Liberian nationality law

The Republic of Liberia was founded by African slaves from North America by the American Colonization Society and returned to establish a republic on African soil. Nationality law is given in the Aliens and Nationality Law of 1973, based on its 1847 Constitution. Human right activists accused its citizenship laws to be explicitly racist, as it requires being black as a prerequisite to citizenship.[1] The first constitution allowed for women to transmit their nationality to their children, although multiple citizenship was not permitted nor is it permitted in revisions of the constitution.

Liberia is also one of the relatively few remaining countries in the world conferring nationality solely on the basis of race. Under the current Liberian constitution, only persons of black African origins may obtain citizenship, although Liberian law allows members of other races to hold permanent residency status. Within Liberia itself, the wider implications of the policy are part of a heated debate in which native Liberians themselves have acknowledged that non-African permanent residents are crucial contributors to the country's economic activities and innovation system, mainly the wealthy Lebanese community.[2]

Features of the first constitution that have been upheld include:

The Liberian legislature was charged with establishing criteria for naturalisation. All applicants must be black Africans to be naturalized.


By birth

Under the terms of Chapter 20 of the Aliens and Nationality Law (based on Article 27(b) of the Constitution), citizenship applies to any "person who is a Negro, or of Negro descent, born in Liberia and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" or "person born outside Liberia whose father (i) was born a citizen of Liberia; (ii) was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the birth of such child, and (iii) had resided in Liberia prior to the birth of such child.” These provisions have been criticised as discriminatory on the basis of both race and sex.[3]

By naturalisation

Citizenship through naturalisation is governed by Chapter 21 of the Aliens and Nationality Law. Naturalisation requires a two-step process of first making a declaration of intent to naturalise before a Circuit Court, followed by the actual petition for naturalisation which must be filed between the second and third anniversary dates of the declaration of intent. The eligibility requirements for naturalisation are as follows:[3]

Naturalisation for special categories

Section 21.31 provides that the non-citizen child whose father is naturalised as a Liberian citizen also becomes a Liberian citizen provided that the child is under 21 years of age and residing in Liberia as a lawful permanent resident at the time of the father's naturalisation. No similar provisions are available for the non-citizen children of women naturalised as Liberian citizens.[3]

Section 21.32 restored the citizenship of women who, under the operation of previous nationality law, had lost citizenship as a result of a marriage to a non-citizen husband but had not acquired any foreign nationality except any automatically conferred by marriage.[3]

Marriage to a Liberian citizen

Liberian nationality law provides no special considerations for the non-citizen spouse of a Liberian citizen. Such a non-citizen can only acquire Liberian citizenship through the same naturalisation procedure laid out for other non-citizens.[4]

Loss of citizenship

The circumstances leading to loss of Liberian citizenship are principally described in Chapter 22 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, although circumstances leading to revocation of naturalisation are given in Chapter 21. The following acts are listed in Chapter 22 as effecting a loss of Liberian citizenship:

Chapter 21 gives the following as criteria for revocation of naturalisation:

The provision allowing for revocation of naturalisation as a consequence of residence abroad has been criticised as creating two classes of Liberian citizens and for reducing the capabilities of naturalised Liberians to pursue employment and educational opportunities abroad. The provision for the revocation of a minor's naturalisation following the revocation of the father's naturalisation has been criticised as unfair to the child.[3]

Dual citizenship

The Aliens and Nationality Law prohibits dual citizenship except in limited circumstances. This has been criticised as detrimental to links between the Liberia and the diaspora.[3]

See also


  1. "'The Face of America in Africa' Must End Constitutional Racism". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  2. "Far from home". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Analysis of the Aliens and Nationality Law of the Republic of Liberia". American Bar Association. May 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  4. Manby, Bronwen (2010). "Citizenship Law in Africa: A Comparative Study." (PDF) (2nd ed.). Open Society Institute. Retrieved 2013-07-03.

External links

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