A foreigner’s take on citizenship law

Published On: June 28, 2020 01:00 PM NPT By: Simone Galimberti

Nepal should not be afraid if more foreigners fall in love with this country and with its people and are willing to work and live here.

With the passing by the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the Citizenship Bill, many are thinking: Will the country come up with a progressive piece of legislation that can truly be in the best interests of the nation and its people?

Given the sensitivity and disputes surrounding the issue, it seems that national sovereignty and integrity is at stake. There could be nothing like that and an emotionally charged issued like citizenship should be discussed only rationally, also taking into view what the youth think. It is the question of how the youth will imagine their country in the decades ahead: open to and confident to the world or insecure and obsessed with fear of foreigners?

With more and more youth leaving the country for work and studies, it is probable that some of them will inevitably fall in love with foreigners.

If you know me enough through my pieces in this newspaper, I have always been away from politics even if literally I love politics, and I feel deeply passionate about politics everywhere, including Nepal.

The proposed citizenship law relates directly to people like me. I have lived in Nepal since 2007 and I have been married to a Nepali woman for more than 10 years. I have been blessed with the opportunity of working and living in such an extraordinary place like Nepal but I also face challenges.

I can stay in this country only thanks to a marriage visa that must be renewed every single year at the presence of my wife. But with the visa also comes another stamp saying “Employment Not permitted”. I wonder why these marriage visas have to be renewed every single year and why I can’t have a job in this country.   So for more than five years I am in a ‘not paid position’ at ENGAGE, the not-for-profit organization that I set up with my wife Kalpana.

I believe this provision is totally unfair for all foreigners married to Nepalis.  I think there should be an open, inclusive debate on this.

Most of the provisions currently under discussion in Nepal are related to foreign women married to Nepali men. I wish there was a discussion on issues related to foreign men married to Nepali women as well.

The most advanced nations have progressive citizenship laws in place, mostly allowing dual citizenship. Recently I was at the immigration office and there were so many Non Resident Nepalis (NRNs) queuing for hours and hours because they needed to undergo an arduous process for them to be able to spend few months in the country. Just think how much more they could contribute if they were able to maintain a dual citizenship, the citizenship of the country in which they were born and the citizenship of the country in which now they reside for most of their time.

There is no conflict of interest in this: you can still love your country of birth like all “naya” foreigners born in Nepal do and at the same time love the country that gave hospitality when you needed most.

 I wish I was the citizen of Italy and Nepal.

I often think of Singapore. I know it is hard to draw any comparison here but the city state is still a global paragon in progress and prosperity. There high skilled foreigners have been always welcome. In Singapore, you can find the best talents because the best minds are heartily welcome. It will do no harm to Nepal to attract the best minds.

In Nepal, foreign investment legislation was changed last year to make it almost impossible for foreigners like me to invest in Nepal, because I do not have $500,000 to invest as this is the new minimum required threshold for foreign investors.

If Nepal wants to benefit from foreign investment, it may not be able to do so by keeping the fear of foreigners. You should not be afraid of Indian nationals or any other foreigners taking over the country if the citizenship law is made more liberal and progressive. Nepal should not be afraid if more foreigners fall in love with this country and with its people and are willing to work and live here.

People like me only want the best for the country. We want to see Nepal become one of the most advanced nations. Nepal can truly become a great nation, proud of its history, traditions and cultures and also open to the world. Nepal needs to be confident and bold in the way it projects itself to the world. Well intentioned foreigners would love to contribute more, helping to make Nepal a truly prosperous and just country. Give us a chance to help more.

In gratitude to the country that now I call home: Nepal

Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths to promote social inclusion in Nepal


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