May 25, 2006

Laws of Return

Is Israel the only country with a Law of Return? If not, how many countries have laws of return?

Jonathan Edelstein reports (not necessarily a complete list):

  • Armenia: Article 14 of the constitution provides that "individuals of Armenian origin shall acquire citizenship of the Republic of Armenia through a simplified procedure." This procedure is provided by Article 13 of the Law on Citizenship, which specifies inter alia that citizenship shall be conferred upon stateless persons of Armenian heritage who have taken residence in Armenia. In practice, Armenia has granted citizenship to ethnic Armenians who move to Armenia and renounce their former nationality.
  • Bulgaria: Article 25 of the 1991 constitution specifies that "person[s] of Bulgarian origin shall acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a facilitated procedure." Article 15 of the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship provides that an individual "of Bulgarian origin" may be naturalized without any waiting period and without having to show a source of income, knowledge of the Bulgarian language or renunciation of his former citizenship.
  • Croatia: Article 11 of the Law on Croatian Citizenship allows emigrants and their descendants to acquire Croatian nationality upon return, without passing a language examination or renouncing former citizenship. In addition, Article 16 permits "a member of the Croatian people who does not have a place of residence in the Republic of Croatia [to]acquire Croatian citizenship" by making a written declaration and submitting proof of attachment to Croatian culture.
  • Finland: Finnish law provides a right of return to ethnic Finns from the former Soviet Union, including Ingrians. Applicants must now pass an examination in the Finnish language. [Ed. note: I have been informed by Jussi Jalonen, based on a translation of the Finnish Directorate of Immigration web site, that certain persons of Finnish descent who live outside the former Soviet Union also have a right to establish permanent residency, which would eventually entitle them to qualify for citizenship.]
  • Germany: Article 116(1) of the German constitution confers a right to citizenship upon any person who is admitted to Germany as "refugee or expellee of German ethnic origin or as the spouse or descendant of such a person." At one time, ethnic Germans living abroad (Aussiedler) could obtain citizenship through a virtually automatic procedure, but since 1990 the law has been steadily tightened to limit the number of immigrants who can come each year and require proof of language skills and cultural affiliation.
  • Greece: Ethnic Greeks can obtain Greek citizenship by two methods under the Code of Greek Nationality. Pursuant to Article 5, ethnic Greeks who are stateless (which, in practice, includes those who voluntarily renounce their nationality) and who "really behave as Greeks" may obtain citizenship upon application to a Greek consular official. In addition, ethnic Greeks who join the armed forces acquire automatic citizenship by operation of Article 10, with the military oath taking the place of the citizenship oath.
  • Hungary: Section 4(3) of the Act on Nationality permits ethnic Hungarians (defined as persons "at least one of whose relatives in ascendant line was a Hungarian citizen") to obtain citizenship on preferential terms after one year of residence. In addition, the "Status Law" of 2001 grants certain privileges to ethnic Hungarians living in territories that were once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and permits them to obtain an identification card, but does not confer the right to full Hungarian citizenship.
  • India: Persons with at least one Indian great-grandparent may apply for a Person of Indian Origin card, provided that neither the applicant nor any ancestor has ever been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan or China. This card is a travel document and permits the holder to enter and stay in India without a visa, own land and attend educational institutions, but not to vote or hold office. In addition, persons of Indian origin who are nationals of certain specified countries (again subject to an exclusion for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) may apply for Overseas Indian Citizenship, which confers similar rights and also permits the holder to apply for full Indian nationality after one year of residence.
  • Ireland: The Nationality and Citizenship Act allows any person with an Irish grandparent to become an Irish citizen "by registering in the Foreign Births Register at an Irish embassy or consular office, or at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin." Such an individual may also pass his entitlement to Irish nationality on to his children by registering in the Foreign Births Register even if he chooses not to take up citizenship himself.
  • Israel: The Law of Return, as amended in 1970, confers an automatic right to citizenship on anyone who is Jewish by birth or conversion, or who has a Jewish parent or grandparent.
  • Italy: Persons of Italian descent may claim citizenship through a maternal grandparent if neither the grandparent nor their mother has ever renounced Italian nationality.
  • Kiribati: Articles 19 and 23 of the constitution provide that "[e]very person of I-Kiribati descent... shall... become or have and continue to have thereafter the right to become a citizen of Kiribati" and that "[e]very person of I-Kiribati decent who does not become a citizen of Kiribati on Independence Day... shall, at any time thereafter, be entitled upon making application in such manner as may be prescribed to be registered as a citizen of Kiribati."
  • Lebanon: Lebanese law currently makes no provision for reacquisition of nationality by members of the diaspora, but a pending government proposal would permit descendants of Lebanese emigrants to acquire an overseas identity card that confers rights similar to the Person of Indian Origin scheme.
  • Poland: The Statute on Polish Citizenship, as amended in 2000, permits the descendants of Poles who lost their nationality involuntarily between 1920 and 1989 to take up Polish citizenship without regard to ordinary naturalization criteria.
  • Romania: Romanian expatriates who lost their citizenship prior to December 22, 1989, as well as their children and grandchildren, may reclaim their nationality upon presentation of a declaration and supporting documents.
  • Russia: Until recently, persons holding Soviet passports could exchange them for Russian Federation nationality on a virtually automatic basis. The 2002 amendment to the Law on Russian Federation Citizenship, however, puts substantial qualifications on this right, including language and financial requirements and preferences for immigrants who have a secondary education or who join the armed forces. Former Soviet citizens may, however, still apply for Russian citizenship without a waiting period.
  • Rwanda: Article 7 of the Rwandan constitution provides that "Rwandans or their descendants who were deprived of their nationality between 1st November 1959 and 31 December 1994 by reason of acquisition of foreign nationalities automatically reacquire Rwandan nationality if they return to settle in Rwanda." In addition, "[a]ll persons originating from Rwanda and their descendants shall, upon their request, be entitled to Rwandan nationality."
  • Serbia: Article 23 of the 2004 citizenship law provides that the descendants of emigrants from Serbia, or ethnic Serbs residing abroad, may take up citizenship upon written declaration.
  • Slovakia: A person with at least one Slovak grandparent and "Slovak cultural and language awareness" may apply for an expatriate identity card entitling him to live, work, study and own land in Slovakia. Expatriate status is not full citizenship and does not entitle the holder to vote, but a holder who moves his domicile to Slovakia may obtain citizenship under preferential terms.
  • South Korea: The law of South Korea grants special status to descendants of ethnic Koreans who emigrated after 1922. As with India and Slovakia, this status falls short of full citizenship and does not confer political rights, but permits them to live, work, own property and conduct business in South Korea.
  • Spain: Citizenship on preferential terms may be obtained after two years' residence by Andorrans, Portuguese, citizens of Latin American countries, the Philippines or Equatorial Guinea, and Sephardic Jews.
  • Turkey: Turkish law allows persons of Turkish origin, and their spouses and children, to apply for naturalization without the five-year waiting period applicable to other immigrants.
  • Ukraine: Article 8 of the Law on Citizenship of Ukraine permits any person with at least one Ukrainian grandparent to become a citizen upon renunciation of his former nationality.
Posted by David Boxenhorn at May 25, 2006 03:33 PM | TrackBacks
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