Dual Citizenship In Brunei: An Expats Guide

Navigating dual citizenship in Brunei?

You’re not alone—it’s a maze even locals find perplexing. But hey, we’ve done the legwork for you.

This guide is your expat compass to dual citizenship, without all the legalese.

About Brunei

Although a tiny state with a small population, Brunei has one of the world’s highest standards of living thanks to sizable oil and gas deposits. It is a heavily forested state where visitors will encounter the grandeur of Islamic architecture and royal tradition.

The country only gained independence in 1984 but has the world’s oldest reigning monarchy and centuries of royal heritage.

At the helm of the world’s only remaining Malay Islamic monarchy, the Sultan of Brunei comes from a family line that dates back over 600 years.

The current sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, is the 29th ruler. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been on the throne for 38 years and is one of the world’s wealthiest individuals.

People in Brunei are very polite and well-mannered. “Maintaining face” is very important to the population, and people will do their best to avoid causing issues or problems.

Respect is fundamental, and visitors should do their best to abide by certain social conventions.

  • Modest dress is essential – women should cover their arms and knees.
  • Remove shoes when entering mosques or Muslim homes.
  • Some people do not shake hands with members of the opposite sex.
  • It is rude to point with index fingers; the right thumb should be used instead.
  • It is considered rude to refuse refreshments.
  • It isn’t polite to eat in public during Ramadan.

Islam is the official state religion, with approximately two-thirds of the population being Muslim. However, freedom of religion is guaranteed in Brunei.

It is estimated that around 13% of the population are Buddhist (mainly of Chinese background), with 10% belonging to Christian denominations.

The official language of Brunei is Standard Malai. However, English is used in business and secondary education.

What Is Dual Citizenship?

A person with dual citizenship is a citizen of two countries at the same time, which has both advantages and disadvantages because it is a complex legal status.

One benefit of dual citizenship that is often cited is the ability of an individual to possess two passports; however, a potential drawback is the possibility of double taxation.

What Are The Benefits Of Dual Citizenship?

There are many benefits to being a dual citizen, from quality of living to global mobility.

Security

A second passport from a stable country can be life-saving in any political, economic, or social unrest in one’s home country.

Global Mobility

Passports are pretty restrictive in their visa-free mobility, forcing citizens to obtain visas whenever they need to travel abroad. A second passport can offer individuals from these countries increased global mobility.

Business

New business opportunities open up to dual citizens as they can now do business in the host country as well as travel abroad more freely.

Tax Optimization

Dual citizenship may prove advantageous for tax optimization purposes. For example, some countries only tax income earned from that country and do not subject capital gains to taxes. This allows investors to manage their wealth more efficiently and effectively.

Quality of Life

Second, citizenships can offer access to world-class health care, education, and an improved lifestyle.

How Do You Acquire Dual Citizenship?

There are several ways of acquiring a second citizenship and the corresponding passport. These are birth, naturalization, marriage, and investment.

Birth

Some countries allow non-resident individuals to obtain citizenship if their parents were born in that country.

For example, Hungary allows persons not living in the country to obtain Hungarian citizenship, provided they can show in the application that their parents are citizens.

Naturalization

Naturalization is the process by which a resident of a country can acquire citizenship, usually by residing in that country for a certain number of years as a permanent resident.

For example, permanent residents of Canada must reside in Canada for four out of six years in order to be eligible to apply for citizenship.

People with temporary status, such as students and foreign workers, must first gain permanent resident status to start counting their years as residents toward the citizenship requirement.

It is essential to double-check the requirements of your country of residence if you hope to acquire a second citizenship through naturalization.

Marriage

Some countries grant fast-track permanent resident status to individuals who have married a citizen of that country, thereby speeding up the time to citizenship.

For example, Canada allows spousal sponsorship, which results in automatic permanent resident status for the foreign spouse.

Investment

More and more countries are offering citizenship by investment programs or residency by investment programs to high-net-worth investors.

Citizenship by investment is the process of acquiring a second citizenship by investing in the host country’s economy. Residency by investment programs offers permanent residency after the investment, which again speeds up the time to citizenship.

How To Know If You’re A Dual National?

Whether you’re a dual national depends on the laws of Brunei and other countries’ laws. A country could consider you a national even if you don’t accept that nationality.

You could be a dual national with another country if you:

  • Have a parent who is a national of that country (citizen by descent)
  • Marry a national of that country
  • apply for and receive citizenship of another country
  • were born overseas

Many countries ban their citizens from giving up their nationality. Some allow it, though only through a formal process to renounce it.

If you think you may be a national of another country, check with the embassy or consulate before traveling.

Does Brunei Offer Dual Citizenship?

Dual citizenship is not recognized in the country, except in the case of a child born abroad to parents who are natives. Such a child is allowed to hold citizenship until they are old enough to renounce one of the two citizenship.

You can be refused entry if you’re found to be holding two passports of different nationalities. If you’re a dual national, entering Brunei on the passport on which you exited your last country of departure is advisable.

While in Brunei, your nationality will be deemed as shown on the passport you used to enter the country. This may affect the consular assistance that you receive in Brunei.

