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Judicial Naturalization: How to Become a Filipino Citizen

Can a foreigner legally become a Filipino citizen? There are many reasons why someone might apply to become a naturalized citizen in the Philippines. He or she may be born and raised in the Philippines, but is legally listed as a citizen of his or her foreign parent’s country. He or she could also be a total foreigner with no Filipino ancestry or lineage, but wants to become a Filipino citizen for personal reasons. Regardless, he or she will have to go through naturalization to gain citizenship. Depending on his or her situation, he or she may have to go through administrative, legislative, or judicial naturalization. 

This article is the first out of three parts of a series regarding naturalization. Here, we will be focusing on judicial naturalization. These are the things that you need to know.

What is Judicial Naturalization?

A foreigner who wishes to become a Filipino citizen can consider judicial naturalization if he or she was not born and raised in the country. One common example of such a situation is when a foreigner marries a Filipino, and the couple decides to live together in the Philippines. Another is when a Filipino is born and raised in another country, likely due to immigrant parents, but decides to stay in the Philippines once he or she is of age to do so.

This process is governed by Commonwealth Act No. 473. The foreigner applicant can apply for naturalization in the Regional Trial Court where he or she has resided for at least one year before filing the petition.

Qualifications to get Naturalized

To become a Filipino citizen is to achieve all of the same rights and protection that a natural-born citizen already has. Because of this, the qualifications that one must meet are numerous and rigorous. A successful naturalized citizen:

  • Is at least twenty-one (21) years old at the date of the hearing of the petition;
  • Has lived in the country for at least ten (10) consecutive years;
  • Is of good moral character, believes in the principles underlying the Philippine Constitution, and has shown proper and irreproachable conduct during his or her residence in the Philippines towards the government and the community;
  • Owns real estate in the Philippines OR has some known lucrative trade, profession, or lawful occupation;
  • Knows how to speak English or Spanish, AND any of the principal Philippine languages; and
  • Has enrolled his or her minor children of school age in a recognized school where Philippines history, government, and civics are a part of the school curriculum.

In addition, the ten (10) years of continuous residence required under the second condition can be reduced to five (5) years if the petition has any of the following qualifications:

  • Has honorably held office under the Government of the Philippines;
  • Has established a new industry or introduced a useful invention in the Philippines;
  • Is married to a Filipino woman;
  • Has been engaged as a teacher in the Philippines in a public or recognized private school for not less than two years, so long as the school is not for the exclusive instruction of children of a particular nationality or race; or
  • Was born in the Philippines.

Disqualification from Naturalization

On the other hand, an applicant that meets any of the following is automatically disqualified from becoming naturalized Filipino citizens:

  • Is opposed to organized government or are affiliated with any associations that oppose all organized governments;
  • Defends or teaches the propriety of violence, personal assault, or assassination for the success of their ideas;
  • Is a polygamist;
  • Is convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude;
  • Suffers from mental alienation or incurable contagious diseases;
  • Has not mingled with the Filipinos during the period of residence in the Philippines, nor has he or she evinced a sincere desire to learn and embrace Filipino customs, traditions, and ideals;
  • Is a citizen of a nation with whom the United States and the Philippines are at war, during the period of such war; or
  • Is a citizen of a foreign country other than the United States whose laws do not grant Filipinos the right to become naturalized citizens or subjects thereof.

Declaration of Intention

Before an applicant can file a petition for admission to Philippine citizenship, he or she must first file a Notice of Intent, which is a declaration under oath that it is his or her genuine intention to become a citizen of the Philippines. This declaration shall include the applicant’s: 

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Personal description
  • Place of birth
  • Last foreign residence and allegiance
  • Date of arrival
  • Name of the vessel or aircraft in which he or she came to the Philippines (if any)
  • Place of residence in the Philippines at the time of making the declaration. 

This declaration is not valid until lawful entry for permanent residence has been established and a certificate showing the date, place, and manner of his or her arrival has been issued.

The declarant must also state that he or she has enrolled his or her minor children of school age in a recognized school, where Philippines history, government, and civics are a part of the school curriculum. They must be enrolled in this school during the entire period of the residence in the Philippines required of the declarant prior to the hearing of his/her petition for naturalization as Philippine citizen.

Finally, the declarant must furnish two photographs of him or herself.

As an exception, this Notice of Intent may be dispensed with if the applicant was born in, or studied his primary and secondary education in, or resided in the Philippines continuously for thirty (30) years.

The Filing of Petition

Once a year has passed after filing the Notice of Intent, the applicant can finally file a Petition for Admission to Philippine Citizenship. He or she must file with the petition in triplicate, along with two photographs or himself or herself. The petition must then contain the following information:

  • Name and surname of the petitioner
  • Present and former places of residence of the petitioner
  • Occupation of the petitioner
  • Place and date of birth of the petitioner
  • Marital status of the petitioner
  • The father of children, the name, age, birthday and residence of the wife and of each of the children
  • The approximate date of his or her arrival in the Philippines
  • The name of the port of debarkation and the name of the ship on which he or she came (if he or she remembers it)
  • A declaration that the applicant has the qualifications required by Commonwealth Act No. 473, and that he or she will reside continuously in the Philippines from the date of the filing of the petition up to the time of his or her admission to Philippine citizenship

The petition must then be signed by the applicant in his or her own handwriting and be supported by the affidavit of at least two (2) credible persons, stating that:

  1. They are citizens of the Philippines 
  2. They personally know the applicant to be a resident of the Philippines for the period of time required by Commonwealth Act No. 473 and a person of good repute and morally irreproachable; and
  3. Said petitioner has in their opinion all the qualifications necessary to become a citizen of the Philippines and is not in any way disqualified under the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 473.

Finally, the petition shall also set forth the names and post-office addresses of these witnesses as the petitioner may desire to introduce at the hearing of the case. The certificate of arrival and declaration of intention must be made part of the petition.

Process of Achieving Citizenship

Once the petition has been filed, it will be published in the Official Gazette once a week for three consecutive weeks. It shall also be published in one of the newspapers of general circulation in the province where the petitioner resides. 

If the court believes that the petitioner has all of the qualifications required and none of the disqualifications specified by Commonwealth Act No. 473 and has complied with all requisite herein established, then it shall order the proper naturalization certificate to be issued and the registration of the said naturalization certificate in the proper civil registry.

Once the decision has become final, a naturalization certificate shall be issued to the petitioner. This shall state the following:

  • The file number of the petition;
  • The number of the naturalization certificate;
  • The signature of the person naturalized affixed in the presence of the clerk of the court;
  • The personal circumstances of the person naturalized;
  • The dates on which his declaration of intention and petition were filed;
  • The date of the decision granting the petition; and
  • The name of the judge who rendered the decision.

In addition, a photograph of the petitioner with the dry seal affixed thereto of the court which granted the petition must be affixed to the certificate.

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