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The children of one of Russia’s richest oligarchs have Lithuanian citizenship. What will happen to them?

The children of one of Russia’s richest oligarchs have Lithuanian citizenship. What will happen to them?

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has expressed dissatisfaction with the considerations of Lithuanian officials and the proposed amendments by the Ministry of the Interior. These amendments suggest the possibility of stripping citizenship acquired by descent, citing concerns for national security, as reported by the news agency “Bloomberg.”

Minister Agnė Bilotaitė brought attention to these legislative changes after revealing that two of R. Abramovich’s children – Anna and Arkadiy – hold Lithuanian passports and might have assisted their father in circumventing international sanctions. In response, Abramovich’s spokesperson stated, “R. Abramovich’s children, much like all other descendants of persecuted Lithuanian Jews, possess an absolute legal right to their citizenship. The omission of this context by the Lithuanian Government is misleading and regrettable.”

Previously Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda also criticized such a proposal, stating that “it is not very good to start tinkering with our laws, targeting them at a specific case, specific individuals.” Nauseda stressed that Lithuanian institutions should verify whether Lithuanian citizenship was granted to Abramovich’s children in accordance with existing laws. Additionally, these institutions must assess whether the billionaire’s offspring played a role in circumventing European Union sanctions.

In turn, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte previously stated on Thursday that if citizenship is acquired to bypass international sanctions, its revocation can be addressed by changing the country’s laws. The Migration Department confirmed earlier that citizenship was granted to both of R. Abramovich’s children before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and R. Abramovich himself does not possess Lithuanian citizenship.

We, De Civitate Group, strongly oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as attempts to circumvent the sanctions imposed for this by using Lithuanian citizenship legislation. We are ready to provide support in the restoration of Lithuanian citizenship to the descendants of Lithuanians in strict accordance with the Citizenship Law.

We monitor all changes in legislation and are ready to assess the applicant’s compliance with the current requirements of the Law on Citizenship of Lithuania even before signing the contract and making any payments.

The Referendum in May 2024 – Who Will Be Eligible for Dual Lithuanian Citizenship?

The Referendum in May 2024 – Who Will Be Eligible for Dual Lithuanian Citizenship?

On October 10, 2023, the head of the Government’s Communications Department, Marius Gurskas, answered questions on the LRT TV channel regarding a planned referendum, which is set to take place simultaneously with the first round of the presidential elections on May 12, 2024.

From Gurkskas’ responses, it can be inferred that changes in citizenship are planned to be introduced into the Constitution of Lithuania. Here are some of the things he said:

“We are certainly not saying that Lithuanian citizenship will be given to everyone. We are talking about the possibility of keeping it for those who have it… Most often, those are family circumstances or when people leave for work or other reasons and have to make a choice to have better career prospects… For example, a Lithuanian volleyball player was invited to play in the Olympics for the Italian national team. There was a dilemma about what to do. The person feels that she is a citizen of Lithuania, she loves Lithuania. Unfortunately, the current Constitution doesn’t allow retaining Lithuanian citizenship if a person acquires another country’s citizenship.”

If the outcome of the planned referendum is successful, who will have the right to dual citizenship?

Those who will benefit from the successful outcome of the referendum would be individuals who have Lithuanian citizenship and have gone to other countries in search of better employment opportunities or for other reasons. In other words, this concerns the last wave of emigrants after the restoration of Lithuania’s independence in 1991.

In many cases, these individuals obtained citizenship in their country of residence through naturalization. Since the Constitution currently does not allow them to retain Lithuanian citizenship, more often than not, they lose it.

According to Marius Gurskas, Lithuania loses about 1,000 of its citizens each year due to this.

Can those born in Lithuania and who have moved to former USSR countries get dual citizenship?

According to the head of the Government’s Communications Department, individuals who left for former USSR countries cannot get dual citizenship. He says that these changes are planned for citizens of Lithuania who have moved to countries friendly to Lithuania, which include those belonging to the European Union, NATO, the European Economic Area, or the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Therefore, one should not expect simplification of procedures for those who left for Russia after the restoration of Lithuania’s independence and are now looking for ways to leave while retaining their existing citizenship.

What should you do if you have Lithuanian ancestors but no grounds for dual citizenship, and you are not ready to lose your current citizenship? In this case, it’s worth considering the possibility of obtaining a Certificate of Lithuanian Descent or a Certificate of the Right to Restore Lithuanian Citizenship.

It can be stated unequivocally that the proposed changes to the Constitution will simplify the lives of thousands of Lithuanians in the event of a positive result in the referendum, scheduled for May 12, 2024.

