PETALING JAYA: Biotechnologist S Subathra found love and started a family in Bangalore, India, but always wanted her children to be Malaysians.
Getting citizenship for them, though, has been a nightmare.
Speaking to FMT on the sidelines of a forum on gender-equal citizenship here today, she compared the process to being on a merry-go-round.
“While we were there (in Bangalore), we tried applying for Malaysian citizenship for our children by first visiting the Malaysian consulate in India, but they said the queue was long and that it would be better to apply here in Malaysia,” she said.
“But when we got back to Malaysia and tried to apply for it, the officer in charge asked us why we didn’t apply for citizenship at the consulate.”
Subathra is only one of the many Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses who find it difficult to obtain citizenship for children who are born overseas.
While Malaysian men who marry foreign women obtain automatic citizenship for their children, Malaysian women must undergo a lengthy registration process.
“It’s frustrating and devastating,” Subathra told FMT. “It breaks the family down.”
She also spoke of feeling helpless, as she is unable to give her children what she says they deserve.
“It makes me feel like a powerless mother. They can only renew their visas for six months,” she added.
“I had to plead and beg them for their consideration. But the officer’s response was that this is not a privilege.”
Tan Su San, who is married to an Egyptian, is in the same boat.
Two of her children were born in Egypt. They are now five and three years old.
“When we tried applying for Malaysian citizenship for our children at the Malaysian embassy in Egypt, they told us it would be easier to apply for it here.
“When I submitted my application here, the officer said it would take two years to process,” she said. That was in 2017.
“But last year, when I went back to check, they said they were still working on applications from 2015.”
Mothers like Tan and Subathra often have to wait a long time after submitting their applications, and they are not always given a reason when these are rejected.
Speaking at the forum today, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh said her ministry is pushing for a change in the relevant laws, to allow women who have children overseas to obtain automatic citizenship for them as well.
She said they had spoken with the home minister and that things look “quite positive”.