, and the bureau has said the records are “stripped of any personal identifiable information and are used for statistical purposes only.”

“They cannot be shared in identifiable form with any other government agency or the public,” the bureau emphasized in a technical document on its webpage about the citizenship data.

Still, Latinx community groups in Arizona and Texas represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC are trying to stop the release of the citizenship data with a federal lawsuit against the administration. The challengers contend the production of the data is part of a conspiracy to prevent Latinos, noncitizens and other immigrants from receiving fair political representation.

In response to the Census Bureau’s announcement last month about delaying its field operations for the 2020 census, Thomas Saenz, MALDEF’s president and general counsel, called continued work on citizenship data a “dangerous diversion from the necessity of concentrating on Census 2020 in the Bureau and from accomplishing pandemic recovery efforts in other federal and state agencies.”

Amy O’Hara, who previously led the Census Bureau’s Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications, has also warned about the dangers of directing limited resources during the pandemic to creating more detailed citizen voting age population data, also known as CVAP.

“The sources for CVAP are mostly new to the Census Bureau, requiring more effort to understand the files and how to appropriately link it with other data,” O’Hara, who is now a research professor at Georgetown University’s Massive Data Institute, says in an email. “This competes with staff time for planned uses of administrative data, and with emerging needs during the pandemic, like correctly counting college students.”

Still, the citizenship data could be useful to at least one state.

Missouri state lawmakers approved a resolution last week that includes a ballot initiative that would require the state’s house and senate districts to be drawn “on the basis of one person, one vote.”

Critics of the proposed constitutional amendment worry that it could lead to redistricting based on the number of citizens old enough to vote rather than of all residents, including children.

“The Supreme Court held in 2016 that it is constitutional to draw districts on the basis of total population, so that every district has the same number of people,” explains Michael Li, a redistricting expert who is a senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, in an email. “But the court left open the question of whether it might also be constitutional to use another population basis, such as eligible voters. That open question could be one of the big fights of this decade.”

Source: With No Citizenship Question, Trump Officials Turn To Records