Seimas is considering a referendum on dual citizenship on May 12, 2024

Seimas is considering a referendum on dual citizenship on May 12, 2024

More than 60 members of the Seimas enlisted the bill, which proposes to hold a referendum regarding the following provision of the Constitution:

“Acquisition of the Republic of Lithuania’s citizenship transpires by birth and other legal means and procedures set by the constitutional law. The constitutional law also establishes the legal means and procedures for revoking the Republic of Lithuania’s citizenship.”

By doing so, the restriction on holding dual citizenship would be removed from the Constitution.

The explicit terms for acquiring and revoking dual citizenship, as well as the procedure and other matters, will be defined by the constitutional law.

During the 2019 presidential elections, a referendum was already held to broaden the options for having dual citizenship. However, the turnout was not sufficient in order to pass the change to the constitution even though a majority of voters were in favor of the change. An amendment to the Constitution with regards to citizenship is considered ratified if it was approved by more than half of the eligible voters who are registered in the voter list.

Why is this important to Lithuanians?

Those who emigrated after the reinstatement of sovereignty on March 11, 1990, at present, with some exemptions, are prohibited from having dual citizenship. The Constitutional Court has ruled that dual citizenship can be granted to those who left after 1990 only if the Constitution is amended by referendum.

Lithuania has a difficult history of emigration, and the wave of emigrants from the country after the restoration of its independence was the largest. This is due to the fact that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian economy was in an extremely disastrous state. Many people, after half a century of hardship under the blurring of Lithuanian identity by the Soviet Union occupation of Russia and the complete collapse of the economy after independence, were forced to leave the country in search of work and better quality of life with normal pay.

Most of them went to European countries – Germany, the UK and others. After working in the country for several years, many of them remained in it and naturalized, receiving citizenship in a new country. And now most of these Lithuanians do not have the opportunity to restore their citizenship.

If this time the Lithuanians successfully amend the Constitution, it will enable hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians to restore their Lithuanian citizenship, remaining a citizen of their new homeland. In particular, this will enable their children not to break the connection with the homeland of their ancestors.

We help many people to restore their Lithuanian citizenship (usually dual), but currently, due to legal limitations, we cannot offer this opportunity to those that left after 1990 or their children.

Lithuanian Residence through Investment Case: Bringing Two Brothers and Their Families to Europe

Lithuanian Residence through Investment Case: Bringing Two Brothers and Their Families to Europe

At our law firm “De civitate” we not only help descendants of Lithuanian emigrants to restore Lithuanian citizenship by descent but also we specialize in helping individuals obtain a Lithuanian residence through investment. In this article, we share the story of two brothers from India who approached us with a desire to start a new business venture in Europe and bring their families with them.

Benefits of the Lithuanian residence through investment

There are numerous benefits to obtaining Lithuanian residence by investment (or RBI in short):

  • fast processing time: The application process for Lithuanian residency through investment is typically completed within 3-4 months,
  • low investment threshold: The minimum investment amount required for Lithuanian residency through investment is €14,000, which is, probably, the lowest in the EU,
  • access to the European market. The EU market is one of the largest and most developed in the world, offering a wide range of business opportunities for investors,
  • access to the Schengen Area: Lithuanian residency allows visa-free travel to 26 countries in the Schengen Area, making it an attractive option for frequent travelers,
  • path to citizenship: After holding Lithuanian residency for ten years, investors are eligible to apply for Lithuanian citizenship and an EU passport,
  • affordable cost of living: Lithuania has a relatively low cost of living compared to other European countries, making it an ideal location for investors seeking a high quality of life at an affordable cost.

Lithuanian RBI program

Last year we were contacted by an Indian citizen living in Australia, who was interested to open a business in the EU and relocate there together with his brother and their families. We explained the general requirements and opportunities offered by the Lithuanian investor residence permit program, including the ability to apply for two permits with an investment of just €14,000 per applicant. As the brothers were interested in starting a business together, this option presented an excellent opportunity for them.

After discussing all the details we proceeded to sign a contract and start working on their case. To facilitate their business venture, we helped the brothers acquire a small existing company with a history but no operations. We then added the brothers as new shareholders of the company, allowing them to take control of its direction and focus on their new venture. This purchase of an existing company instead of forming a new one allows the new owners to apply for a national visa immediately after the investment is done.

However, we encountered some challenges in the process, including resistance from the bank to change information about the company’s shareholders. We had to find a new bank and open a new account, which we were ultimately able to do. As you know it might be more difficult to open a bank account in Europe than to open a company, however because of our experience and network in this area we were able to find a suitable bank and even facilitate all the processes remotely.

