State Duma simplifies issuance of Russian citizenship to Ukrainians

Part of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia:

The State Duma of Russia has adopted the law, according to which the Russian president is authorized to “define the categories of the foreign citizens in humanitarian purposes, which have the right for the acquisition of citizenship in simplified order” as the press service of the State Duma reported.“The amendments to the Law “On the citizenship of the Russian Federation” in the third, final reading at the plenary session on Tuesday, December 18, were supported by all parliamentary groups of the State Duma. The law empowers the president of Russia with a right to define the categories of the foreigners, which have the rights for the acquisition of the Russian citizenship in the simplified order,” the message said.

According to the authors of the document, the law allows to grant the citizenship in the simplified regime to the people from the states “with difficult social-political and economic situation, where the armed conflicts or change of the political regime takes place”. Moreover, the amendments simplify the granting of the Russian citizenship to the fellow countrymen. According to the new rules, they can file the applications for the citizenship not basing on the place of registration as it was earlier but basing on the place of stay.

“First of all, these amendments will allow President Vladimir V. Putin to support our fellow countrymen in Ukraine. Millions of people became the hostages of the political adventurism of Petro Poroshenko, who is ready for any steps to preserve his person power – from the military provocation up to the division of Church and persecution of the religious people,” Viacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma claimed.

The law will come into force in 90 days after publishing.

As we reported, 39,582 citizens of Ukraine were granted the Russian citizenship in 2018. Since January 2018 until June 2018, 39,582 citizens of Ukraine were granted the Russian citizenship (it was accepted, restored or recognized).

Source: State Duma simplifies issuance of Russian citizenship to Ukrainians

There’s No Stopping the Russian Baby Boom in Miami

Very up market birth tourism services:

Matryoshka was bustling as usual, selling blinis, caviar and borscht. Not all of the customers were pregnant. Just, it seemed, most of them.

The deli store in Sunny Isles Beach, a little city on a barrier island north of downtown Miami, has long been a gathering place for Russian-speaking foreigners who stay in the area as they wait to give birth. They come for the hospitals, the doctors, the weather, the beach — not, they will tell you with some exasperation, to score citizenship for their offspring.

The perk of a U.S. passport was “the last thing on my agenda, literally,” said Viktoriia Solomentseva, 23, a former Matryoshka regular who had a daughter seven weeks ago and recently flew home to Moscow with little Emily, a newly-minted U.S. citizen. “Why does Trump think everyone is dying to have one?”

It’s a somewhat sensitive topic for the women like Solomentseva who are driving a baby boom in south Florida. They’ve been swept up in the birthright citizenship debate, reignited when President Donald Trump recently vowed to end it for children of foreigners. While his target was undocumented immigrants, he also complained that the privilege granted in the 14th Amendment has “created an entire industry of birth tourism.”

That, in fact, it has. Data are scarce, but the Center for Immigration Studies has estimated more than 30,000 women tap it every year. Some nationalities prefer certain metropolitan areas, with the Chinese, for instance, favoring Los Angeles, while Nigerians tend to choose cities in the Northeast and Texas. For women with roots in the former Soviet Union, it’s Miami; if they’re affluent, it’s Sunny Isles Beach, called Little Russia because so many of its 22,000 residents hail from that part of the world.

And these women’s numbers, by all accounts, are growing. The weakness of the ruble, the tense relations between Russia and the U.S., the hurdles that have to be scaled to get a visa — none of that is slowing down the flow.

On every flight to Miami from Moscow there’s at least one pregnant woman, said Konstantin Lubnevskiy, the owner of an agency called Miami-mama, whose logo is the silhouette of an expectant mother in front of a big American flag. On some, there are more than five, he said. “What they’re doing is perfectly legal.”

True enough. But honestly, is it for the passports?

Absolutely not, Solomentseva said from the marble-laden lobby of one of the Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach, where she’d rented a 39th-floor unit for a few months. “I wanted to give birth in the place that has the best medical service and is comfortable and relaxing,” she said, as her husband, who owns a business in Russia, looked after the baby upstairs. Not incidentally, the weather is a lot more pleasant in Miami than Moscow in the winter. “But I can’t wait to get back to Russia.”

