Monday, September 27, 2021

A divorced mum’s long wait for her child’s citizenship

Expensive healthcare and visa-related challenges are just some of the problems that await if citizenship is never granted.

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I am a Malaysian woman who was married to a foreigner. We registered our marriage overseas in Country A in 2013 and filed it with the Malaysian embassy there, also in the same month of 2013. In 2015, I transferred to Country B where I now live to stay with my husband who worked there.

I miscarried once before getting pregnant again in 2016. The process was not smooth. I was constantly bleeding. Due to my first miscarriage and the bleeding throughout my pregnancy, the doctor advised me not to travel and to take bed rest.

I had no choice but to deliver my child in Country B due to health concerns. My daughter was born on July 24, 2017. I consulted the Malaysian embassy in Country B and they informed me that I could apply for Malaysian citizenship for my child as I had all the required documents.

We filed the citizenship application at the Malaysian embassy in Country B in September 2017. In the mail exchange with embassy, I was told that the application would take one year to process. Little did I expect that I would have to wait for three years for an outcome. The status of my application is still pending.

My child required a visa in Country B. Since she could not get Malaysian citizenship, I had no choice but to accept my then-husband’s nationality, and she now holds a Country A passport.

In November 2018, I learnt that my husband had been unfaithful. My marriage did not work out.

In January 2019, I was able to secure employment which helped pay the rent and let me raise my daughter on my own. In July 2020, I got a legal letter from my ex-husband to proceed for a separation and, after that, towards a divorce. He agreed to give me full custody of our daughter and he also agreed that I could take my daughter to live in Malaysia.

However, until now, I still await Malaysian citizenship for my daughter. I have also learnt from friends that living in Malaysia with a non-citizen child can be very challenging.

Until the child is six years old, she gets a long-term social visit visa (to be renewed every six months) and after six years, once she is in school, she will have to be on a student visa just like any other foreigner’s child (with no rights by virtue of being the daughter of a Malaysian).

She will not get healthcare at the same rate as Malaysian children. Access to national schools is not easy for non-citizen children and financially, it will be difficult for me to send my child to an international school.

What is my future going to be if my daughter does not obtain a Malaysian identity – running to Putrajaya every six months to renew her visa, paying high fees at the hospital? Every time her passport needs to be renewed, I will have to beg her father for help. My daughter will always be considered second-class when it comes to her application to attend a national school. She will only be able to secure admission if there is space at the school.

I really feel so helpless and stressed. I have also heard that the government can make it possible for a single mother to pass her citizenship to her child. I really hope and pray hard that my daughter’s citizenship can be granted.

Whether I am a married or single mother, shouldn’t I be able to pass my citizenship to my child? I am not sure why it should take three years for a citizenship application to be processed.

Malaysia is my country, where I want to raise my child. My family is there and, as a single mother, I need this support from them. I need my country to grant citizenship to my child.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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