Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 August 2006
Issue No. 806
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Citizenship costs less

Becoming an Egyptian national will cost LE1,200 less for children born of Egyptian mothers and foreign fathers, reports Reem Leila

The Ministry of Interior announced recently that all applicants for Egyptian citizenship will be exempted from paying the LE1,200 taxes. The new amendment will be enforced within the coming month, and is expected to benefit one million individuals from 468,000 families.

Since the groundbreaking decision by President Hosni Mubarak in September 2003 to amend the nationality law to allow the offspring of Egyptian mothers and foreign fathers to become Egyptian citizens, some 17,00 individuals became citizens. According to Abdel-Hadi Badr, head of the Interior Ministry's Immigration and Citizenship Department, most of these new nationals are of Syrian and Sudanese descent. "While only 577 individuals were processed since the beginning of June this year, the number of applicants is expected to increase rapidly after the most recent modification," stated Badr.

Individuals who are granted Egyptian nationality would receive equal treatment as Egyptian citizens when it came to payment of reduced school and university fees, as well as seeking employment in government institutions.

Ihsan Sherif, a schoolteacher who is divorced from a Tunisian accountant, was thrilled by the news. Sherif tried to apply for citizenship for her two boys, but was unable to afford the required fees. "I will wait until the new amendment comes into force and re- apply," she told Al-Ahram Weekly with joy. "At last my children can become Egyptian citizens."

Until the new amendment is in place, taxes will continue to be collected from applicants, noted Ahmed Diaaeddin, assistant to the minister of interior and head of legal affairs. The process involves submitting the birth certificates of both parents, in addition to the mother's identity card and marriage contract. "These documents help to prove that the mother's origins are Egyptian," explained Diaaeddin.

Other paperwork includes the applicant's birth certificate, his/her foreign passport, proof of their education background, four recent photos, and proof of a "clean" criminal record for those over 16 years of age. All applicants over 16 must also present documents proving they have been residing in Egypt for the past 10 years at least. If the applicants are less than 21 years old, the mother must submit an official request to the ministry's Immigration and Citizenship Department. The application form includes detailed questions about the child's date and place of birth, original nationality, religion, and place of work. The date and place of both parents' birth must be provided, and the mother must also submit her father's birth certificate.

"The current situation is much better than in the past," reflected Diaaeddin. "Who knows what the future might bring."

Still, the nationality law prohibits children of Egyptian mothers and foreign fathers from joining either the Egyptian army or police, or filling certain governmental posts. Also, children of Palestinian fathers are not eligible for Egyptian citizenship. While this seems unfair, asserted Diaaeddin, it is in accordance with Arab League Decree 1547 for 1959. The decree calls for the preservation of the Palestinian identity as an integral part of the Palestinian cause, and prevents it from assimilating into the identity of the host country.

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