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Justice ministry seeks to ease citizenship rules for children of permanent residents

All News 17:18 April 26, 2021

SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) -- The government is pushing to lower the barrier for children of permanent residents in South Korea to gain citizenship here, the justice ministry said Monday.

Under a provisional revision to the Nationality Act, children of a permanent resident with "close ties" to South Korea will be able to acquire citizenship simply by informing the justice minister.

Priority will be given to families that have lived here for several generations, such as some ethnic Chinese, and permanent residents with otherwise deep historical or ethnic ties to the country, the ministry said, adding that the specific criteria for eligibility will be established through an enforcement ordinance.

This undated file photo shows the national flag of South Korea hanging at a war memorial in central Seoul. (Yonhap)

Under the current law, underage children of permanent residents have to wait until they are 18 to apply for citizenship, unless their parents have already naturalized.

The revision, if made, will allow children up to the age of 6 to immediately gain citizenship without preconditions. Those aged 7 and above will be required to have lived here for at least five years.

All applicants will be able to keep their original nationalities as well if they agree not to exercise foreign citizenship in South Korea.

The ministry said the move aims to help children of permanent residents build a Korean identity and more successfully settle down here, while also tackling the country's low fertility rate.

As part of the revision, the ministry is also seeking to allow men with dual nationality to relinquish their Korean citizenship even after the legal deadline in exceptional circumstances.

Currently, men with dual nationality must decide whether to renounce Korean citizenship by March after they turn 18 or fulfill mandatory military service.

The ministry said exceptions would include those who have lived abroad for most of their lives with no birth registration here, and those who were born abroad and have no record of ever entering South Korea.


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