Friday, November 11, 2005

New gov't rules on dual citizenship elate Fil-Ams

By TJ Burgonio, Inquirer News Service

THOUGH "upset" about the lingering political crisis back home, Filipino-Americans are aching to go back to the Philippines, retrace their roots and touch base with relatives.

Now, revised immigration rules will smooth the way for the Fil-Ams' homecoming dream.

"Thanks to this new requirement, more people like myself can start thinking to come back to the Philippines," US-based Loida Nicolas Lewis told reporters at the Senate recently.

Thanking Drilon

Lewis, together with Undersecretary Jose Molano Jr. of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, called on Senate President Franklin Drilon to thank him for prodding the Bureau of Immigration to relax the rules.

On Nov. 1, the Bureau of Immigration issued a circular requiring Filipino-Americans to merely present old passports, birth certificates, voter's affidavits or marriage contracts, or any document to prove that they were born in the Philippines when reapplying for citizenship.

Old rules

It was a complete departure from the old rules that required applicants to present birth certificates authenticated by the National Statistics Office, a process which the Filipino-Americans found tedious.

Filipinos who live abroad are dismayed with the crisis still roiling the Arroyo administration, Lewis, chair of the Washington-based National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (Naffaa), said.

"Observing the Philippines abroad, we are upset and frustrated that there is a constant intramural going on. We're facing a lot of problems. Why don't we unite and move the country forward?" she said.

But with the relaxation of the rules, Filipino-Americans now have a reason to come home, invest and, eventually, settle here, according to Lewis.

"It's good news for the country because most of us -- I'm speaking for my generation -- professionals left the country from the '60s, '70s, '80s. Now it's 2005, we have reached the sunset years of our lives and we're starting to think where we will retire. Florida, Southern California, Texas? Why not the Philippines?" she said.

"In the US, we have $1,000 social security benefit. In the Philippines, that is P50,000. So it's better if we come back here."

Owning land

Until the BI relaxed its rules, Filipino-Americans' attempts at starting businesses and acquiring property in the Philippines had been hobbled by their being naturalized Americans, Lewis said.

"The biggest stumbling block is that we're American citizens. Those who made good but left without any land could not acquire land. We can buy a condo but we could not acquire land," she said.

College in Sorsogon

In her case, Lewis established a college in Sorsogon province in 1999, but could not own a single share because she was an American citizen.

Of the 2.5 million former Filipino citizens living in the United States, Canada and Australia, only 2,500 have so far availed themselves of dual citizenship because of the "tedious process" at the BI, according to Drilon.

4 comments:

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