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MANILA, Mar 26 (Mabuhay) — The Supreme Court has approved a rule seeking to simplify and reduce legal and procedural hurdles in obtaining Philippine citizenship to facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees and stateless persons.

The high tribunal approved the Rule on Facilitated Naturalization of Refugees and Stateless Persons during its en banc deliberation on Tuesday.

According to the SC, the rule governs the procedure for the filing of petitions for naturalization by refugees and stateless persons recognized by the government.

The SC said a joint petition may be filed by immediate family members, related either by consanguinity or affinity.

Further, the rule allows an unaccompanied child to file a petition for naturalization. The high court said this may be filed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the local DSWD office, or the child-caring agency.

Under the rule, the Regional Trial Court of the locality in which the petitioner has resided at least a year immediately preceding the filing of the petition shall have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear the petition.

Further, the petitioner must have resided in the Philippines for a continuous period of no less than 10 years or for a reduced period of five years under special circumstances.

The petitioner must also own real estate, have an interest in real estate, or have some known trade, profession, or occupation.

According to the SC, the petitioner must have also filed with the Office of the Solicitor General a declaration under oath of his or her intention to become a Philippine citizen at least a year before the filing of his petition.

Other special circumstances include having established a new industry or invention in the country, being married to a Filipino, and having been a teacher in the country for no less than two years.

They must also be able to speak or write in any one of the country’s principal languages unless the petitioner suffers from any disability that hampers his ability to speak or write.

Petitioners must bring birth certificates, a marriage certificate if married, two photographs, an affidavit of two credible individuals stating that they are Filipino citizens and personally know that the petitioner is a resident for the period required, a declaration of intention.

They must also provide proof of refugee status, proof of the first arrival in the Philippines, alien certificate registration, clearance issued by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.

The SC also requires clearances issued by the Office of the Executive Clerk of Court of the RTC and the Office of the City or Provincial Prosecutor having jurisdiction over the place of the petitioner and transcript of school records.

Other requirements include proof of financial capacity, income tax returns for the past three years, other analogous documentary exhibits tending to prove that the petitioner is qualified to be naturalized.

“If the petitioner is unable to provide the foregoing documentary exhibits, except for the Declaration of Intention, if applicable, and the proof of recognition of refugee or stateless status, the reason therefor shall be stated in the petition,” it said.

The SC said the rule will take effect 15 days after its publication in two newspapers of general circulation. Electronic publication is also allowed. (MNS)

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