Like everyone else, she did, of course, fill out the necessary paperwork for Emily. It’s not as if citizenship isn’t viewed as something that might one day come in handy. Maybe it could help a kid get into a U.S. college, or set up a business in New York, or buy a house in Sunny Isles Beach, said Moscow resident Anna Bessolnova, 42, who had a girl in Miami in 2014, days before Russia’s annexation of Crimea triggered waves of international sanctions.

“I don’t know whether my daughter will end up using the passport or not, but it’s good to have different options,” she said.

Maria Khromova, whose son was born last month in Miami, has the same attitude. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen 20 years from now.”

Like all the rest, though, Khromova said she chose to have her baby in the U.S. mainly because of the superior medical care. She pointed to two C-section scars under her shirt, one from the birth of a daughter in Russia and another from the same procedure for her son. The first one is so ugly she can’t look at it without crying, she said.

Khromova, 36,  also stayed in the Trump-branded condo complex. She was there for three months, assisted by a nanny, an interpreter, a driver, a yoga tutor and a massage therapist. A native of Siberia, she lives with her husband in Phuket, Thailand, where they run a company that helps foreigners buy property.

“I came here with a lot of money to spend,” she said. “I don’t cost the U.S. taxpayers a thing.”

Being a birth tourist in Sunny Isles Beach isn’t cheap, with agencies charging as much as $50,000 to set up housing, hire interpreters, find doctors and deal with paperwork. Those who can’t afford that level of service buy smaller packages and rent apartments in far-flung suburbs, sometimes teaming up to share lodgings and expenses.

The phenomenon has, over the years, attracted bad actors. Federal agents have raided so-called maternity hotels in California catering to women from China and Taiwan; some were coached to disguise their pregnancies when they arrived in the U.S. and lied about why they were in the country, according to federal officials. Miami-mama was raided once, too, and a notary public was indicted for making a false statement in a passport application and conspiring to commit an offense against the U.S. (That employee was immediately terminated, Lubnevskiy said.)

The focus of Trump’s criticism hasn’t been the abuse of the system but the fact that it exists. One of his arguments against birthright citizenship is that when the babies born on U.S. soil become adults, they can petition for their parents to live permanently in the country.

But to many of the Russians in Sunny Isles, at least, this idea sounded unappealing. The biggest deterrent: They’d have to start paying personal income taxes that are more than double what they are in Russia. “There’s this feeling among some that it’s cool to be a U.S. citizen,” said Victoria Parshkova, who had a son in September. “It’s not cool at all.”

Malta: Henley and Partners’ profits rise by 500%, selling passports

A lucrative business:

The citizenship planning firm, Henley and Partners, has seen its share of distributed funds from the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) increase by over 500%, calculations by finds.

The firm is a leader in the process more commonly known in Malta, as the selling of Maltese passports.

Comparing the reporting by the Office of the Regulator for the IIP for the Third and the Fifth Reports (2016 – 2018), the firm has managed to make a significant sum of money through the IIP. The reporting period ranges between the 1st July and 30th June.

In the Third report which includes the profits from the start of the IIP to the 2016/17 reporting period, Henley and Partners managed to make €5.8m from their services.

The publication of the Fifth report last month, now shows that that this number has grown to €28.8m, 500% since the IIP process began

As with previous years, the sums of money that the firm receives come via a Suspense account which is set up to receive the financial contributions, property purchases, rents and investments generated from individuals seeking citizenship.  These elements are written into the Laws of Malta.

Once the individual(s) have made the Oath of Allegiance, these funds are then distributed under IIP guidelines. Henley and Partners is entitled to receive 4% of the contributions as well as 4% of the investments made under the Investment Requirement.

MEPs speak to Henley and Partners

The firm is by no means the only entity in Malta carrying out this process of ‘citizenship planning’ and it is clear from the reporting periods that Identity Malta generates more from the IIP. H&P are however a prime mover and shaker in the investment visa field, a field said to still be in need of proper regulation.

During their investigations into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and wider concerns about Malta, an EU delegation of MEPs from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, spoke to the firm trying to understand more about how the process works, and the firm’s role in it.

Malta and Cyprus are the only two countries which operate the ‘Golden citizenship programme’ within the EU, and according to their discussions with a representative of Henley and Partners, they found that they facilitate only 40% of the total number of applications for Malta.

