Papua New Guinean Citizenship

No PNG citizen can be a citizen of another country. Under the Constitution adopted in 1975, anyone born in PNG prior to Independence (16 September 1975) who had two grandparents born in PNG, the independent state of Solomon Islands, the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya or the Torres Strait islands was automatically entitled to PNG citizenship. A person born outside PNG but with two grandparents born in PNG could become a citizen by making a Declaration of Loyalty. Anyone born after Independence with one parent a citizen has the right of citizenship. Foreigners can become citizens if they intend to live in PNG permanently; have lived in PNG continuously for eight years and apply within two months of the end of the eighth year; speak one of the indigenous languages of PNG including Tok Pisin or Hiri Motu; are not likely to be a financial burden on the state; and make a Declaration of Loyalty. Approval of a citizenship application is at the discretion of the government through a Citizenship Advisory Committee.

The question of eligibility for citizenship was one of the most hotly debated issues in the House of Assembly towards the end of 1974 and the pre-Independence sittings in 1975. The Constitutional Planning Committee (CPC) recommended very stringent regulations under which only people with two indigenous grandparents could automatically become citizens and non-indigenous and mixed race residents should be required to wait eight years after Independence Day before applying for citizenship. This was opposed by the People’s Progress Party (whose leader, Finance Minister Julius Chan, was part-Chinese) and Chief Minister Somare who argued that ”provisional citizenship”, under which a person could exercise all the rights of a citizen, should be granted to applicants who had eight years’ continuous residence and satisfied other citizenship requirements. It was not until mid-1975 that Somare’s Pangu Pati, the People’s Progress Party and the National Party had rallied the support of sufficient independents to have this proposal accepted.

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