To be or not to be a dual citizen

Michelle Baltazar

Houses in a bottleCall it the best of both worlds but under Australian and Philippine government rules, Filipinos who are Australian citizens can re-acquire their Philippine citizenship.

Being a dual citizen is a big issue for many Filipino-Australians, particularly those who are thinking of staying indefinitely in the Philippines (many Filipino-Australian retirees do this) or intend to invest in property there.

As a dual citizen, the benefits include being able to extend your stay in the Philippines without worrying about visa restrictions and you can also go to neighbouring Asian countries without the same visa restrictions imposed on those who only hold an Australian citizenship.

Among other things, a Filipino citizenship also accords you the same rights as Filipinos back ‘home’, including the right to own land and property; the right to engage in business as a Filipino; and the right to vote in Philippine national elections.

The only proviso, if you can call it one, is that if you are thinking of running for office or are holding an office, then you might be asked by your political party to renounce any non-Australian citizenship.

But if you’re not an aspiring politician, then a dual citizenship has its appeal and the application process is pretty straightforward. All the information you need can be found on a dedicated section of the Philippine Consulate website under the tab ‘Dual Citizenship’ (http://www.philippineconsulate.com.au/dual-citizenship/introduction-note.html).

In a nutshell, the first thing you do is get all the necessary documents together (http://www.philippineconsulate.com.au/dual-citizenship/requirements-checklist.html) and submit your application to the Consulate in Sydney if you are from NSW or you go to the Philippine Embassy in Canberra if you’re from outside NSW.

The processing fee is AUD$90 and the application process can take anywhere between four to seven weeks. Once your application is approved, you need to attend an oath-taking ceremony at the Consulate (or the Embassy) for the dual citizenship to take effect.  The oath-taking ceremony is held regularly on the last week of each month.

To be clear, a Philippine citizenship will not affect, in any way, the rights and privileges you enjoy as an Australian citizen. The Philippine Consulate website has all the answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding dual citizenship, from questions on tax treatment of assets you own in the Philippines to how your Filipino citizenship can affect your spouse and children when travelling back to the Philippines.

A Filipino citizenship also means you can run for office in the Philippines, subject to certain conditions.

Meanwhile, if you are a Filipino living in Australia or an Australian permanent resident, and you are thinking of becoming an Australian citizen, the hurdles are slightly higher. All the information you need can be found on www.dfat.gov.au and its sister site, www.citizenship.gov.au.

The application process is much longer and can take anywhere between three to six months. You also have to take a citizenship appointment (allocate two hours for this) and pass a citizenship test (http://www.citizenship.gov.au/applying/how_to_apply/conferral_app_process/). Application fees range from $130 to $260, plus other fees, depending on the type of application. (see http://www.citizenship.gov.au/applying/fees_forms_appeals/)

As an Australian citizen, there are basic rules. You have to obey the laws in Australia and, unlike in the Philippines, voting is compulsory (there’s a penalty if you don’t vote). You will also be required to serve on a jury if called to do so and, according to the DFAT website, ‘defend Australia should the need arise’ (although Australia is one of the most peaceful countries in the world).

Once you are an Australian citizen, you can then re-acquire your Philippine citizenship following the dual citizenship guidelines outlined earlier in this article.





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