If you’re Malaysian, you would likely have these two documents that prove your citizenship: your MyKad and Malaysian passport. Citizenship laws in Malaysia are both complex and extensive, and you can read all of them in the Federal Constitution (the greatest of all Malaysian laws). Due to its complexity, for this article we’ll only be discussing the ways Malaysians can lose their citizenship.
Before we get to that, you should know that there are two ways to become a citizen in Malaysia:
- birth/registration—when you’re born to Malaysian citizens and your parents register your birth here
- naturalisation—you weren’t a citizen from birth but became one later after fulfilling the criteria set by the government
It doesn’t matter how you got your citizenship, because the laws on removing citizenship would apply to both methods. Now, most of us might not think that suddenly losing our citizenship could be a possibility. But it’s worth noting that one’s citizenship being removed isn’t that uncommon. But if it does happen, here’s how it’s done under the Malaysian law.
1. You can renounce it yourself
Before we get to how the government can revoke (take away) your citizenship, let’s look at how citizens can renounce (give up) that citizenship. An article by our sister company, Cilisos said that every year, nearly 5,000 Malaysians opt out of being a citizen. And this is allowed under Article 23 of the Federal Constitution, which says:
So as you can see, the requirements are pretty straightforward. On Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara (JPN)’s website, it states that together with these requirements, there’s also a list of documents that you have to submit if you want to cancel your citizenship, which you can read here. This will include the application form to renounce your citizenship—which is called Form K. You’ll also have to pay a small fee of RM10 when submitting your application.
As stated above, one of the requirements for renouncing your citizenship is that you must you have gotten citizenship elsewhere or you’re on your way to getting one. And this makes sense, because you if you gave up your current citizenship without having another one elsewhere, you would be stateless. In other words, you wouldn’t be able to freely live in any country. But what if you want to keep your Malaysian citizenship AND your new citizenship? Unfortunately, this isn’t allowed...which leads us to the next point.
2. The govt finds out you have citizenship elsewhere
Malaysia doesn’t recognise dual-citizenship. Meaning, you can’t be a citizen of Malaysia AND another country...even if the other country allows for it. The government is allowed to cancel your Malaysian citizenship if they find out that you’re a citizen elsewhere. You’ll be given the choice to pick between Malaysian citizenship and the other country’s citizenship. But if you fail to make this choice, you lose your Malaysian citizenship. Article 24 of the Federal Constitution explains this, and it says:
The first part of the law above is clear-cut and it just confirms that a second citizenship outside of Malaysia can invalidate your Malaysian citizenship. The second part says that a Malaysian who lives in another country cannot exercise rights that are only for the citizens of that country. If they do, they can lose their Malaysian citizenship. This is because by exercising the rights that are only for citizens of that country, they can be said to have assumed citizenship there.
Clause 3A of the same Article 24 gives an example of this:
So, even voting in the elections of another country can amount to you taking on the citizenship of another country, as things like voting are specifically for the citizens of a country.
It’s important to note that Malaysians are allowed to have a permanent residency (PR) in other countries. This is because a PR does not give you citizenship in a country—it merely allows you to stay there permanently.
3. You are disloyal to the country
‘Disloyal’ can mean a lot of things, but in this context it means that you went against the interests of the country. Article 25 states many instances of this. It’s a long list, so we’ll summarize it for you:
- You had done or said something that is considered to be disloyal towards the country
- If Malaysia was at war with another country, you had betrayed her by secretly sending information to the other country
- Within 5 years of getting citizenship, you’ve been given a jail term in another country of more than 12 months, or fined more than RM5,000 (or the equivalent of that country’s currency)…and you’ve also not been pardoned/excused from that offence
- You’ve taken up a government or official post in another country without the approval of the Malaysian government, or any post that requires you to make an oath to the another country
- You lived in another country for 5 continuous years or more without the Malaysian’s government knowledge, and you weren’t there on government business...and you didn’t register with the Malaysian embassy there to keep your citizenship
Being disloyal might sound like a good reason for the government to take away someone’s citizenship. But what if you never did anything illegal and your citizenship is taken away due to someone else’s mistake? Believe it or not, this is also another reason for the government to revoke your citizenship.
4. You were ‘accidentally’ given citizenship...
...or you’re got it through fraud. These are two very contrasting reasons, but they’ve both been lumped together under Article 26 of the Federal Constitution, which says:
If you’re wondering how citizenship can be ‘accidentally’ granted, this mostly happens due to clerical and documentation errors. There was a case of a Malaysian woman who was granted citizenship in the 70s, but it was revoked in the 80s because they discovered that JPN had made an error.
On the other hand, citizenship that was granted due to fraud means that the applicant had been dishonest when applying for citizenship. Another example of this would be fake MyKads. If the government comes to know of this later, they can take that citizenship back at any time, even if the person has lived in Malaysia for years.
It isn’t easy for the govt to take away your citizenship
While the Federal Constitution has listed several reasons someone’s citizenship can be taken away, it also sets some rules for the government to follow before doing so. Article 26A of the Federal Constitution says that a person’s citizenship can be removed only if the “Federal Government is satisfied that it is not conducive to the public good that he should continue to be a citizen”. Then Article 27 sets out the procedure that the government should follow:
- a notice must be given to the person whose citizenship might be removed, and it should include the reason for removal. The person must have the right to have a committee of inquiry to investigate the case.
- if he chooses to have this committee, the government has to appoint 2 members and one chairman to hear the case
- the government will have to make its decision based on the investigation of this committee
Some of these laws that you’ve read may have been too heavy to understand all at once, but the main thing to remember is this: to retain your Malaysian citizenship, you can’t be a citizen of another country or go against the interests of Malaysia. Also make sure that your citizenship hasn’t been acquired illegally, and that there was no mistake during registration.