Brunei Citizenship

I was chatting with my gym instructor yesterday morning about his upcoming citizenship test. He showed me the course materials he is studying every evening with a tutor and I was quite taken aback by the amount of material that he has to cover. Admittedly most of them I know but then I have been living in Brunei for more than 4 decades and I live in the Malay community. Whereas my friend does not go through the same process and he has to learn everything.

I read in the comment box about a few weeks back someone was asking whether the citizenship test is a test of MIB. In a way it is, it is a test of the Brunei Malay culture - what a Bruneian should know living in Brunei. The materials range from the various pantuns to the wedding practices and ceremonies to the names of the parts of houses etc. The last one most Bruneians would fail as I doubt very much ordinary Bruneians can answer more than half of what was listed. Despite that, more than 32,000 citizenships have been awarded since 1961.

Are the tests any harder, say compared to the USA or the UK tests? I have taken mock American citizenship test and did not find it that hard. It is a mostly a test of the political institutions and process. The UK one is fairly new and it is a test of 'Britishness' which according to the BBC, the test requires would be citizens to have attained a grasp of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic and an understanding of the way British society works and the applicants must have demonstrated measurable progress in language and an understanding of Britain's laws, rights and duties. Convert that to the Brunei context, it is more or less similar. At least the Brunei test does not yet include understanding of Brunei's laws. That would double the course materials.

The issue that has been raised in some quarters in the past is not so much the test but rather the non-automatic citizenships, the qualifying period and the inability for mothers to pass on their citizenships. For those who did not know it, the latter has been addressed since 2002 where children of Bruneian mothers with non-Bruneian husbands qualify for citizenship status under the National Registration Act. A couple of years ago I remembered the Minister said that about 4,000 people (more by now) have been granted citizenship under this provision.

The former two issues are government policies which are no different than any other countries - the underlying differences would be the time period - some longer and some shorter. The time period in Brunei is 12 years for those born here and 20 years for those not born here. Some have also argued about the differences in the issuance of passports and the rights that go with it. But if you were to check even holders of the British passports have at least 5 or 6 different categories of which one of them includes a category without right of abode in UK and they needed endorsements in their passports to allow them to enter.

Having said all that, there are many who are affected in the day to day life by not having a citizenship. Citizenship carries many rights and not having one excluded one from those rights. Some have argued that this has led to a brain drain and even capital drain with some moving to countries with slightly more open immigration policies. I don't want to get into an argument whether the authorities should change its policies - I can get two groups of people who can argue from both points of views. I think the authorities have done much in making the citizenship requirements more transparent and flexible compared to say 10 years ago but to me the current challenge to the authorities is how to draw the right balance between the two. Citizenship rights are always emotional issues and not just here in Brunei.


Anonymous said…
what do think of our policy of not granting automatic citizenship to a child born out of wedlock whose parents are both bruneians? surely only the parents should be punished but not the child?
Anonymous said…
wow, anonymous. that is something to think about. are u sure that is always the case? i've always assumed that children born out of wedlock assume the mother's surname and nationality. maybe someone can shred some light on this, as far as how our laws stand on the matter and whether it is different for muslim and non-muslim bruneians.
Anonymous said…
as far as i know, the Brunei Govt grants citizenship to children born to Bruneian mother under Bab 6 (1) of the Ch 15, Brunei Nationality Act. Nationality are not given automatically, we have to apply for it.
SD Mummy said…
a colleague is currently studying for the citizenship test and has recently, studied on the difference between kuih basah & kuih karing.

when i was asked- all i could answer was
- kuih basah: you can see the minyak and not crunchy, e.g. penyaram.
- kuih kering- not really oily and usually crunchy, e.g. cincin

the textbook answer is kuih that usually last for a day for the former and at least 3 days for the latter.

i never actually looked at it that way!

the thought of having to sit for it makes me scared! am very lucky to be a yellow ic holder by birth!
Auntie Sam said…
american test for citizenship is fun:
"how many stripes has our flag? and how many stars?"


bye bye, just got here by chance!
come visit me, i have no one from brunei!!
Anonymous said…
i think the fact that bruneian women are still not able to pass their citizenship to their children automatically shows an underlying prejudice in the govt's policy. are we only bruneian if our dads are? why the discrimination against women? is our society really that backward?

the process of applying for citizenship is a long and arbitrary one. i did not have to undergo a citizenship test because my mother applied on my behalf (i was under 18 at the time) but it still took almost 4 years for the citizenship to come through!