With EU sanctions imposed on Russia and Russians being one of Malta’s citizenship clientele, the delegation raised concerns about a number of those blacklisted under EU sanctions who had managed to receive citizenship through their programme. H&P insisted that their due diligence processes were ‘very reliable’. The continued saying that the process is, ‘extremely serious and rather lengthy’ and that, ‘it is not easy to get citizenship rapidly’.

The representative added that they cooperate with the government and other organisations in cross checking the identities and backgrounds of those making applications.

The delegation report states that rejection rates for Russians have been going up and this is consistent with the 25% overall rejection rate that currently stands in Malta.

Applications are down but demand is steady

The latest regulator report shows that numbers of applications have dropped in the yearly reporting period, standing at 330, 47 less than the last year.

However, numbers from Europe remain high at 141 applications, 42.7%. Asia has also grown to 107 this year, 32.4%. This is 11%  greater than last and four times greater than 2015 figures (8.6%).

The Middle East has seen a 5.6% drop its numbers with only 26 applications made. Individuals from African states on the other hand, submitted 30 applications this year (9.1%), almost 4% more than 2016/17 reporting.

Overall, the number of approved applications was 223, making the total to June 2018, 961. This offsets the number of rejected or withdrawn applications which currently sits at 75.

Turning serious money into solid investment

Investment clients ‘are obliged to invest in a residential immovable property in Malta, either by acquiring and holding one having a minimum value of €350,000 or by taking one on lease for a minimum annual rent of €16,000.’ This is stipulated under the IIP Regulations.

Over this year’s reporting period, the total amount of property purchased as part of the IIP’s investment regulations sits at €29,600,500. This covers the value of 25 properties averaging €1,184,020 in value.

Sliema and St Julians are the most favourable places for this property, accounting for 72% of those purchased.

According to the 2016/17 report, there were 80 properties purchased, more than this year. The favourable locations of those properties remains consistent with this year.

Over 200 (231) other properties were being leased for a contractual duration of 5 years. This amounts to a total of €23,062,687.64, averaging €95,695.80 per contract and €19,139.16 per lease.

These leased properties are found across 26 different areas in Malta with Sliema and St Julians emerging as the most favourable again, 35% and 21% respectively.

Last year’s figures show that the number of leased properties was over double that of this reporting period. 483 properties were leased by investment clients. Their locations are also as varied as this year’s report.

They didn’t speak to me, they didn’t look at the reports

This year’s report opens with some criticism from the regulator, Mr Carmel DeGabriele. In his foreword to the report, he talks about his disappointment that members of the EU delegation that visited Malta, did not consult with him or look at the previous reporting or frameworks that the IIP use to vet potential citizenship candidates and use the funds.

He says that, ‘none of the fact-finding missions which came over to Malta from both the European Commission and the European Parliament as well as other institutions that have decided to criticize the running of this Programme have even bothered to request a meeting with the undersigned or any of the members of my Office or seem to have at least carefully studied any of this Office’s past Annual Reports before expressing in one way or another their deep concerns over this Programme.’

He also readdressed the question that the contributions that are paid in through the regulations go towards the country’s improvement.

‘It has already been spelt out that the income which the Government is and will be deriving from this Programme will in the coming months and years play an extremely important role in the country’s infrastructural boom and social development.’

Source: Henley and Partners’ profits rise by 500%, selling passports

Trump administration seeks to strip more people of citizenship

Appears little distinction between material and significant fraud, or misrepresentation and inadvertent mistakes, as the criteria have expanded:

U.S. government officials are making a coordinated effort to find evidence of immigration fraud by reexamining the files of immigrants who became U.S. citizens.

They are searching for cases where individuals used more than one identity or concealed prior deportation orders before filing for citizenship. Such evidence may provide grounds to strip citizenship from those who allegedly gained it unlawfully.

While the program is not new — it began under the Obama administration — the Trump administration has announced an intention to significantly expand it. More than 700,000 casesin which individuals were granted citizenship are under review.

The Department of Justice announced in January 2018 that it expects to file actions to revoke citizenship against approximately 1,600 people. Six months later, the United States announced plans to hire “several dozen lawyers and immigration officers” to staff a new office focused on this work.

Over the past 30 years, the government has sought to revoke citizenship only on a case-by-case basis after becoming aware of individual wrongdoing. As a result, prosecutors filed around a dozen cases each year to revoke citizenship – a process called denaturalization.

The Trump administration has sharply increased the number of denaturalization attempts already, filing 25 cases in 2017 and another 20 during the first half of 2018.

