Permanent Residency Not for All Foreigners: Minister

By Tha Lun Zaung Htet 23 October 2012

The Burmese government’s permanent residency scheme (PRS) will be divided into two categories and contain conditions for foreigners, according to Soe Thein, one of six government ministers attached to the President’s Office.

Before President Thein Sein’s landmark press conference on Sunday, Soe Thein told The Irrawaddy that the upcoming PRS will be categorized in terms of three or five years and only foreigners helping to develop the country will be eligible.

He explained that permanent residency will be granted to both Burmese nationals who have obtained citizenship in other countries as well as foreigners, and the government wants to implement the system within months.

“Like Singapore and others, we won’t grant this status to every foreigner,” the minister said. “Foreigners who will invest in Burma, professors and those who can help develop the country will be considered for the PRS. It will last for three or five years.”

In the weekend press conference, Thein Sein told reporters that he already discussed this plan while meeting Burmese communities during his recent trip to the United States. Burmese nationals who have moved abroad for various reasons and obtained citizenship in foreign countries will be able to return to their country of origin through the PRS, he said.

“Burmese in the US, who are now US citizens, asked me what they should do if they wanted to come back and visit their relatives in Burma for a long period of time,” said Thein Sein. “I told them that we couldn’t grant them dual-citizenship but would arrange a PRS for them.”

Soe Thein said that the government will issue the necessary orders and directives to implement the PRS and then submit a bill for approval by Parliament.

Burmese Immigration Minister Khin Yi told The Irrawaddy that the PRS will be implemented over the next three months and until then Burmese people with foreign citizenship can come back with social visas.

There are also thousands of Burmese nationals who hold travel documents of foreign countries without taking full citizenship, and so have had to relinquish their Burmese citizenship as a consequence. It remains unclear how this group would fit into the proposed PRS.

According to Section 13 of Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law, a citizen cannot also acquire citizenship for a second country.