if brunei really wants to develop a dynamic economy outside oil and gas, it really has to reconsider its citizenship/immigration policies. how are we going to develop this supposed economy without the necessary labour? and yes, this means extending residency and citizenship rights to those hardworking people that run the 'kedai kaling' and 'dhobi'. they contribute to our society and our economy as much the civil servant. and what incentive is there for them to stay here if they are not given the privelege of citizenship? this has also been the dilemma of a lot of skilled workers who are red IC and see no future for themselves in brunei because they can never be considered equal to a yellow IC in the eyes of the govt.

the intent of brunei's exclusive citizenship policies have been to keep 'the other' out and maintain brunei as a homogenous society. i think brunei should take a page out of our neighbours'(s'pore & malaysia) book and embrace the diversity of race, creed and culture that exists within our country. it can have immense benefits for our society, economy and culture.
Anonymous said…
i received my citizenship a year ago through my bruneian mom. (my dad, who was born in brunei, is holding a red ic). for a big chunk of my life, i was a "stateless" who had no right to a passport; only a travel document. when i was doing my degree and masters in the uk, people often asked, "since you're denied citizenship, why should you go back?" as much as i felt it unfair, brunei is home. thank goodness i stuck around, because now i can officially call myself a bruneian.
Anonymous said…
similar to lizie's case, studying abroad with a red ic is no fun and when going to field trip; loads of explaination needed to be made. Why ur passport like this? arent u from brunei? why this why that? And i know there are a handful of embassy for european countries would not issue issue for us becos of our travel document till NOW! i aint kidding! so i do missed out on a couple of field trips and u can imagine the annoyance on this. plus trying europe while you study in UK is the most logical way as u can book cheap ticket plus u are literally few hours away. But all this is denied, except to a few cities.

why is the country so reluctant to issue those bornt here with citizenship, being both parents too bornt here?

i know there is the exam, is it a consiprancy to filter who they want to issue plus the 'call' for exam takes ages. Ask anyone they will agree. Even when u passed say, they will again take ages to give u the passport.
Anonymous said…
Are citizenships given to residents of Brunei of more than 20 yrs ?

What is the min number of years before a permanent resident can apply for Brunei citizenship ?
Anonymous said…
Are you allow to retain your bruneian PR if you hv a foreign citizenship?
Anonymous said…
For those how are stateless but well educated. If have to be truthful to yourself,Can you reach your maximal potential by staying in Brunei. Are you happy to be stateless? What will happen to your future generation?
Bear in mind, your parents will not be with you for ever.
Have you consider USA, Canada, Australia perhaps Singapore and malaysia?
The challages you face in brunei will be the same as elsewhere in the world, but at least you belong to 'a place' said in your passport.
Your future generation will thanks you for that. They do not need to face the same dilemma as you.
My advise is get out of there quick.
You must find your place of belonging.
Anonymous said…
I have a question. what if for example, I'm holding a Chinese citizenship and is married to a Bruneian woman. then, what nationality will our children hold? what about my wife? will her nationality be affected?
Anonymous said…
To the questions:

I'm holding a Chinese citizenship and is married to a Bruneian woman. then,

what nationality will our children hold?
> Chinese National but your wife may apply for your kids to be Bruneian. But you will have to renounce your children's chinese citizenship for the Bruneian once approved. The process is much harder now. Good luck!

what about my wife? will her nationality be affected?
> Why would this change? Unless you want her to take Chinese citizenship. If she holds Chinese PR, she is still entitled to keep Bruneian citizenship.

Basically, Brunei does not allow Dual Citizenship.

Hope these answers are useful.
Anonymous said…
I am sad and in my encounter it has been a hopeless effort to pursue applying or appealing for the right of citizenship by virtue of being born and bred in Brunei. I am in my 60's and how long more will I survive to see the change in law for the granting of Brunei Citizenship to a stateless Brunei born? Isn't Brunei a member of UN and what is Human Right Law on statelessness?
Anonymous said…
Whatever you people want to do. it is your problem. dont ever think about getting a pr/citizenship in malaysia. we have too much people like you and we dont like it.
Anonymous said…
Dude, you are such a dick...a small one..
Anonymous said…
Who give a fuck. It is your problem by the way. As long you people dont decide to have a pr/citizenship in malaysia I DONT GIVE A SHIT. We have too much of this outsider already

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