We are law professors who have studied the court records in the most recent cases. Our review of the court filings suggests that the government’s litigation procedures carry a disturbingly high risk of mistakenly taking away citizenship from someone who committed neither crime nor fraud.

Looking for fraud, finding errors

The original purpose of the program, which the Obama administration initiated in 2016 and called Operation Janus, was to identify people who might create a risk to national security.

It narrowly targeted individuals who “naturalized using false identities to hide their criminal past.” In other words, anyone who immigrated honestly had no reason to worry about losing citizenship.

However, the Trump administration’s tougher stance on immigration means enforcement has expanded beyond cases involving serious crimes or terrorist threats. This tougher enforcement risks sweeping in mere clerical errors.

Cases are being filed against individuals with no criminal history or connections to terror groups. The first Operation Janus case that resulted in an order to revoke citizenship demonstrates this expansion.

Here’s the story: In 1991, a 17-year-old Punjabi male with no travel documentation arrived in California seeking asylum. He was taken into custody, and a translator recorded his name as Davinder Singh. At his request, he was released to friends in New Jersey and ordered to appear in court in January 1992. When he didn’t show up to court on the day he was directed to appear, the court issued a deportation order. We don’t know if he left the country.

Less than a month later, someone with the same set of fingerprints but the name Baljinder Singh filed for asylum in the same New Jersey court. The court found that the case had enough merit to proceed. Eventually, Baljinder Singh became a citizen.

More than 25 years later, the government, under Operation Janus, matched the two sets of fingerprints and alleged that Singh intentionally used a fraudulent identity to get a second chance to seek asylum and get citizenship. In January 2018, the government officially revoked his citizenship.

At first glance, this case may seem straightforward.

But in an article forthcoming in the New York University Law Review, we explain how the discrepancy in name could have easily resulted from a translator’s error rather than from intentional fraud.

We don’t know exactly what happened to Singh. We have not been able to locate him, and no news articles about his case include interviews with him.

However, the evidence shows that the way denaturalization cases are being litigated makes it difficult for the justice system to distinguish between fraud and bureaucratic error.

Citizenship vulnerabilities

For example, Singh lost his citizenship without ever appearing in court to defend himself, either personally or through an attorney. Our review of the 2017-18 court records reveals it’s possible he didn’t know a denaturalization case had been filed against him.

Even when defendants learn that an action has been filed, other hurdles remain. A defendant may have moved far away — even out of the country — and not be able to afford to travel to court. Defendants with enough money can hire an attorney to appear on their behalf. But hiring legal representation can be expensive, and there is no right to an appointed attorney in such cases. Failing to show up means that the court will hear from only the government’s side — and will likely accept the allegations as true.

In Singh’s case, the court concluded that his failure to report earlier proceedings under a different name arose from an intent to deceive — and not from a mere transcription error or misunderstanding.

Singh’s case is the first of many that the government plans to pursue. We do not believe that the underlying evidence in Singh’s case clearly shows fraud, criminality or any national security risk. It also wasn’t clear that he had notice of the hearing or an opportunity to defend himself.

Combined, these factors undermine confidence in the system.

More broadly, they create fear among naturalized citizens. People justifiably worry their own citizenship could be vulnerable in future cases.

We argue that the Constitution’s guarantee of due process requires heightened procedural protections when citizenship is at risk. That means requiring personal notice, a right to counsel for indigent defendants and a time limit for bringing cases, which would increase confidence that citizenship would not be revoked for minor errors or bureaucratic mistakes.

Citizenship is more than just a personal interest. In the words of the Supreme Court, confidence in the stability of citizenship affects the “very nature of our free government.”

If future Operation Janus cases follow the same trajectory as the Singh case, they risk undermining the very idea of equality of citizenship in our democracy.


Source: Trump administration seeks to strip more people of citizenship

Australia: Life in limbo: the Manus babies who face a stateless future

Ongoing issue:

The children of Manus Island refugees and local women are being denied birth certificates, according to their families, potentially leaving up to 39 of them stateless.

A number of refugee men detained in the Australian-run Manus Island regional processing centre and Papua New Guinean women started relationships as early as 2015, with some children born shortly after. The regional processing centre was shut down in 2017 but at least 750 refugee and asylum seeker men remain in the country, with 580 of those on Manus Island, according to UN high commissioner for refugees estimates from July.

