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Litvak community is eligible for dual Lithuanian citizenship again

Litvak community is eligible for dual Lithuanian citizenship again

Today (June 23, 2016) Lithuanian parliament adopted amendments (project Nr. XIIP-4532(2)) to a law on citizenship, which allows Litvaks to get dual Lithuanian citizenship. Until about 2014, Litvaks who left before 1940 and their ancestors could apply for Lithuanian dual citizenship. However, interpretation of the law changed in 2014 and Migration Department started requiring documented proof of persecution if applicants’ ancestors left before 1940 and the applicant wanted to apply for dual Lithuanian citizenship. In an overwhelming majority of the cases such documented evidence was impossible to obtain, therefore dual citizenship for Litvaks was not granted. This amendment will change the application process and Litvaks will not be required to provide documented evidence that their ancestors left because of persecution or perceived an imminent threat.

According to leader of the parliamentary opposition and parliamentary group the Homeland Union A. Kubilius, adoption of these amendments was needed in order to solve the problem that occurred after interpretation of laws changed.

“Based on some court decisions officials of Migration Department started interpreting applicable citizenship law in such a way, that the practices that were working from April 1st, 2011, essentially stopped working. It causes problems for those emigrants or their descendants, who themselves or whose ancestors left Lithuania before 1940. According to present citizenship law, which was adopted in 2011, this group of people, including a large community of Litvaks in Israel, South Africa and other countries,  had a right to obtain dual Lithuanian citizenship” – said A.Kubilius. According to the opposition leader, from 2014-2015 Migration Department started asking each applicant to prove that his or her ancestor left Lithuania because of personal threat to them.

One of the amendments changes the wording of Article 7, which states that Lithuanian citizen can be a citizen of another country at the same time, among other cases, if “he is a person who fled the Republic of Lithuania before 11 March 1990 and acquired citizenship of another state”. The amendment changes word “fled” to “left”, which means that applicants will not have to prove that their ancestors had to flee Lithuania, because of some danger or threat to them.

96 members of parliament voted in favor of the amendment, 4 abstained and none voted against it.

Web site of Lithuanian Parliament states that the amendments were adopted as a matter of extreme urgency; the amendments were registered on Tuesday this week.

New amendment allows keeping dual citizenship for Lithuanians born abroad

New amendment allows keeping dual citizenship for Lithuanians born abroad

On Thursday (19 November 2015), the Lithuanian parliament adopted an amendment to the citizenship law allowing foreign-born Lithuanians who automatically acquire dual citizenship, to keep the dual citizenship indefinitely. Until now Lithuanians that were born abroad and, as a result, acquired dual citizenship were allowed to keep it until they were 21 years old. At that time, they had to choose which one citizenship they wanted to keep.

This law is important to Lithuanian (or partly Lithuanian) families living in countries that are using the jus soli (right of the soil) principle to grant citizenship. Jus soli is the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship. According to this law when a child was born to Lithuanian parents in the US, the child automatically acquired US and Lithuanian citizenships. The child acquired Lithuanian citizenship if at least one of his/her parents was a Lithuanian national. However, until now, the child had to choose one out of two citizenships when they turned 21 years old.

The new amendment will affect Lithuanian families in the countries where the jus soli principle is applied – USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Venezuela. Jus soli with some restrictions are applied in other countries with large Lithuanian diasporas as well: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, Ireland and Germany.

“It is a historic day for Lithuania and an extremely important day for many Lithuanians living abroad and families of Lithuanian descent”, announced the Liberal party, which initiated the amendment.

“Adopted amendment to the citizenship law allows whole generations of Lithuanians born abroad to keep Lithuanian citizenship”, told Arminas Lydeka, a member of the Liberal party.

The amendment will come into force after being signed by President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

A group of parliament members plan to hold a referendum together with a parliamentary election next year, which would allow all Lithuanians to have double citizenship. However, whether the referendum will be held, parliament will decide only in the spring, of next year. Parliamentary elections will be held in October 2016.

