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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, left, and Opposition Leader Godwin Friday speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, left, and Opposition Leader Godwin Friday speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.
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Lawmakers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have amended the citizenship law to allow for “second-generation Vincentians” born overseas to be considered for citizenship.

Currently, under the Constitution, a person is automatically a Vincentian at birth — regardless of where they are born — if the person has at least one parent who was born in SVG.

The new law, which was passed with bipartisan support, makes it possible for grandchildren of people born in SVG to be considered for citizenship on application, if that grandchild is born outside of SVG.

In presenting the bill to Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves rejected the view that the change in the law would result in a flood of people coming to SVG to live.

“We do not see that as something which is a realistic one,” said Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibility for citizenship matters.

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The prime minister pointed out that it is said that there are between 200,000 and 300,000 thousand people born overseas, who are entitled, at birth, to Vincentian citizenship.

“… they don’t come here. A few of them come, relatively speaking, but to afford the opportunity of those who may wish. So, I don’t see a flood. I think it, at most, would be a trickle rather than a flood because that has been the experience,” Gonsalves told Parliament on Thursday.

The amendment to the 1984 Citizenship Act says that the applicant must not be qualified for registration as a citizen otherwise than under the amended section and must be of good character.

The applicant must have a grandparent, who at the time of the applicant’s birth was a citizen of SVG, and the applicant must not be entitled to be registered as a citizen under the Constitution or any other law in force in SVG.

He said the applicant must submit his application in addition to the applicable fees and any of the following documents as the minister deems necessary.

These documents may include copies of the applicant’s birth certificate and passport; certified copies of documents relevant to the application, including birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, certificates of registration or naturalisation or any other certificate or evidence of citizenship of his parents, grandparents and other relevant persons; and police record check or a certificate of police clearance.

The prime minister pointed that the minister or a person designated by the minister may make arrangements to interview the application or any person connected with the application, if the minister sees it fit

He further said that a person qualified to be registered under the amendment may not be registered unless the person takes the oath of allegiance specified under the law.

However, the minister may waive the duty to take the oath for certain categories of persons, Gonsalves said, without elaborating.  

The amended law also provides for a certificate of citizenship to be provided to a person born outside of SVG to an eligible Vincentian parent, constituting a valid record of the automatic right of citizenship accorded to that person under the Constitution.

“That’s an administrative matter which the public servants have been asking for and it makes sense,” the prime minister said.

He said that the law also provides for the waiver of fees for one year from the commencement of the bill and all applications and grants of citizenship made under certain sections of the act

The amendment allows the minister to extend the period of a waiver. “But you will have to come with a negative resolution to the House,” Gonsalves said.

The prime minister noted that the bill was put to a select committee of Parliament, adding that what emerged was a better-drawn bill that was tidier and had worked out a number of practical issues.

Gonsalves said he was asked at the select committee meeting why the bill has been brought at this time.

“There was no specific occurrence,” he said, adding that it was “the maturation of a process” where people overseas who would have been second generation Vincentians had been asking if they could have the opportunity to apply for citizenship without the onerous provision of naturalisation.

“That is to say, a seven-year period or in certain circumstances, five years,” the prime minister said.

He said he has received many letters from “ordinary Vincentians” and people involved in sports in SVG, the UK and US who may wish to represent SVG at regional and international sporting gatherings.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday expressed his support and that of opposition lawmakers for the amendments.

Friday, a lawyer, said it would be easier to explain to people that they do not have to go through a lengthy process if they became citizens by other means.

He said opposition lawmakers understand the implication of the law and would want to see it as a way as well for enhancing ties and commitment among people in the diaspora who may look at SVG as not just a country of their parents or grandparents but also as their country.

“Those persons who are young and productive and may wish to come back and take up employment here, to invest, to use the skills and training they have acquired in those countries, where they reside or were born and to bring it, to apply it here for the benefit of the country,” Friday said.

He said SVG needs that injection of skill, talent, training, capital, money, resources to help the country to continue to develop “in a way that we would like to see it move forward so that it enhances opportunity for all of us and entourages faster growth.

The opposition leader said SVG is not “a magnet country” like the United States that attracts the brightest and the best from all over the world simply by the opportunities they provide there and and they can be a lot more selective of who they accept.

He said that is also the case in countries like Canada and the UK.

“So, we are utilising what is available to us — that’s the way I see it in any event — to seek to attract such persons as well, to lend their talent and their treasure to the further development of our country,” the prime minister said.

8 replies on “Amended law offers SVG citizenship to ‘second generation Vincentians’”

  1. May be it is time to revisit the Garifunas who consider Vincy their homeland? Was it not the same ralf who trashed the Eustace idea of honorary Citizenship for the descendants of the exiled Natives?

  2. World boss knows apart from d Cubans no real person wants to com here to live. So no love lost.

    Look at d state of d city, d other 5 towns out of compliance. D health system gone, security worrisome, u can go on and on.

    Repeal your draconian peice of law and send all d dismissed workers back to their jobs exactly as the high court said it. Not just some but all.

    Don’t u think for one moment vincentians forget that wicked act they just waiting on u in silence.
    Time longer then twine.

  3. LLOYD L SLATER says:

    Excellent idea,it shows the politicians are eventually usin their brains .SVG will eventually become avibrant hub.

  4. Our version of citizenship by investment. Two generations remove and born oversees are likely to be well educated and commanding good earnings that can be tangibly invested in SVG’s economy

  5. Maybe this law is for the benefit of some second-generation White descendants of the slave masters, for the circumvention of our laws for their benefit; such as owning land without paying for applicable license. What do you think SVG? Do you ever question anything?

  6. Is there other motives behind this Who will leave well developed countries were the people here is trying to go and come to underdeveloped small countries where they will have to fight for road jobs? and maybe will have to suffer and die to?

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