“I just want a marriage certificate for my wife and I, birth certificates for our two babies, citizenship and an area where we can live,” Haroon Rashid, a 27-year-old Rohingyan refugee, says.

Rashid fled Myanmar because of ethnic cleansing by government forces and arrived in PNG in 2013. The following year he was found to be a refugee and married a 22-year-old Manusian woman, Molly Noan.

The couple says provincial authorities have refused to issue birth certificates for their two-year-old son, Mohammed, and 17-month-old daughter, Almeera.

In 2016, after their eldest child was born, they asked the Manus Island provincial administrator for documents but were told to get confirmation from the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority.

But the authority told the couple it was not its responsibility and referred the matter back to the Manus Island provincial government.

Rashid and Noan have given up trying to get these documents owing to what they say are continual delays and refusals. “Our marriage and life is aimless and our destiny is uncertain without him being a citizen,” Noan says.

The future remains unknown for these refugee and asylum seeker men without PNG citizenship, while others face a long wait for resettlement in third countries. Now their children face a risk of statelessness too, as they lack birth certificates to prove they were born and registered in PNG.

Experts warn that the denial of birth certificates violates the children’s international legal right to be registered immediately after birth.

“Denial of birth certificates is the first step to statelessness,” says Prof Hélène Lambert, an expert in international refugee law at the University of Wollongong.

She warns that the children could become exposed to further human rights violations that flow on from a lack of proper documentation: “This could result in a whole range of social, economic, civil and political rights being denied.”


“Lack of birth registration can create a risk of statelessness, which is heightened in certain circumstances where a child is born to migrant or refugee parents, or belongs to a minority community that struggles to have its ties to the state recognised,” she says.


The Australian government has refused to confirm reports that the children of refugee men and local woman have been denied birth certificates. “This is a matter for the government of PNG,” a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said in a one-sentence statement.

Source: Life in limbo: the Manus babies who face a stateless future

What I can tell you about the nerve-wracking French citizenship interview

The most interesting part of this article were the questions (which are reasonable):

What I can tell you about the nerve-wracking French citizenship interview The Local France Briton Joanna York has just had her crucial interview as she undergoes the lengthy and paperwork heavy process of gaining French citizenship.

Here’s exactly what they asked:
What are the values of the French Republic?
How is liberty exercised in everyday life in France?
How is equality exercised in everyday life in France?
Can you define the concept of secularism in France?
Do you agree with secularism?
What does the national holiday on the 14th July commemorate?
When did the French Revolution happen?
Who was the king at the time?
Which republic are we in now?
Who was the first president of this republic?
How long is a presidential term in France?
How does voting work in France?
Why is the 11th November a national holiday?
When did the First World War begin and end?
How many countries are in the European Union?
Was France one of the founding countries?
Have you visited many places in France?
Which famous French sites have you seen?
Can you name some of France’s major rivers?

Source: What I can tell you about the nerve-wracking French citizenship interview

Myanmar’s irrational denial of citizenship to Rohingyas

Hard to justify and a reminder that all religions, including Buddhists, have their extremists, unfortunately in the form of a government:

The exodus of Rohingyas, one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, from Myanmar to neighbouring countries is not a new phenomenon. Historically, Rohingyas have been fleeing to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and other neighbouring counties to escape serious repressions in Myanmar. One of the key issues of contention regarding the Rohingya crisis is the question over their citizenship. Denial of citizenship poses serious obstacles in achieving a durable solution to the Rohingya refugee flows.

There are two schools of thought that analyse the controversy related to the existence of Rohingyas in Myanmar. One of these perspectives comes from the proponents of the government of Myanmar and its Buddhist-led population. They consider Rohingyas as “outsiders” and “foreign residents of Myanmar”. According to this perspective, Rohingyas are the direct descendants of immigrants from Chittagong of East Bengal, present-day south-eastern region of Bangladesh. Rohingyas are, thereby, referred to as “Bengali” in Myanmar’s state media, official policy documents, and school textbooks as well. They are also portrayed as a threat to Myanmar’s national security.

