The Egyptian parliament approved on Sunday some amendments drafted by the government to two laws regulating Egyptian nationality (law 26/1975), and the residence of foreigners in the country (89/1960).
The parliament’s forth legislative term will conclude this week, totalling 10 months in office.
In 2018, the parliament officially approved granting the Egyptian nationality to foreigners for depositing EGP 7m in foreign currency in a local bank, and the nationality will be granted within five years from the date of deposit.
The new amendment classified the foreigners residing in Egypt into three categories: foreigners with special, normal, or temporary residence, instead of deposit residence.
The new law stipulates that the Prime Minister may grant Egyptian nationality to any foreigner who has purchased a property owned by the State or other public legal persons or by establishing an investment project in accordance with the provisions of the Investment Law No. 72 of 2017.
Furthermore, foreigners who deposit a certain amount in foreign currency, as direct income that is transferred to the state treasury or as a deposit in a special account of the Central Bank of Egypt.
Head of parliamentary committee of national defence and security, Kamal Amer, said the philosophy behind the law aims to encourage investment in Egypt.
“The new facilities and incentives in the residence and nationality laws seek to encourage foreign investors to come to Egypt and invest,” said Amer.
The new amendment will authorise the prime minister to decide whether a foreigner who bought state-owned or private property, set up an investment project in line with the rules of the investment law, deposited a certain amount of money in foreign currency in a local bank or the Central Bank of Egypt, can be granted Egyptian nationality.
A special committee shall be formed by the cabinet to look into the applications of foreigners seeking to obtain the Egyptian nationality. The cabinet shall issue a decree appointing the members of the committee to include representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, and investment, as well as the concerned security authorities.
The application for obtaining the Egyptian nationality shall be submitted at the committee’s headquarters or through its to-be official website accompanied with the required data and documents after the payment of a $10,000 fee or the equivalent in local currency through a transaction from a foreign bank.
The committee shall examine the applications and made its decision within three months from the date of submission, after making the required security investigation, and in the case of initial approval for the request, the foreign individual will be granted the right of temporary residence in Egypt for a period of six months in order to complete the procedures and documents necessary to obtain the final approval of his application. The committee shall complete the examination of each application and submit its report to the prime minister for approval, all within three months from the date of submission of the required data and documents.
Parliamentarian Sami Ramada gave his consent to the draft amendments, stressing that they support the investment promotion efforts and come in the interest of the Egyptian national economy without violating the national security.
However, MP Haitham Al-Hariri expressed his rejection for the amendments, pointing out that the original law did not contribute to increasing investments in Egypt. “Linking investment to citizenship is a wrong and negative step. I wonder about the relation between the new amendments and the proposed deal of century,” he added.
“Egypt has many promising opportunities for investment, and a lot of people are seeking to obtain the Egyptian citizenship. Those who do not realize the value of the country should study our history well,” the parliament’s speaker Ali Abdel Aal said in response to Al-Hariri’s remarks.
Abdel Aal also denounced linking the new amendments to the so-called deal of century, stressing that it is unacceptable and those who talk about this deal have no proof of it, saying: “who fought for the country would never sell it. What we are talking about here is just related to investment and granting the nationality.”
Moreover, MP Mostafa Bakry also refused the amendments, saying “Egypt was once among the targeted countries in the new Middle East project, so I reject this law as I believe the Egyptian nationality is too expensive to be sold.”
However, Abdel Aal said he would not amend the law for any political objective. He stressed that the law is clear, noting that protecting the Egyptian national security is a top priority.
Head of Egypt’s Support parliamentary coalition and deputy of the social solidarity committee, Abdel Hady Al-Qasabi, confirmed that the draft law has many guarantees to maintain the country’s national security.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Omar Marwan, said: “We now enjoy political, security, and economic progress, and this attracts investors. Granting nationality to foreign investors is permissible but not obligatory, and the required fee ($10,000) is just for the application, not for obtaining the nationality. Also, those who succeed to acquire the citizenship will not be allowed to practice any political rights for five years.”
MP Talaat Khalil noted the government presented the amendments from an economic perspective, however those invited to attend the session were all security officials and no one of the ministries of investment or trade were invited.
He also wondered how far was the current nationality law successful in attracting foreign investments, how many applications were submitted, and how much money was collected?
Marwan responded that the law was supposed to pass five years ago, which did not happen as it was only approved in 2018, and referred to the State Council for reviewal.
Furthermore, MP Yahya Al-Kadwani accepted the draft law in principle and said it does not conflict with the national security and includes the formation of a specialised committee to examine the applications from all aspects and make the best decision in the interest of the economy and national security of Egypt. He noted that Egypt is currently safe and there are many requests made already by Arabs to obtain the Egyptian nationality and invest in the country.
In 2016, amid the economic crisis that hit Egypt due to foreign currency shortage followed by the Egyptian pound floatation, some members of parliament suggested several solutions for the crisis. The most controversial suggestion came from MP Moataz Mahmoud who suggested granting the Egyptian nationality to Arab businessmen in exchange for investing in Egypt. At that time, the foreign investment and tourism statistics were significantly low compared to prior 2011.
In 2018, previous amendments to grant nationality for foreigners for depositing a sum of money was submitted, however, many members of the parliament rejected the move. The opponents said it is a “shame” to sell the Egyptian citizenship.