Monday, May 28, 2007

Toiling For Dual Citizenship

Somehow I knew that the inevitable would come. And inexorably, it did last May 25th.

When it first became a real option backed by law in 2004, I recall I had summarily dismissed it and relegated it to some dusty corner of my memory bank, a mental vault where one is said to keep one’s list of procrastinated chores or low-priority issues that could be revisited in the future.

But markedly bothered by my growing need for it, I had finally decided to opt in its favor. Electing dual citizenship, that is. And mind you, it is for no deep-seated patriotic or wrenching nationalistic longing for a country already ceremoniously set aside in favor of another through a formal oath-taking. But essentially emanating from some lower gut level, more along the economic and self-serving sphere. After all, it should also be noted that its eventual passing and promulgation as a law was manifestly as an accommodation and/or an almost Faustian bargain between the ex-nationals and the old homeland. It passed essentially because the prevailing sentiment of both government and business was that this process would allow former citizens to partake of rights and privileges bestowed only on current citizens, but most especially the rights to own real estate, and engage in business and most other essential economic endeavors typically closed to foreigners. And thrown in for good measure, the rights of suffrage.

So on the morning of May 25th which was a Thursday, with heavy heart and equally laden steps, we drove the almost 70 miles that separated us from the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco. Deep in the tony downtown area in San Francisco along Sutter Street is where the consular offices are ensconced in a building that also accommodates the Philippine AirLines, and a bunch of FilAm-owned travel-related small businesses. Somehow clustered around due to some strong symbiotic dependencies. Some kind of a one-stop shop, or more like a tiangge, which is now quite popular in the old homeland. Thus, you go see any one of several travel agencies housed in the same building for your planned vacation trip back to the old homeland, then pass by PAL to get your tickets. A stop at the 6th floor lobby of the Consulate maybe for updating or renewing your travel papers. And oh, should you need new photos or copies of documents of your updated travel documents, no need to leave the building. These services are also available there.

I had the necessary documentation neatly stapled and filed in my black leather folder and further secured inside my black leather carry-on bag with strap slung through one shoulder. And additionally prepared for the always-chilly weather of downtown San Francisco with warm clothing, we negotiated in quick cadenced steps the almost mile-long distance from parking lot to the Sutter location.

Though we spent almost the entire morning for our business, service was definitely better than those one would typically find in the old homeland. And though I tried diligently to comply and complete requirements, my preparation was eventually found embarrassingly wanting.

To apply for dual citizenship, one had to first fill up the form, Petition for Dual Citizenship and Issuance of Identification Certificate (IC) with the now reduced supporting document requirements. For my case, all that was needed as supporting documents were a valid or expired Philippine passport and a copy of the naturalization certificate.

Sounds quite easy, right? Not for poor klutz me. The two photos required for the application did not pass muster with the requirements. The form itself which I filled up at home, twice, printed from the Internet, was judged old and obsolete. Though a cursory check did not reveal any substantial differences. And though, a COPY of the naturalization certificate is submitted, one still had to bring the originals for verification. (The word, copy, is capitalized because if one reads the certificate, it boldly states in red letters: It is punishable by U.S. law to copy, print or photograph this certificate, without lawful authority. So I assumed this was required under lawful authority.)

But like I said, this being a one-stop shop, all the pesky kinks were rectified in no time. Except that during the oath-taking scheduled a week later, I still have to show the original of the naturalization certificate.

And thus, before the clock struck one, we were back out in the cold streets of San Francisco, a bit wiser (to the requirements, at least) and almost $100 poorer for parking fee, new photos and copies, and application filing fee.

Then, already settled in and feeling warm and secure inside the car on the long drive back home, it stealthily dawned on me.

Man is almost always driven by impulses, rather than by deliberate, well-formed, and well-reasoned plans of action. We tend to do things at the spur of the moment, at the crack of the whip, normally with insufficient thought and diligence. I should have known better, I exclaimed.

Anyway, cultivating and nurturing hindsight has its redeeming values. Hopefully, the next time around one becomes more deliberate and purposeful.

So here’s an initial stream of hindsight knowledge that could shed some light on whether the decision made overall was a positive experience or not.

There are larger and graver ramifications of dual citizenship, larger and bigger than one’s puny self-interests, if we are to rely on certain studies made.

However, at the present time 93 countries around the world allow dual citizenship in some form or other; (though from that same number, some could be said to instead just “tolerate” it). The US is one such country which allows it, together with France and Switzerland, and yes, even Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent (huh?).

These gnawing concerns will be addressed sometime in the near future, as soon as I am done with the oath-taking scheduled at the end of this current month.

Till then.

2 comments:

  1. It is ironic that Philippine bureaucracy is better done outside of the homeland, isn't it? Also, I notice that the Filipinos working in embassies and consulates throughout the world actually seem to understand that they are civil SERVANTS and better yet have grasped the apparently unknown and untaught concept of customer SERVICE. You want to see arrogance? Go to the LTO, to city hall, or to Immigration. As I rethink though, I have to say that Filipino consular representatives are heads and shoulder superior in service to almost any American bureaucratic official.

    Sounds like you have buyers remorse with taking on duality. What's up with that?

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  2. Phil:

    First, I had the same thoughts and words initially after the experience – buyer’s remorse?

    And secondly, I have been gathering and weighing my thoughts regarding this thorny issue, especially in light of what is currently happening in the US with regard to illegal immigration and the like. Imagine, a fumbling Miss USA being booed in Mexico. US soccer team gets the same treatment here in the US when playing with Latin American teams – by US immigrants sharing the same ethnicity and casting their lots with the teams of the old homeland.

    Some thing is wrong, somehow. the prevalence of dual or multiple citizenship could be a factor.

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