The “1982 Citizenship Law” enacted by Myanmar’s military government refer to “Nationals such as the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burman, Mon, Rakhine or Shan and ethnic groups as have settled in any of the territories included within the State as their permanent home from a period  prior to 1185 B.E., 1823 A.D. are Burma citizens”. It clearly denotes that Myanmar’s citizens are those persons whose ancestors settled in the country before 1823, the beginning of British occupation of Arakan, present-day northern Rakhine State. Myanmar authorities claim that Rohingyas settled in Arakan after its annexation by the British in 1824.

On the other hand, the stance of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority and its authority is strongly contested by the government of Bangladesh, the Rohingya themselves, foreign governments, international organisations and scholars. Bangladesh claims that Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals and they have reportedly entered the territory of Bangladesh through illegal means. Rohingyas are the Muslims of Myanmar who have lived in Arakan for a long period of time.

As far as the debate is concerned, there is a question that needs to be answered: whether Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh or not. How plausible are the arguments proposed by the government of Myanmar? In this regard, it is important to re-examine the history of Rohingyas’ settlement in Arakan.

If we look at the first claim projected by Myanmar’s military junta about the “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”, the evidences accumulated from historical facts and scholarly documents do not comply with this proposition. The clarification of this non-compliance can be reiterated from in-depth observation.

Historical evidence show that Rohingyas are Muslims whose settlements in Arakan date back to the 7th century C.E., long before the British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent. Some scholarly documents mention that Rohingyas have been living in the Rakhine State since the 8th century. The Human Rights Watch traces the well-established presence of Rohingyas in the Mrauk-U (Mrohaung) kingdom in Arakan, now Rakhine State. It has also been mentioned that Rohingya Muslims had ruled over Arakan for more than 250 years until Burmese invasion and occupation of Arakan in 1784 C.E. Such evidence can also be found from the records of Francis Buchanan. He wrote, “I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burma Empire, but evidently derived from the language of the Hindu nation. The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves ‘Rooinga’, or natives of Arakan.”

At that time it was not only the Bengalis who entered into Arakan for better livelihood opportunities;  the Arakanese arrived in Chattogram, the then Chittagong, as well. When the Burmese invaded and conquered Arakan in 1784, Rohingyas were conquered and incorporated into the majority Buddhist kingdom of Burma. As a result, considerable numbers of Rohingyas sought refuge in Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar. Some Rohingyas assimilated into the Bengali community because of their cultural and linguistic similarities with the people living in Chattogram.

It is also important to note that during the British rule of the Indian subcontinent and Burma, movement of people was considered as “internal movement”, from one district to another within the same political entity. Chattogram came under the British rule in 1760, while after the end of three Anglo-Burmese Wars (1824-1826, 1852-1853, and 1885), Burma became a part of British India (1886-1937). The borders of the British Indian Empire were extremely porous prior to the colonial period and during its initial phases. Consequently, people could easily move across the region without permission or legal documents. In addition, it was British policy to move populations between the then East Bengal and Burma to suit their labour needs that triggered intra-regional labour flows. As a result, a considerable level of movement occurred across the region during that period, mostly for economic purpose which was considered as normal seasonal migration.

It is, therefore, meaningless to term people’s movement as well as their settlements at that time between the two parts—Arakan of Burma and the then Chittagong Division of Bengal in British India—as illegal. The question of illegal immigration only comes after the demarcation of borders among independent states.

Given this above-mentioned analyses, it is no longer rational or reasonable to claim Rohingyas as “Bengalis” or “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”. Rather they have historically been living in Arakan. Unless their status of ethnicity is recognised or resolved, the long-term solution of the Rohingya crisis will remain questionable.

Source: Myanmar’s irrational denial of citizenship to Rohingyas

This Obama-Era Agency Is Trying to Speed Immigration Under Trump’s Nose


The Trump administration deployed military forces to block asylum seekers from crossing the southern U.S. border and is indefinitely detaining more than 14,000 migrant children, so it’s easy to overlook that missing paperwork is quietly threatening the legal status of hundreds of thousands of green card holders. The backlog of legal residents waiting for their renewal forms to be processed topped a record 700,000 at one point last year, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says that 34 of the 42 forms it handles now take longer to process than they did in 2016. To keep people from being accidentally deported while their renewals were pending, the agency started sending them little rectangular stickers with extended expiration dates to affix to their laminated green cards. When it ran out of stickers, it called Matt Cutts.

