Barriers to the acquisition of Malaysian citizenship


Bina Ramanand


Association of Family Support and Welfare Selangor and KL (Family Frontiers)

Policy Code:

2e Child

Problem Statement / Issue:

Children born to either parent Malaysian in the following categories currently face the barriers to acquiring automatic citizenship due to gender-biased provisions in the Malaysian Federal Constitution (F.C.):
1. Children born overseas to a Malaysian mother and a non-citizen father
2. Children born before a legally recognised marriage to a Malaysian father and a non-citizen mother

Many children who are denied citizenship under these provisions are at-risk of stateless or are rendered stateless. Children impacted in this regard face a myriad of challenges, including unequal access to fundamental rights such as healthcare, education and economic opportunities. Children are also placed in vulnerable situations, including uncertain futures, forced family separation, and risk of detention and deportation should they be undocumented.

In cases of separation or divorce of the parents, or the death of the Malaysian parent, most often the non-citizen parent is asked to return to their home country, which denies them visitations and co-parenting of their children, including when there is joint custody over the child.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

In the best interest of the child, ensure children whose either parent (adopted and biological) is Malaysian has access to Malaysian citizenship by ‘operation of law’ regardless of the marital status of the parent, gender of the Malaysian parent and the place of birth of the child.

Proposal of Solution and Call to Action:

Malaysian citizenship laws should be reviewed and reformed, in the best interest of the children, such that children of either parent (adopted and biological) Malaysian has access to automatic citizenship, particularly:

1. Amend Article 14(1)(b) of the F.C. and its related schedule to ensure overseas-born children to Malaysian mothers can secure automatic citizenship on an equal basis as children of Malaysian fathers.
2. Repeal Section 17 of Part III of the Second Schedule of the F.C. such that children born out of wedlock can obtain their Malaysian father’s citizenship on an automatic basis.
3. Amend Section 1 of the Second Schedule of the F.C. to ensure that adopted children can inherit citizenship from their adoptive Malaysian parent(s).

Immigration policies concerning Malaysian binational families should be reviewed and reformed, particularly:

1. Enable a non-citizen parent of a Malaysian child to obtain a Residence pass with the right to employment to enable financial support, visitation and co-parenting of the Malaysian child
2. Allow separated, divorced and widowed non-citizen spouses of Malaysians (upon provision of supporting documents) to reside and work permanently and independently of the Malaysian spouse, without bias on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, gender, number and custody over children, or income.

Reservations to Article 9(2) of the CEDAW and Article 7 of the CRC must be lifted.


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