Issues of dual citizenship in Latvia

09.01.2017 Irina Stromberga, lawyer

In Latvia, dual citizenship is permitted only with the EU and NATO member states. Dual citizenship with other countries is allowed only to descendants of exiles/deported, descendants of Latvians (again, not for all) and persons, who have obtained Latvian citizenship for special merits. In all other cases, dual citizenship with “unauthorized” country is prohibited and entail deprivation of citizenship of Latvia. A person deprived of citizenship, if it was not able to appeal the decision in court, further can restore the citizenship of Latvia only through naturalization.

In the 90ies after Latvia gained independence, the country was going through a rather difficult period, both socially and economically. The issue of language and citizenship split many mixed families. Families, where one parent had the right to a citizenship, and the other did not have such right. Between 1992 and 1996, a lot of divorced women left Latvia, having no right to obtain Latvian citizenship. They left to their native country – Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – and took their children with them. Those children who were eligible for citizenship through their father. They not only had such a right, but also were registered in the Population Register of Latvia especially as citizens of Latvia. At their native country, these women got the citizenship of their country for themselves and their minor children. Therefore, these children had a dual citizenship.

A person who received a second citizenship with “unauthorized” country in childhood due to his or her parents’ will, after reaching the age of majority and before the age of 25, must decide which citizenship he or she wants to leave. In reality, this period was even greater. According to the Transitional provisions of the Law on Citizenship, persons who became 25 years old before October 1, 2013 had to decide on the choice of citizenship before October 1, 2016. And somewhere in 2014 the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA) has started sending “chain letters” to all persons, about whom there was information regarding their dual citizenship with an unauthorized country. In letters, such persons were notified that a verification case was initiated against them as to the violation of the Law on Citizenship, and if, before October 1, 2016, they would not provide the documents for renunciation of citizenship with an unauthorized country, they will be deprived of the citizenship of Latvia.

Our law office INLAT PLUS is often introduced with sad stories of people who have recently enjoyed the possession of two passports – Latvian and Russian, Latvian and Ukrainian, etc. At best, the Latvian passport was needed for a free travel in the Schengen area on business purposes, and then the loss of the citizenship of Latvia is only a nuisance. Well, they will now go to Europe on visas. Moreover, there are truly tragic situations. Someday, a woman with a dual citizenship of Latvia and Ukraine turned to our law office. She and her husband, a citizen of Ukraine, moved to Europe. They lived in a European Union country; worked there; had children who also had received the citizenship of Latvia. She knew about the fact that it is necessary to renounce from the citizenship of Ukraine. However, the constant care, chores, the birth of the first child, then almost immediately the birth of the second child, difficulties in pregnancy, intolerance of flights – all this hampered to make a choice… OCMA tried to warn her, like all the others, but, of course, she did not inform OCMA about her current address. Therefore, a warning from OCMA reached her in Europe, and no possible terms were valid anymore, the process of denationalization had been already started, and she was not able to give up from the Ukrainian citizenship in terms. So the whole family was forced to leave Europe and return to Ukraine, where they did not have a place to live and a job. All the stable life was turned upside down.

Of course, we can moralize a lot about the importance to know and abide by the laws of your country. However, let us leave this to those who have never violated something: has never exceeded the speed limit, always crossed the road in the right place, and paid all taxes up to the every cent. We want to tell you what to do if you have dual citizenship with an unauthorized country, when you still have not resolved this issue.

First and foremost, you cannot wait for the start of the process of deprivation of citizenship. You must make a choice, the citizenship of which country is prior for you. There are situations when it is necessary to maintain the citizenship of a third country, but not to lose the status of a resident of Latvia (for work or to care for sick relatives, you may have any reason!). In this case, you need to take the initiative and submit to OCMA or the Embassy of Latvia an application for renunciation of citizenship of Latvia and at the same to time ask for a permanent residence permit, as a former citizen.

If you did not manage, and the process of deprivation of citizenship has already begun, then after its termination it is theoretically possible for persons of Latvian nationality to obtain the status of repatriate. This status implies relocation to Latvia for permanent residence and re-registration every 5 years.

As it was mentioned above, if it was not possible to appeal the decision to withdraw the citizenship of Latvia, then again to obtain the Latvian citizenship is possible only through naturalization: first residence permit, permanent residence for 5 years, an examination on the history and language knowledge and so on in order.

Many people who have dual citizenship with an unauthorized country believe that they are very lucky: they can travel without visas back and forth, work everywhere without restrictions and have other benefits without consequences. One must understand that in modern society the data exchange system is established better than one can even realize. Do not risk with your stable life, consult with a lawyer and reconcile the issue of dual citizenship in accordance with the regulations of normative acts.

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