Lithuanian government backs dual citizenship referendum

Lithuanian government backs dual citizenship referendum

The Government of Lithuania on Wednesday backed an initiative by a group of lawmakers to call a referendum on dual citizenship alongside general elections next year. But the Cabinet also suggests a different formulation for the question to be put for the vote.

The Seimas of Lithuania has already begun deliberating a proposal by the opposition Liberal Movement to remove the constitutional provision stating that “with the exception of individual cases provided for by law, no one may be a citizen of both the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time”. Explaining this provision, the Constitution Court of Lithuania has said that it forbids persons who left Lithuania after 1990 and acquired citizenship of foreign countries to retain Lithuanian citizenship.

The government said in its conclusion, drafted by the Ministry of Justice, on Wednesday that following the removal of the mentioned constitutional provision, “it would be unclear whether the law would in general define dual citizenship cases”. According to the ministry, it could then be considered as the abolition of the general ban to have dual citizenship, which would allow the Seimas to remove all restrictions on dual citizenship. The government suggests changing the constitutional provision to the following version: “citizens of Lithuania by birth, who have acquires citizenship of a foreign country, retain citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania. Other persons may not be citizens of both the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time, with the exception of individual cases provided for by law”. “Our proposed formulation prioritizes preservation of citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania for citizens who emigrated and their children to allow them to preserve the hope to return,” Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis said. Existing legislation in Lithuania allows dual citizenship only for citizens who left the country during the Soviet occupation period (1940-1990) and their descendants, but not for people who emigrated after Lithuania restored its independence. Those in favour of liberalization say dual citizenship should be legalized in Lithuania to keep expatriates’ ties with Lithuania. Critics say, however, that citizens must be loyal to one country only and are also concerned that members of ethnic minorities in Lithuania might seek citizenship of foreign countries and that Russia might take advantage of that. Under the existing law, a constitutional amendment is deemed adopted if half of all voters vote in favour.

Lithuanian Prime Minister backs dual citizenship referendum proposal

Lithuanian Prime Minister backs dual citizenship referendum proposal

Today it was announced that Lithuanian Prime Minister backs dual citizenship referendum proposal. This question has been discussed for more than a decade now, since hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians emigrated and thousands lost their Lithuanian citizenship after accepting a citizenship of another country. Solution to this problem is long overdue. We salute Lithuanian parliament that they found political will to tackle this problem and people of Lithuanian heritage that feel Lithuanian might be able to reclaim the citizenship of their ancestors. However, at the moment constitutional amendment is not yet formulated, furthermore we do not know whether the referendum will succeed.

Based on the previous discussions in Lithuanian parliament we can assume that new constitutional amendment would allow dual Lithuanian citizenship for those that are not eligible for it now: Lithuanians that emigrated after 1991 and, possibly, Lithuanians that emigrated before 1940. Descendants (up to third generation) of Lithuanians that were forced to flee Lithuania during WW2 can obtain dual Lithuanian citizenship at the moment and we do not expect it to change. However, particular application rules might get stricter as we observe a general trend that requirements for dual citizenship are gradually becoming more stringent. If you are eligible for Lithuanian citizenship and were thinking of restoring it for yourself or your children, we encourage you to do so now, before rules are reviewed again and possibly become stricter.

For geopolitical reasons dual citizenship can be tied to the fact whether applicant’s country is a member of NATO or EU. We can only guess whether it actually becomes a fact and in what form, but this topic comes up constantly during public discussions on dual citizenship in Lithuania. If introduced, this safeguard would obviously be targeted to limit applications from some neighboring countries in the East. It is expected that if law is not strict enough some applicants might apply for Lithuanian citizenship for economic reasons and some of them may be actually hostile to Lithuanian statehood per se. We hope that formulation of the law will be well thought off and will not have any unintended consequences. But good intentions sometimes have unintended consequences. If dual citizenship is tied to NATO/EU, it is hard to predict how it might affect candidates from non-allied countries like Australia, New Zealand and Brasil.

Let’s hope for the best, but it is wise to know and plan for all possible scenarios.