Cutts runs the U.S. Digital Service, an executive-branch agency created by President Barack Obama to salvage the botched website and drag the feds into the digital age. He became the USDS’s second administrator on President Trump’s first day, taking over from a former Google colleague. Cutts’s staff of 170, a smattering of them drawn from Silicon Valley’s biggest companies, is credited with saving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs $100 million by streamlining its cloud computing systems, with editing language on the Veterans Administration’s benefits website to make sure it ranks high in Google searches, and even with building a radio-frequency jammer that disables enemy drones. Now the USDS is undertaking its biggest challenge yet: making immigrants’ lives easier without attracting Trump’s ire.

Cutts walks a fine line, stressing that his team is nonpartisan and focused on the Republican watchword “efficiency.” Asked about the administration’s now-suspended policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border, Cutts demurs. “That’s more an issue of process and policies than technology,” he says, though he acknowledges that his team reads the news and discusses ways to help people. Some of his staffers are less diplomatic. “I don’t work for Trump,” says Liz Odar, who joined the agency in early 2016 from LivingSocial, the faded Groupon Inc. look-alike. “I work for the government, and I work for the American people.”

On immigration, the agency’s record is mixed. The USDS began working on the green card queue last year, noticing that the USCIS software classified routine issues such as a change of address just as seriously as, say, a green card holder being arrested. The team created a program to sift renewal applicants by risk category, feeding the change-of-address types into a faster lane. The digital service says the software has helped cut the overall USCIS backlog by about two-thirds.

Yet the reality on the ground hasn’t improved for everyone, says Denyse Sabagh, an immigration attorney at law firm Duane Morris LLP. “It seems like the agency is geared now to deny cases across the board,” she says, and it’s no clearer why her clients’ renewal requests are taking so long to process, with some basic cases that would once require a few days taking five months and complex ones taking years.

Things are worse for the 300,000 people still awaiting the asylum they asked for upon entering the U.S. Some have now been in the queue for five years, and it can take three years to even get an interview with a U.S. immigration official. The gridlock encourages people who know they’re unlikely to receive asylum to file claims simply to delay deportation, says USDS Executive Director Stephanie Neill, previously a product director at internet conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp. She and other staffers are testing a program that autofills most of the basic details in post-interview reports.

“With asylum, the challenge is that everyone gets an interview,” says Odar. “There’s no one quick fix.” The border blockade preventing more than 6,000 people from entering the U.S. will likely reduce the asylum backlog, but it’s too early to say by how much, according to USDS.

The USDS effort to overhaul citizen naturalization has gone poorly. The process seemed easy enough to improve: USCIS staff were still hand-checking details on each form, because the old program they were using couldn’t be trusted. (A find-and-replace command intended to delete answers that were “not applicable” instead deleted the letters “na” everywhere it found them, so Donna’s application became Don’s, for instance.) The USDS replacement, while less error-prone, was still unreliable and slow to load on its release this summer. “It was so bad the agency said, ‘Stop! Do not put any more applications into this brand-new system until you fix these problems,’ ” says Mark Lerner, who joined the digital service from Google in early 2016. Lerner is among the staffers testing a version to be rolled out in the next few months.

Government service was a tough sell in Silicon Valley even under the tech-friendly Obama administration, which landed many a departing top staffer at big-name companies. Cutts’s USDS has had to work harder to recruit top talent, with the administrator and others repeatedly touring Silicon Valley and a dozen other tech hubs to pitch the gig as a nonpartisan mission of public service.

Whatever his team can do can’t come soon enough, says Arzan Raimalwala, an Indian investment banker who’s lived in the U.S. on work visas for 15 of the past 16 years. Raimalwala’s 2015 green card application remains so deep in the USCIS queue that it won’t be evaluated until at least 2024, he says. He fears that further Trump crackdowns might cut off the supply of work visas, forcing him to sell his house and move his family, including his infant American daughter. “There was always that risk,” he says. “But it’s definitely more so under this administration.”

Source: This Obama-Era Agency Is Trying to Speed Immigration Under Trump’s Nose

Estonia’s Interior Ministry to not support bill allowing dual citizenship

Wonder what the potential impact will be on Canadians of Estonian ancestry:

The Estonian Interior Ministry is about to make a proposal to not support the bill that would allow dual citizenship for citizens of Estonia by birth when the government discusses the Reform Party bill on Thursday.