Throughout the process, the brothers remained in their home countries of India and Australia, while our lawyers and team in Lithuania handled the necessary paperwork and procedures. With the company ownership in order, we were able to proceed with the necessary documentation for the brothers and their families to obtain residence permits in Lithuania. After a little over six months of work because of unexpected obstacles with bank accounts, we successfully brought the brothers and their families to Europe.

Usually, the whole process takes between 3 to 6 months, however, it largely depends on the speed of the client.

Are you interested in obtaining residency in the European Union through investment? Our team of immigration lawyers specializes in helping clients navigate the complex process of obtaining EU Residency by Investment.

Overcoming Challenges for Successful EU Residency through investment

Overcoming challenges is an integral part of the process of obtaining EU residency through investment. In this particular case, our clients faced a very rigid approach by the bank, but due to our experience, we successfully solved the issue. Knowing the details of bank requirements and potential alternatives significantly sped up the process of finalizing legal paperwork and getting residence permits for the brothers.

It is also important to choose the right type of company to buy from, analyzing it according to various criteria – date of establishment, transactional history, bank it is working with and others.

If you are interested in pursuing a similar opportunity for investment-based residence in Europe, we can help. Our experienced team of immigration lawyers can provide guidance on the process and assist with any challenges or obstacles that may arise. Contact us today to learn more.

How to find your Lithuanian ancestors

How to find your Lithuanian ancestors

Tracing your ancestry and discovering your roots can be a fulfilling and enlightening journey, particularly for those with Lithuanian heritage. If you’re looking to restore your Lithuanian citizenship or learn more about your family history, uncovering your ancestors in Lithuania can be both exciting and challenging. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of finding your ancestors in Lithuania. We’ll provide tips and advice for researching your family history, including where to find historical records, how to navigate government offices and archives, and how to handle any unique challenges that may arise. Whether you’re just starting your journey or are well on your way to restoring your Lithuanian citizenship, this article will provide you with the information you need to uncover your Lithuanian ancestors and discover your roots in Lithuania.

Talk with your grandparents

If you are a descendant of Lithuanian immigrants and are interested in restoring your Lithuanian citizenship, one of the best things you can do is to talk to your grandparents, if they are still alive. They may have valuable information about your family’s history and can provide you with important documents, such as birth certificates and marriage certificates.

If your grandparents are no longer living, you can still gather information about your Lithuanian ancestors by visiting their graves and noting the dates of their birth. This information can be used to help you trace your family history and establish your eligibility for Lithuanian citizenship.

What about genealogy websites?

Another way to gather information about your ancestors is by using genealogy websites.
Some of the most popular genealogy websites are:

These websites can provide valuable information such as date and place of birth, which can be used as grounds for restoring Lithuanian citizenship.
However, it is important to note that while these websites can be useful tools in researching your family history, they may not be accepted as official documentation by the Lithuanian government. It is recommended that you consult with legal professionals specializing in citizenship restoration to ensure that the information and documentation gathered from genealogy websites are sufficient for the application process.

Additionally, it is a good idea to verify and cross-reference the information from genealogy websites with official documents from archives.
But we want to warn you not to waste your time with offers to get a DNA test. Often it can be just a scam. But besides, it’s important to note that they are not considered official documentation for restoring Lithuanian citizenship. In order to be eligible for Lithuanian citizenship, you will need to provide official documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates, and other forms of identification.

Go to the archives!

Gathering information about your grandparents is important in restoring your Lithuanian citizenship. One of the best places to start is by visiting archives in the places where your grandparents lived. These archives may contain important documents such as birth and marriage certificates, which can provide valuable information about your family’s history.

To find these archives, you may need to do some research on the specific locations where your grandparents lived. If your ancestors emigrated, you need to start with the local archives where they lived.

Once you have located the relevant archives, you can start searching for documents related to your grandparents. Be prepared to provide their full names, dates of birth, and any other information that may be helpful in locating the right documents. It can also be helpful to have copies of any other documents you already have, such as your grandparents’ naturalization papers or passports.

It is important to note that the process of searching for information about your grandparents in archives can take some time and may require persistence. But with effort and patience, you may be able to find the information you need to help establish your eligibility for Lithuanian citizenship.

Information to look for in the archives

Before you go to the archives, let’s decide what information you need to find. To find information about your ancestors in the archives, the following details should be looked for:

  • Dates of birth
  • Original names
  • Place of life or place of birth in Lithuania
  • Date of emigration from Lithuania

Additional information about life in Lithuania could also be useful but the above information would be sufficient to evaluate the chances of obtaining Lithuanian citizenship.

