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Thursday, 10 March 2011

Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill 2010: Part VIII

Citizenship by Marriage

Part VIII, Article 153 deals with how a non-Zambian can become a citizen through marriage:
(1) A woman married to a man who is a citizen, or a man married to a woman who is a citizen, may, upon making an application in the manner prescribed by an Act of Parliament, be registered as a citizen of Zambia.
(2) Clause (1) shall apply only if the applicant has been ordinarily resident in the Republic for a continuous period of not less than fifteen years immediately preceding that person’s application.
Clause (2) is unnecessary punitive and may cause enormous difficulties for those who marry abroad. If I understand this correctly, there’s no limit of time for how long you should have been married to a Zambian before you apply. You can be married for 1 month and qualify to be a citizen. The limit is on how long you have had to be ‘ordinarily resident in the Republic’. In short the clause does not convey any benefit for being married per se – the large advantage comes from living in Zambia for 15 years. But here it becomes bizarre because Article 152 already tells us : “....a person may apply to be registered as a citizen if that person has— (a) attained the age of twenty one years; and (b) been ordinarily resident in the Republic for a continuous period of not less than fifteen years immediately preceding that person’s application for registration”. So we see a person can apply for citizenship when they have been in Zambia for 15 years. So what is the advantage of being married?

The citizenship requirements should be designed to reward and incentivise those with deeper commitment to our country without encouraging “easy routes” which can be exploited. I would recommend that we follow a model where a spouse can become Zambian after having permanent residency for a period, say three years. Then they can apply for citizenship. Under the current draft people who are married abroad but relocate to Zambia with their spouses have a tough time. It results in a bizarre situation where a person has been married abroad for 5 years, relocates to Zambia, but her husband has to wait for an additional 15 years to become Zambian.

Zambian Economist is currently reviewing the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill 2010. All posts in this ongoing review can be found at the Constitution of Zambia page.


  1. I am a UK Passport holder who has lived in Zambia for five years now,with some breaks to work on projects in other countries. My Zambian wife and I have just celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary, we married in Lusaka. We have owned a building plot for 3 years and are constructing a house. We are both committed to staying here for the rest of our lives. But a) I can't put my name on title deeds until I can prove continuous 5 years of living in Zambia and b) I can't apply for residency for 15 years or invest $250,000 as a lump sum. I have spent that in last 5 years just living here. I have a constant fear in my mind that all I have worked for could be stolen at a moments notice and myself deported.

  2. I hope things change soon with the new govt. We are still fighting for dual citizen so we could freely come back home and invest in our country, so hang in there!!!!!


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