Interior Minister Andres Anvelt will make a proposal to the government to not support the draft legislation, as making amendments to the Citizenship Act require in-depth consideration and an analysis of impacts.

The Interior Ministry observed that the proposal to legalize multiple citizenship for people and groups of people who have obtained Estonian citizenship by birth will lead to unequal treatment. Likewise, the regulation of Estonian citizenship obtained through opting set out in the draft legislation will lead to unequal treatment.

In addition, in the provisions concerning stripping of a person of their citizenship the law should not distinguish between whether a person applied for citizenship under general rules or was granted it for special merit. It is possible also now to strip all persons who have not obtained their Estonian citizenship by birth of their citizenship by a decision of the government on certain grounds, the ministry said.

At the same time, the Interior Ministry finds the proposal to add to the Citizenship Act a provision enabling persons convicted of treason or the commission of a terrorist crime to be stripped of their citizenship to be justified and supports it.

The Estonian government is scheduled on Thursday to discuss a Reform Party bill that would allow dual citizenship to Estonian citizens by birth.

The Reform Party group initiated a similar bill also in spring this year, but saw it rejected by the government. Unlike that bill, the draft to be discussed by the government Thursday envisages also the possibility to strip a person of Estonian citizenship after a guilty verdict handed down on them for treason or a terrorist crime.

Source: Estonia’s Interior Ministry to not support bill allowing dual citizenship

Norway: Parliament approves dual citizenship

Last of the Nordics to do so:

It was a big day for long-term expatriates in Norway and Norwegians who’ve moved abroad. After years of debate, a majority in Parliament finally approved dual citizenship in Norway on Thursday for all those who have strong ties to both their homeland and their country of residence.


“I think this is a day of great joy,” said Ove Trellevik, a member of Parliament for the Conservative Party that backed dual citizenship along with every other party in Parliament except the Labour Party and the Center Party.

The Liberal Party was also celebrating the dual citizenship victory, with cake decorated with images of a Norwegian passport.  Some Liberal Party members claimed the approval wouldn’t have come if the Liberals hadn’t joined the government in January. Both the Conservatives and the Progress Party, however, had already signaled their support in 2017 and earlier.

Trellevik noted that the law banning dual citizenship dated from 1888. “It was ripe for a re-evaluation, and had to adapt to the times we’re living in,” Trellevik told news bureau NTB. Donna Fox, who spearheaded a major effort to end the ban on dual citizenship, wrote in a message to that “after a long campaign we have all won the best possible outcome for all.”

It will allow immigrants in Norway to keep the citizenship of their birth while also acquiring Norwegian citizenship and finally being able, for example, to vote in national elections. It will also allow Norwegians who have moved abroad and become citizens of their resident country to retain, or re-acquire, their Norwegian passports. They had to give up their Norwegian citizenship if they became citizens of, for example, the US or Australia, just like Americans and Australians would have had to surrender their passports in order to acquire a Norwegian one. Many have refused to do so, living in Norway on the grounds of permanent residence permission and having to renew residence within the EU’s Schengen area every two years.


Norway has been been one of the few countries in the world, and the only Nordic country, to have banned dual citizenship until now. While even the anti-immigration Progress Party was won over by those advocating dual citizenship (if only to be able to revoke Norwegian citizenship for those committing crimes and enable deportation to their country of birth) both the Labour and Center parties still objected.

The farmer-friendly Center Party, known for its protectionist policies, argued that it was a question of loyalty: “If Norway is in conflict with another country, will a person with citizenship in both countries think only of Norway’s interests when they vote?” queried Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum in a recent commentary in newspaper Dagbladet. Both the Center and Labour parties also argued that dual citizenship will weaken efforts to prevent forced marriages and some immigrants’ practice of sending their children out of the country to discipline them.

Trellevik counters both arguments, claiming that it can be easier to follow up such cases when the children are also Norwegian citizens, while he also thinks dual citizenship can dampen conflicts rather than heighten them.

It will take awhile before the new law takes effect, however. NTB noted that Norway first must revoke the Council of Europe’s convention from May 6, 1963 that states how Norwegian citizens must give up their citizenship if they accept a new one. Then it will take at least one year from the Council of Europe’s receipt of the revocation notice until the law is valid. The Education Ministry is responsible for the process, expected to be completed sometime in 2020 and hopefully well in advance of the next national election in 2021.

Source: Parliament approves dual citizenship