Am I technically a Malaysian citizen?
July 27, 2009 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Help me solve a mystery about myself: Am I an unknowing citizen of Malaysia?

The kerfuffle over President Obama's birthplace has me wondering about my status, and whether I may be an unknowing dual citizen of both the US and Malaysia. I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1979, a circumstance that enabled my US-born brothers to make me cry by telling me I couldn't be President of the United States of America. Although I was born in Malaysia, I am a US citizen jus sanguinis, and assume I am a "natural born citizen" à la John McCain.

The Department of State notes the following:
Dual Nationality: Malaysia does not recognize or permit dual nationality. If Malaysian authorities learn that an American citizen is also a citizen of Malaysia, they may require that the dual national either renounce U.S. citizenship immediately or forfeit Malaysian citizenship. Dual American/Malaysian citizens should consider this issue seriously before traveling to Malaysia.

However, that seems to mean that if I am a Malaysian citizen, I would remain so until I revoked that status.

Pertinent information:
- My parents were both U.S. Citizens who had relocated the family to Malaysia because one was a Peace Corps director.
- My family lived in Malaysia for about 2 years prior to my birth, but my parents don't know whether they had permanent residency status there.
- The family stayed something like 6 months after my birth before moving back to the States.

My US birth certificate (Form FS-545 1-73) header reads:

Department of State
Foreign Service of the United States of America
Certification of Birth Abroad
of a Citizen of the United States of America

The report of birth was recorded on March 28, 1979.

I also have a barely legible copy of the Malay document used to register my birth with the USFS. A chunk of the text is typed out below, with the number at the top (E 000000) fudged for obscurity, as it seems unwise to broadcast all my birth info across the Internets.
E 000000

(B. & M. 21)

(Salinana untuk Orang yang memberitahu)
Ordinan Pendaftaran Beranak dan Mati, 1957
[Seksyen 14, Aturan 7]


Kawasan Pendaftaran [something illegible stamped/written here]

Kawasan-kecil [ My name, etc...]

[Here, information about dates, addresses, parents]

Diperakui sebagai cabutan yang benar dari catitan dalam
Daftar Beranak.


Tandatangan dan Lawatan [illegible]
Some Mefites would recognize my story because I told it to them in person; thanks in advance for not outing me online. :)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total)
I think the question is "Does Malaysia automatically confer citizenship upon children born in Malaysia to foreign nationals?" and I think that the Malaysian Embassy could answer that question for you right handily.

The US stance of "if you were born here, you're a citizen, no matter what your parents' citizenship is" is by far in the minority among the nations of the world.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:40 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wikipedia may help.
posted by datano at 9:48 AM on July 27, 2009

This is a funny question for me as I was also born to US parents on mission to Malaysia, just a few years earlier.

I doubt very much that you're a Malaysian citizen. You were born a citizen of another country, which, I believe, precludes it. Either of your parents were also very unlikely to be permanent residents because one was on mission for a US government entity abroad.
posted by OmieWise at 10:37 AM on July 27, 2009

According to the Constitution of Malaysia, being born in Malaysia makes you a citizen by birth only if one of your parents was a citizen or permanent resident of Malaysia, or if you were not already born a citizen of another country.

Since you were born a US citizen, and your parents were not citizens or permanent residents of Malaysia, it would appear that you are not a Malaysian citizen.

See: Article 14 of the Constitution of Malaysia, read with Part II of Schedule 2.
posted by hellopanda at 10:52 AM on July 27, 2009

hellopanda has it. I was born in Malaysia, grew up here, but because my parents were foreigners (they migrated from Bangladesh about 11 years before I was born) when I was born I was not considered a citizen. We all obtained permanent residency when I was about 7 and it was only within the past few years that we could even apply for citizenship. It's been 24 years and I'm still waiting.

So unless your parents were citizens or PRs, no, you're not a Malaysian citizen.

Also, nothing in your birth certificate excerpt says anything about the residency of your parents or yourself. It's likely in the section you omitted. Does it say "warganegara", "pemastautin tetap" or "asing" anywhere?
posted by divabat at 11:33 AM on July 27, 2009

follow-up from the OP
divabat said: Also, nothing in your birth certificate excerpt says anything about the residency of your parents or yourself. It's likely in the section you omitted. Does it say "warganegara", "pemastautin tetap" or "asing" anywhere?

None of those words are on the Malay document, so far as I can tell. It really is difficult to read. However, for each parent I do see a line for "Nombor Kad Pengenalan Ibu" and "Warna." There is a 7-digit number corresponding to "Nombor ...", and under Warna, the word "Hijau" is written. Does that answer the residency question? Does that mean "green card?"
posted by jessamyn at 7:00 PM on July 27, 2009

Hijau! That's green, but in Malaysia's case green means foreigner, so your mum's foreign.

Your dad's residency tends to be the deciding factor though. Here's the list:

Biru = citizen
Merah = permanent resident
Hijau = foreigner
posted by divabat at 11:23 PM on July 27, 2009

follow-up from the OP
Looks like my question is resolved thanks to OmieWise and divabat's familiarity with Malaysian bureaucracy. The hive mind comes through once again!

Intriguing as it would be to be a secret citizen of another nation, I'm pretty relieved that I am not! I very much appreciate everyone's help figuring this out.
posted by jessamyn at 9:07 AM on July 28, 2009

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