After you gathered some basic information, let’s turn to the Lithuanian archives!

Once you have the information about the date and place of birth of your ancestors, you can turn to Lithuanian, German, or Polish archives to find more information about them. However, the challenge here is that you will need to communicate with the archives in Lithuanian, German, or Polish. This can be difficult if you are not fluent in these languages. But don’t worry, our lawyers can help you with this process. There are multiple archives in Lithuania and we know which ones might have the documents that might useful to us. With the help of our legal team, you can navigate the archives and obtain the necessary documents to restore your Lithuanian citizenship.

Tracing your ancestry and restoring your Lithuanian citizenship can be a complex and time-consuming process. Without the right resources and guidance, it can take years to gather the necessary information and documents to apply for citizenship. However, there is a solution to this problem.

We specialize in helping descendants of Lithuanian emigrants navigate the process of restoring their Lithuanian citizenship. Our experienced team will work with you to gather the necessary information and documents, and guide you through the application process. We understand the importance of this process to you and we will do our best to make it as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Don’t waste years trying to figure it out on your own. Trust us to help you restore your Lithuanian citizenship quickly and efficiently. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you.

History of Litvaks – Jewish heritage in Lithuania

History of Litvaks – Jewish heritage in Lithuania

The Litvaks, or Lithuanian Jews, have descended from the Germanic group of Ashkenazi Jews. During the development of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, in the 14th century, they were granted political and economic privileges in order to attract their migration to Lithuania and to develop trade and crafts in large cities. This led to the growth of the Jewish community in Lithuania, which in its heyday accounted for about 10% of the total population of Lithuania.

The etymology of the word “Litvak”

The Slavic name for the Lithuanian state, Lithuania, is the source of the word “Litvak”. Lithuania in most of the Slavic languages is called Litva and the term Litvak simply evolved to mean Lithuanian Jew. Litvaks were Jews who immigrated to the Belarusian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

From the initial wave of migrants from different European countries, a large Jewish community with its own customs, traditions and way of life gradually emerged. This community developed distinctive characteristics that are known historically as “Nusakh Liti” (Lithuanian way of life, way, manner). Based on these traits, Jews from Lithuania were referred to be “sheivet litvakes” (from Yiddish: “tribe of Litvaks”).

Common surnames and famous people

A common surname of many Litvak Jews was simply Litvak (or Litvakov). Also, some surnames originated from the names of the cities with large Jewish communities, like: Vilnius – Vilenski, or Kaunas – Kovner. Additionally, some surnames originated from the professions and crafts such as: butcher – Shochet, Glassblower – Glazer.

Bob Dylan is one of the most famous descendants of Litvaks

Bob Dylan is one of the most famous descendants of Litvaks

Among the famous Lithuanian Jews and their descendants were many scientists, writers, artists, political and religious leaders, as well as Nobel Prize winners. Everyone knows the names of Leonard Cohen – singer-songwriter, poet and novelist from Canada; Bob Dylan – one of the greatest songwriters of all time from the US or David Suchet from the UK– who plays the role of Hercule Poirot in the popular series based on the works of Agatha Christie.

The resettlement of Litvaks

During the 18th century, a growing number of Jews spread across the territory of Lithuania, where they became a significant force in developing the country’s economy, trade, and crafts, and which aided the expansion and development of both old and new cities and towns.

During that period the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Vilnius, gradually replaced Brest as Litvaks’ spiritual center. Vilnius’ Jewish population expanded, together with the number of religious scholars living there. Jewish communities were given a considerable degree of political autonomy and had similar status to monks, burghers, and peasants in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a whole.

They had a right to reside among the Christians in their neighborhood and a separate code of laws “Jewish law” was used as the basis for their own self-government. The Jewish communities were allowed to form their autonomous national administration.

At the end of the 18th century (1792–1795), Lithuania was completely annexed by the Russian Empire. The loss of Lithuanian independence also adversely affected Litvak communities. The Russian Empire decided to restrict the migration of Jews and their settlements were limited only to some areas of Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, the so-called “strip of settlement”.

This area, which had a high density of Jewish residents compared to other parts of the Russian empire (and many European countries), was sometimes known as “Yiddishland” (“Land of the Jews”).

Jewish community before the WW2

During the WW1 most of Lithuania’s territory turned into a battlefield between the Russian and German Empires. After Russia incited the war and civil war broke out, Vilnius was successively captured by Polish and Soviet-Russian forces numerous times in 1919–1920. Polish and Soviet armies alternately controlled Vilnius on several occasions, while the emerging Lithuanian Republic was also trying to establish control over its historical capital.

