Liberian nationality law

The Republic of Liberia was founded by freed African slaves from North America by the American Colonization Society and returned to establish a republic on African soil. Shortly after their arrival, they were met by the indigenous people that inhabited the land. The Nationality law is set forth in the Aliens and Nationality Law of 1973, based on its 1847 Constitution. Current citizenship laws explicitly state being Black as a prerequisite to citizenship.[1] The first constitution allowed for women to transmit their nationality to their children, although multiple citizenship was not permitted nor is it permitted in revisions of the constitution.

Liberian Citizenship Act
Coat of arms of Liberia.svg
Parliament of Liberia
Enacted byGovernment of Liberia
Status: Current legislation

Liberia confers nationality solely on the basis of race. Under the current Liberian constitution, only persons of black African origins may obtain citizenship, although Liberian law allows members of other races to hold permanent residency status. Within Liberia itself, the wider implications of the policy are part of a heated debate in which some native Liberians themselves have acknowledged that non-black African permanent residents are crucial contributors to the country's economic activities and innovation system, mainly the wealthy Lebanese community.[2]

Features of the first constitution that have been upheld include:

  • Article V, Section 13 of the 1847 Constitution which states: "The great object of forming these Colonies, being to provide a home for the dispersed and oppressed children of Africa, and to regenerate and enlighten this benighted continent, none but persons of colour shall be eligible to citizenship in this Republic." The phrasing "persons of colour" was changed to "Negroes or persons of Negro descent" in a 1955 revision.

The Liberian legislature was charged with establishing criteria for naturalization. All applicants must be black Africans to be naturalized.


By birthEdit

Under the terms of Chapter 20 of the Aliens and Nationality Law (based on Article 27(b) of the Constitution), citizenship applies to any "person who is a Negro, or of Negro descent, born in Liberia and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" or "person born outside Liberia whose father (i) was born a citizen of Liberia; (ii) was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the birth of such child, and (iii) had resided in Liberia prior to the birth of such child.” These provisions have been criticised as discriminatory on the basis of both race and sex.[3]

By naturalizationEdit

Citizenship through naturalization is governed by Chapter 21 of the Aliens and Nationality Law. Naturalization requires a two-step process of first making a declaration of intent to naturalise before a Circuit Court, followed by the actual petition for naturalization which must be filed between the second and third anniversary dates of the declaration of intent. The eligibility requirements for naturalization are as follows:[3]

  • The applicant must be "a Negro or of Negro descent."
  • The applicant must be at least 21 years of age at the time of the petition.
  • The applicant must have been lawfully admitted to Liberia.
  • The applicant must maintain continuous legal residence in Liberia between the dates of the declaration and the petition and from the date of the petition until the admission to citizenship. Absence from Liberia of more than six months from the declaration up to admission constitutes failure to meet this requirement. This requirement may be waived by the President of Liberia.
  • The applicant must be of good moral character and believe in the principles of the Constitution.
  • The applicant must renounce any previous nationalities.
  • The applicant must take an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of Liberia.

Naturalization for special categoriesEdit

Section 21.31 provides that the non-citizen child whose father is naturalized as a Liberian citizen also becomes a Liberian citizen provided that the child is under 21 years of age and residing in Liberia as a lawful permanent resident at the time of the father's naturalization. No similar provisions are available for the non-citizen children of women naturalized as Liberian citizens.[3]

Section 21.32 restored the citizenship of women who, under the operation of previous nationality law, had lost citizenship as a result of a marriage to a non-citizen husband but had not acquired any foreign nationality except any automatically conferred by marriage.[3]

Marriage to a Liberian citizenEdit

Liberian nationality law provides no special considerations for the non-citizen spouse of a Liberian citizen. Such a non-citizen can only acquire Liberian citizenship through the same naturalization procedure laid out for other non-citizens.[4]

Loss of citizenshipEdit

The circumstances leading to loss of Liberian citizenship are principally described in Chapter 22 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, although circumstances leading to revocation of naturalization are given in Chapter 21. The following acts are listed in Chapter 22 as effecting a loss of Liberian citizenship:

  • Acquiring the nationality of a foreign state, with the following exceptions:
    • Liberian women who automatically acquire a foreign nationality upon marriage to a foreign man.
    • The minor child (under 21) of Liberian parents naturalized abroad, provided that the child returns to Liberia to establish permanent residence before the 23rd birthday.
  • Taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign state.
  • Serving in the armed forces of a foreign state without the permission of the Liberian president.
  • Voting in a foreign election.
  • Voluntarily renouncing Liberian citizenship according to the procedures set forth by the Liberian government.

Chapter 21 gives the following as criteria for revocation of naturalization:

  • The applicant awarded naturalization did not actually meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Naturalization was fraudulently obtained.
  • Naturalization was awarded in error.
  • Residence in the country of previous nationality for more than two years or in any other country for more than five years.
  • In the case of naturalization awarded to children on the basis of a father's naturalization, the revocation of the father's naturalization entails the revocation of the child's naturalization unless the child has reached age 21.

The provision allowing for revocation of naturalization as a consequence of residence abroad has been criticized as creating two classes of Liberian citizens and for reducing the capabilities of naturalized Liberians to pursue employment and educational opportunities abroad. The provision for the revocation of a minor's naturalization following the revocation of the father's naturalization has been criticized as unfair to the child.[3]

Dual citizenshipEdit

The Aliens and Nationality Law prohibits dual citizenship except in limited circumstances. This has been criticised as detrimental to links between Liberia and the diaspora.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "'The Face of America in Africa' Must End Constitutional Racism". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  2. ^ "Far from home". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Analysis of the Aliens and Nationality Law of the Republic of Liberia". American Bar Association. May 2009. SSRN 1795122. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ Manby, Bronwen (2010). "Citizenship Law in Africa: A Comparative Study" (PDF) (2nd ed.). Open Society Institute. Retrieved 2013-07-03.

External linksEdit