Ranks of Burma’s PR Holders Modest but Growing

By Tin Htet Paing 12 March 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s Ministry of Immigration and Population has issued more than 170 permanent residency (PR) certificates to successful applicants while nearly 100 additional applications are still being processed, according to an official from the ministry.

“We have released a total of 171 certificates and are now arranging to release more for the approved applications,” deputy director Min Zaw from the permanent residency section of the ministry told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“I still can’t tell the exact number of successful applications for the last intake,” he added.

The scheme was launched in late 2014 by the Immigration and Population Ministry and has so far issued three intakes last year, according to Min Zaw.

According to the Immigration and Population Ministry, successful applicants are granted an initial five-year period of residency. Foreign professionals, technicians, investors who have resided in Burma for more than one year, family members of Burmese citizens and former citizens are eligible for consideration.

After the initial five-year period, former nationals can reapply for citizenship while foreigners can apply to extend their status. Applicants must pay a $500 non-refundable application fee, as well as an annual fee of $500 for former citizens and $1,000 for all others.

According to a report in state-owned newspaper The Mirror on Wednesday, a central implementation committee is scrutinizing the last applicants for the approval process and hopes to issue its fourth batch of successful applicants next week.

The report quoted the chairman of the central implementation committee, Union Minister Ko Ko of the Immigration and Population Ministry, who said the permanent residency system was intended for those who want to contribute to national development and Burma’s reform process.

The scheme, however, has been criticized by many Burmese exiles because those who have sought political asylum or refugee status are ineligible and successful PR applicants are barred from taking part in any political activities in Burma.

Former exile Aung Myo Min, the executive director of Equality Myanmar who is not eligible to apply for PR because he was granted refugee status by the Czech Republic, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the government should welcome all former citizens and foreign professionals rather than limiting the applicants’ political activities.

“When a country is in a reform process, it needs experts and professionals from every sector,” he said.

“Banning successful applicants from taking part in political activities can become an obstacle for those who want to contribute to the country’s reform process.”

According to the 1982 Citizenship Law, dual citizenship is prohibited in Burma. Tens of thousands of Burmese exiles, who fled the country for various reasons under the former military regime, effectively lost their Burmese citizenship while living abroad after being granted refugee status, residency or citizenship in foreign countries.