Korean citizenship may soon be more attainable for foreign children

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Korean citizenship may soon be more attainable for foreign children

The underage children of foreigners with permanent residency in Korea may soon be able to acquire Korean citizenship under a revision to the nationality law proposed by the Ministry of Justice on Monday.
 
Generally, the acquisition of Korean nationality follows the principle of jus sanguinis, and ethnic Koreans are able to more easily attain Korean citizenship.
 
However, the Ministry of Justice’s proposed revision to the Nationality Act will introduce a “simple nationality acquisition policy for young children born in Korea to permanent residents.” Under the revised law, if a permanent resident with “deep ties” to Korea gives birth to a child in Korea, the child will become a citizen by simply reporting his or her intent to acquire Korean nationality to the Minister of Justice.
 
Previously, children born in Korea to permanent residents had to apply for naturalization, even if they completed their primary and secondary education in the country.
 
Although the revision does not signal a complete abandonment of the jus sanguinis principle, it would make it significantly easier for minors to become Korean citizens earlier in their youth.
 
If the revision passes, children 6 years old or younger would be able to report an intent to naturalize without any additional requirements. Children who are 7 or older can do the same, provided they have resided in the country five or more years.
 
However, not all children born on Korean soil to permanent residents can naturalize with ease under the policy. Priority will be given to those children whose families have been in Korea for two or more generations and permanent residents who have “deep blood or cultural ties” to the country.
 
One of the main beneficiaries of the law will be ethnic Chinese who have resided in Korea for several decades but were barred from citizenship under the strict application of the jus sanguinis principle.
 
According to government estimates, about 3,900 individuals are currently eligible to acquire Korean nationality under the revised scheme. The Ministry of Justice believes that 600 to 700 additional people will be eligible every year.
 
“By giving children of permanent residents with deep ties to Korean society an opportunity to acquire nationality early, [the policy] will help foster their cultural identity and establish stability," the Justice Ministry said. “It will also contribute to secure growth in the labor pool in the era of low birth rates and an aging population.”
 
BY MICHAEL LEE   [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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