Sunday, June 9, 2013

Advantages of Dual Citizenship (PHL and US)

About two years ago, I reacquired my Filipino citizenship. I became a dual citizen of the US and of the Philippines. After a slow two hours and foggy drive from Sacramento to San Francisco, Macrine and I with son David arrived at the Philippine Consulate at Sutter Street at 9:30AM. After one hour I was ready to be sworn in and took the Oath of Allegiance in the presence Of Alfonso A. Ver, Deputy Consul General, Philippine Cosulate, San Francisco, California.

It was a very smooth process although six other Filipino-Americans were also applying along with me at that time. We were out of the consulate by 11AM, plenty of time to celebrate my birthday lunch at Fisherman's. Wharf with Dungeness crabs that was in season at that time.

I applaud the Consulate for the smooth process. The application fee was $50. So why did I apply for dual citizenship. The advantages are as follows:

1. One who re-acquires Filipino citizenship can vote in elections in the Philippines according to Art V, Sec.1 of the Philippine Constitution.

2. One can own real property with no size limitation.

3. One can practice his/her profession provided he/she is licensed or permitted by the Philippine authority to engage in such practice ( RA 9225).

4. One can own and operate a business not generally open to foreigners among others, explorations, public utilities, mass media, cooperatives, and advertising.

5. The citizen's spouse can get an immigrant visa that entitles him/her to permanently reside in the Philippines - come and go, avoid exit clearances, entry fees, etc.

6. Can run or get an appointment to a public office provided that the person renounce his allegiance to the other country.

7. Can apply for Philippine passport and can stay in the Philippines for an unlimited period.

Ownership of real property is a significant advantage, as existing law in the Philippines restricts ownership of real property to its own citizens. Although a foreigner is permitted to take title to a condominium, he/she cannot take title to real property (land and a house). A foreigner can lease land from a Filipino and then take ownership of a house on the land, but this type of transaction is extremely rare in the Philippines. Thus, through re-acquisition of his/her Philippine citizenship, the Filipino is once again able to purchase real property, with no restrictions.

For those wanting to retire to the Philippines, the ability to run a small business or practice one's profession is a strong benefit. Through dual citizenship, retirement in the Philippines can be the start of a new chapter in one's life, as a business person or a professional. Ownership of business as a sole proprietor or as a wholly owned corporation is severely restricted, unless a foreigner makes a significant investment ($200,000 as a minimum).

Without citizenship, a foreigner wishing to operate a business in the Philippines is limited to forming a corporation, of which he/she can only own a 40% interest. As a dual citizen, the Filipino re-acquires the right to wholly own his/her business. Thus, a foreigner married to a Filipino with dual citizenship can take 40% ownership of a business and keep it in the family by his/her dual citizenship spouse taking the remaining 60% ownership.

Other than being in an immigrant status, there is only one way a person carrying a foreign passport can reside in the Philippines for any significant amount of time, and even then it requires the foreigner to be married to a "Balikbayan" (a returning Filipino who was born in the Philippines). A Balikbayan and his/her spouse can visit and reside in the Philippines for up to one year, after which they must exit the country, and then re-enter should they wish to stay another year. This must be repeated on an annual basis

Balikbayan status is not an immigrant status, but rather a special non-immigrant visa status. Yes, one can enter without a visa and stay for a maximum of 21 days, and then get a renewal for another 38 days, followed by two month extensions for about USD $100 per extension, up to a maximum of one year. There is also a special retiree visa program permitting unlimited stay status, but it does not permit real property or business ownership.

There are only two ways for a foreigner to be registered as a non-quota immigrant and those are (i) be the spouse of a Filipino citizen who was never became a citizen of a foreign country, or (ii) be the spouse of a former Filipino citizen who has re-acquired his/her citizenship by obtaining a dual citizenship status. If desired, the door is open after 5 years residency for the foreigner to also obtain dual citizenship.

With a dual citizenship status, the Filipino has the best of both worlds - citizenship in the Philippines and all the rights that attach to that plus citizenship in his/her other country (e.g., Canada or USA) and all the rights that attach to that status.

But there are duties and obligations one must follow: Exercise the right to vote, pay taxes on income earned in the Philippines. Last but not least, support and defend the Constitution of the Philippines and obey its laws. To apply for dual citizenship call the Philippine Consulate nearest to your residence.

References: Will Irwin ( brochure from the Philippine consulate, San Francisco, California, USA

Personal Note: On item 6 above, there are a number of cases in the last Philippine election that a dual citizen was elected, but has no proof of renouncing US citizenship. The most discussed case here by American-Marinduquenos is the case of Gina Reyes. Although she is a dual citizen and claims she renounced her US citizenship before her filing her certificate of candidacy, she has not shown proof of her renouncing her US citizenship.

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