However, Lithuania’s success was short-lived and Vilnius was forcibly integrated into Poland in 1922. During this period of fighting between Germany, Russia, Poland and, eventually, Lithuania the Jewish community suffered.

The Lithuanian Jewish community, whose center was in Kaunas, the country’s temporary capital, and its numerous leaders actively participated in the creation, development, and armed defense of the Lithuanian state as well as in diplomatic efforts to have it recognized internationally. Jews made up more than 500 of the volunteers who fought for Lithuania’s freedom during this period.

The 1922 Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania included a clause stating that all people were treated equally in the eyes of the law. According to a separate provision titled “Rights of National Minorities,” minorities were given a certain degree of autonomy in managing matters related to their national culture, education, charity, and mutual aid, to the extent permitted by the law. To run their affairs, communities elected their representative bodies.

The so-called “honeymoon period”

The “honeymoon period” is referred to in the historiography of Lithuanian Jews as a short period of 1919–1922. Jews had ministers as well as representatives in the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas). The Jewish Kahals (Jewish communities) received extensive privileges under the 1920 law to manage religious affairs, charitable work, social assistance and public education.

Jewish organizations were very successful in accommodating thousands of Jews who had fled Soviet Russia during the period of the civil war there. Lithuanian Jews helped many of them to settle, find work, and to establish a vast network of educational, medical, charitable, social assistance, and cultural organizations.

Unfortunately, the influence of Lithuanian democratic political forces was getting weaker while right-wing parties were growing stronger like in many other European countries at that time. The state’s recognition of Jewish national autonomy, which included all of its organs, was progressively reduced until it was abolished.

This turn towards nationalism also impacted how Jews were portrayed in Seimas and the use of Yiddish in government institutions. The Minister for Jewish Affairs left the government in 1924. The Jewish National Council was abolished. The Jewish communal Kahals were disbanded in March 1926. The rabbis were given control over civil registration duties.

Litvak community in numbers

  • In 1923, a population census was conducted in Lithuania, according to which 2.03 million people lived in the country. Of these, 154 thousand people identified themselves as Jews. Litvaks lived in almost every town and many larger villages.
  • By 1939, the number of Jews in Lithuania had reached its peak of 210,000 due to immigration and the natural growth of the population.
  • From 91% to 95% of the Jewish community remaining at that time in the country (about 195 000 people) were killed during the Second World War. In terms of the share of the community killed during the Holocaust, this figure is the highest Jewish loss in any country in Europe.
    Unfortunately, some Lithuanians influenced by Nazi propaganda also participated in these events. While, at the same time, other Lithuanians were risking their lives by hiding and saving the victims. 918 Lithuanians are recognized by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations. These were people that risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from the Nazis. This is the highest number per capita in Eastern Europe and the second highest in the world after the Netherlands.
  • Less than 25,000 Lithuanian Jews, were registered in the Soviet census of 1959 after the Shoah. The amount had decreased to 6,000 or less by 1993 mostly due to emigration to the USA and Israel. The community decreased further and as of 2011 had only about 3050 people.

Where do Litvaks live now?

The majority of Litvaks emigrated to the US, but ~15,000 decided to emigrate to South Africa once gold and diamonds were discovered there. Although they were frequently listed as “miners” when immigrating, they were mostly traders in items needed by miners.

Up to 75,000 Lithuanian Jews now live in South Africa. Many South African Litvaks during the last couple of decades migrated to other Anglophone countries (the US, Australia, Canada and the UK).

There were 576 South African-born Jews living in Australia according to the Australian census of 2001; during the next five years, that number had increased by 2% yearly and reached 637. After 2006 immigration to Australia from South Africa increased significantly and according to the 2016 Australian census 12,092 persons identified as South African Jews.

Dual Lithuanian citizenship for Litvaks

Many Litvaks living abroad have a right to restore the citizenship of their ancestors. In accordance with the Lithuanian Citizenship Law, the descendants of Lithuanian citizens before June 15, 1940, and who left the country before March 11, 1990, can restore Lithuanian citizenship without renouncing the main citizenship in their country of residence. This is an opportunity to obtain a Lithuanian (and hence the EU) passport.

Only single Lithuanian citizenship is available to those whose ancestors left for the countries of the former USSR. However, if they were deported then it is possible to claim dual Lithuanian citizenship, as well.

If your ancestors come from Lithuania, then you might be eligible for Lithuanian citizenship. Contact us and our managers and lawyers will explain to you in detail the process of obtaining second European citizenship.