Is Living In Brunei Worth Giving Up Your Other Nationality?

Tiny Brunei, the size of an English county with a population of less than 450,000, is an independent sovereign state, still wholly reliant on its oil and gas production.

Having sophisticated infrastructures or economies of scale needs to be more significant.

But it’s got plenty going for it: good security, clean air, readily available domestic help, really cheap petrol, unspoiled jungle, good schooling, and a central position in the region for convenient travel. It’s an ideal environment for expats to bring up families.

Social Life

You won’t find bars, discotheques, or retail alcohol – although non-Muslims may import limited quantities of alcohol for personal consumption whenever they enter the country. Nor will you find most beaches suitable for sunbathing or water sports.

They have a natural and rugged beauty, but most are rarely cleared of their marine pollution and are often plagued by sandflies.

So Brunei is very much what you make of it. Try the local markets and the hawker food stalls. Visit and even stay weekends at the exotic Empire (Resort) Hotel. Sail and relax at the Royal Brunei Yacht Club.

Use the recognized public walking and cycling tracks. Hash in the jungle or visit the canopy walk in Temburong’s jungle.

And make excursions to Miri across the Sarawak border and to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. There needs to be more Western culture available in Brunei, particularly in the performing arts, but embrace local and regional varieties for a change.

There is also satellite TV, Western news channels, and plenty of US offerings mixed in with the Malay and regional. There’s some limited cinema, too, with a mix of Western and Asian titles.

Unlike in, say, Dubai, foreigners are in the minority. The foreign community mixes well among themselves and the Bruneians – most of whom speak excellent English. Social contact with Bruneians is mainly through work and school.

A delightful custom for foreigners to share is open house visits to Muslim families at Hari Raya (Eid celebrations at the end of Ramadan) and to Chinese families at Chinese New Year.

You may also be fortunate enough to be invited to a traditional Malay wedding or wedding – an essential part of Brunei culture.

The Bruneians are friendly and polite people, but we, as guests, must respect their religion, culture, traditions, and political system.

The majority of the workforce is still civil servants, and what seems to the outsider as unwarranted layers of bureaucracy can be a problem. Patience, politeness, and determination are typically the best formula.

It will take a little time to settle the essentials, but you will usually get help.

Local Knowledge

A fixed-line telephone company (Telbru) can provide wifi and two mobile phone companies (DST and Progresif). Mobile coverage in urban areas is good.

Standard Chartered is the only remaining international bank. The others are all local ones. The banking system is improving, but interbank transfers are yet to be done with e-banking. Credit cards are accepted in a good number of shops.

Helpfully, the Brunei dollar has parity with the Singapore dollar – so you can use Singapore dollars, too, when shopping.

The shops stock standard fare, making local or regional produce the cheapest. A couple of the top-end supermarkets sell Western food, including even Waitrose lines. But be prepared to pay considerably more than back home for some items.

There are few upmarket or designer shops in what are essentially functional but uninspiring commercial centers. Most Bruneians travel elsewhere in the region and beyond to do their ‘serious’ shopping.

Brunei is geographically divided into two parts for historical reasons. Most people live and work in the more significant part. This essentially has a developed coastal strip, while further inland, much of the land area is still virgin rainforest.

At one end of this coastal strip is the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, the international airport, and the principal seaport of Muara. The greatest concentration of living is either in the capital or a series of adjoining urban areas such as Rimba, Berakas, Jerudong, etc.

The oil and gas industry and the British Garrison are based at the other end of the country, around Seria and Kuala Belait. A good highway and virtually all dual carriageways link these two main areas.

Where you live will depend on what you’re doing in Brunei, your place of work, or where your children go to school.

Most expats, especially those with families, prefer to live in houses with their gardens, but apartments are also available. Property is easy to rent; bargain if you can.

Healthcare is good. Virtually all Bruneian and expat specialists and doctors are well-qualified and speak English.

You can opt for government-provided healthcare by attending RIPAS (a Bruneian acronym), the main hospital in Bandar Seri Begawan, which has an enormous new and well-equipped ‘mother and child’ wing.

For Bruneians, these services are practically free. For expats, we pay modest fees. Treatment and care are good, but the facilities for washing and toileting can be essential.

Or you can go to the leading private hospital, Jerudong Park Medical Centre, which has new cancer and stroke centers and a full range of standard services, including maternity and pediatrics.

Important practical advice on transport: You must have your car or car to get around Brunei. Only the beginnings of a viable public transport infrastructure are currently emerging – which means very few buses and taxis.

Both new and second-hand cars are reasonably priced, and the cost of petrol is heavily subsidized.

However, there is little car-sharing, and the traffic is briefly heavy at multiple choke points when everyone seems to be on the move during rush hour.

Parking can also be a headache as there is generally insufficient provision, especially in commercial complexes. There is some school bussing, but the private ferrying children to and from school is the norm.

Conclusion

So, you’ve made it through the labyrinth of dual citizenship in Brunei—congrats! Keep this guide bookmarked for your journey; we update it as laws change. Because when it comes to citizenship, knowing is half the battle.

Happy Navigating!

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