This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, 'Legal Counsel', which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies.
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I am British born and Muslim, but my wife is Bangladeshi. Two years ago we got married in the UK (civil and sharia marriage). Later on we decided to live in Bangladesh and that's where the trouble started:
Firstly I do not get a permanent visa to live with my wife in Bangladesh because I'm a foreign man. Every person in the world has the right to live with his/her spouse. However, the law in Bangladesh does not allow a foreign man to stay with his Bangladeshi wife on a permanent basis. Every year I have to apply for a visa for Bangladesh if I like to live with my wife in the country!
However, if a Bangladeshi man marries a foreign woman, automatically she gets a permanent visa for Bangladesh and has not to apply for a visa on a yearly basis.
Secondly, as a foreigner I'm not allowed to open a bank account in Bangladesh or have a signature on the account of my Bangladeshi wife.
My question: Is there a possibility for me to get a permanent visa to stay with my wife in Bangladesh? It was told to me that the Government of Bangladesh is planning to review this extremely discriminatory law (because the foreign wife of a Bangladeshi man has more rights than the foreign husband of a Bangladeshi woman). Is this correct? And is it correct that I can not open a bank account in my name or have a second signature on the account of my wife?
Probably I'm not the only foreign man facing this shameful discrimination in your country.
Can we expect a solution for our problem soon?
Thank you very much for your queries. I understand that you are British born husband of a Bangladeshi woman and have been renewing visa in order to stay in Bangladesh for almost the last two years. Moreover you also stated that as a foreigner you are not allowed to open bank account in Bangladesh or have a signature on the account of your Bangladeshi wife. I will answer your queries in turn.
Firstly, you are correct about the fact that, a foreigner wife of a Bangladeshi man can apply for Bangladeshi citizenship, provided she has been living in Bangladesh for two years as per the Bangladesh Citizenship (Temporary Provisions) Rules 1978. Unfortunately, there is no similar provision in the Rules whereby a foreigner husband of a Bangladeshi woman can get the citizenship of Bangladesh by staying in Bangladesh for a certain period of time. You are also correct that the Government of Bangladesh is planning to review these provisions, but till date this issue has not seen the light of any enactment i.e. any Act of Parliament or Order or Rules as such. It is difficult to predict with precision when such legislative change may be brought.
However, if not under the ground of a spouse, you can still apply for Bangladeshi citizenship and/or permanent residency on general grounds under the Bangladesh Citizenship (Temporary Provisions) Rules 1978 (herein after referred to as the 'BC(TP) Rules 1978') and the Bangladesh Citizenship (Temporary Provisions) Order 1972 (herein after referred to as the 'BC(TP) Order 1972'). The options are given below in details.
Option 1: Rule 3(1) of the BC(TP) Rules 1978 provides that if someone wants to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship within the ambit of Order 2B, Clause (2) of the BC(TP) Order 1972, s/he has to submit Form 'A' and do the following:
* If the applicant is residing temporarily in Bangladesh, the application shall be submitted directly to the Government and if the applicant is residing outside Bangladesh then it shall be submitted to the Government through the Bangladesh Diplomatic Mission or Consulate in that country or where there is no Bangladesh Mission or Consulate in that country to a Bangladesh Mission or Consulate in the country nearest to that country.
* The application shall be accompanied by an affidavit affirming the truth of the statements made before a Magistrate of the 1st Class or a Notary Public and four copies of Passport size photographs duly attested by a Class-1 Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate of the 1st Class or a Notary Public.
* The application shall be accompanied by Treasury Chalan of Tk. 200 or equivalent in Foreign Exchange under the head “65-Misc.-Non-Tax Revenue-Citizenship and Passport.”
* The application shall also be accompanied by documentary evidence, if any, regarding remittances of Bangladesh.
* It shall also be accompanied by a copy of foreign citizenship or birth certificate.
Moreover the concerned Government or the Bangladesh Diplomatic Mission or Consulate may, if need be, call for the submission of other documents related to, for example, when the applicant got current nationality, special qualification of the applicant, present occupation or trade, income and its source, any relative living in Bangladesh, knowledge about Bengali language, etc.
Option 2: Further Rule 4(1) of the BC (TP) Rules 1978 provides that if someone wants to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship within the ambit of Order 4 of the BC (TP) Order 1972, s/he has to submit Form 'B' in the same manner as given in Rule 3(1) of the BC (TP) Rules 1978 above. However a condition remains that, no application will be considered under this Rule if the applicant does not declare, through affidavit, about his/her citizenship status and about leaving main country of residence.
Moreover it is mentioned in Rule 4 of the BC (TP) Rules 1978 that, application regarding acceptance of citizenship will be considered-
(a) If the applicant if a foreigner woman and married to a Bangladeshi man and is normally living in Bangladesh for two years; or
(b) If the applicant does not fall within clause (a) above, but is normally living in Bangladesh for five years.
Option 3: Other than these you can go for Rules 4A or 4B of the BC (TP) Rules 1978, which contain the provisions for application for Bangladeshi citizenship by Foreign Traders/Business persons/Investors and application for Permanent Residency by the same respectively.
If the Government is satisfied with you after considering your Form and all the documents submitted, and is satisfied that you are not incapable of getting Bangladeshi citizenship by or under any law, then Government shall give you Bangladeshi citizenship (or right to permanently live in Bangladesh) and shall issue a certificate to this effect (Rules 7 and 8 of the BC (TP) Rules 1978). Note that such an order is appealable. Therefore if you are dissatisfied with the order of the Government you can appeal within 30 days of receiving such order.
In light of the above discussion, you are advised to go to the Home Ministry, Immigration Department, and talk to the concerned officers in details about your situation and collect the form(s) prescribed by them.
As for your opening of bank account, you have not enlightened us about your occupation or what you are currently doing for a living in Bangladesh. If you are employed in Bangladesh then you can open an account on that basis in your own name. Meanwhile if you are not employed and are currently engaged in any business or trade or investment, then you can open an account on that basis; the account can be investment account or the like.
However if you are not doing anything in Bangladesh, but are either employed or have business in the United Kingdom, or any other country you are a national of, then as a foreigner opening an account in Bangladesh will be a little difficult, but not impossible.
For the time being, you can open a Foreign Currency account in a commercial bank of your choice. You have to provide documents relating to your business/trade or employment; documents that show your ability of maintaining or opening an account, income and source of income, purpose of opening a bank account in Bangladesh etc. Besides, you shall have to submit your Passport along with Passport size photographs, which are quite usual for opening any bank account. The problem is that banks are fairly strict when it comes to opening an account for a foreigner, and the bank may call for the submission of a Declaration of any kind, if they feel it is necessary.
In light of the above discussion, you are advised to consult a few commercial banks and find out the bank that opens an account and gives you best conditions, benefits and options.
I hope the aforesaid opinion will help you to solve a problem that, unfortunately, a considerable amount of foreigner husbands, and consequentially their families, are facing. Good luck!
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