Long time no write! I know it has been awhile, but I’ve been very busy with all of my genealogy and museum work, but I am going to try to get back to blogging on a semi-regular basis. I also have some big things coming soon that I hope you’ll be excited about!
Today I wanted to write about acquiring dual citizenship, which is something I get a lot of questions about, so now is a good time to answer them!
What is dual citizenship? Simply put, having citizenship of two countries at once. For our purposes, “dual citizenship” will refer to citizenship of Latvia and another country, and the process of acquiring Latvian citizenship for people who have historical ties to Latvia.
Why would someone want dual citizenship? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Having Latvian citizenship means that you can spend as much time in Latvia as you want, because you won’t need a visa or residence permit to do so. And because Latvia is a part of the European Union, that also means that you would have the right to live and work almost anywhere in the European Union. It also means you can vote in Latvian elections. You can have a real impact on making positive change in Latvia.
The most recent update to the Latvian citizenship law concerning dual citizenship was in 2013, when it was made available again. The possibility for it had been shut down between 1995 and 2013, but thankfully it is back.
There are several important things to note with regards to dual citizenship. The first is that Latvia does not have a simple “by descent” policy like some other countries, where you just need to prove a Latvian parent or grandparent. The second is that depending on the time period your ancestors emigrated, requirements may differ.
If your family left Latvia as a result of the Soviet or Nazi occupation of the country, you will have the easiest time applying for dual citizenship. You will need all of the typical documents proving descent – birth records naming parents, marriage records, etc. – as well as proof that your family left as a result of the occupation of Latvia, and that they were citizens of Latvia on June 17, 1940. It is this last part that is the trickiest, but also the most important to prove. You can provide documentation going back a hundred years of your family living and working in Latvia, but if you don’t have that last part, the process will be delayed (I know because this happened to me).
How can you prove that someone was a citizen on June 17, 1940? Well, you need a document as close as possible to that date stating that they were a citizen. It can be a passport issued in the months and years before, or a housing register stating that they were a citizen, or a birth record if they happened to be born around that time. If nothing else, the Historical Archives provides a service that comes with a letter that you can send to the Citizenship Office that says that they (the Historical Archives) have consulted the registers in their collection of people who lost Latvian citizenship prior to that date, and that your ancestor’s name was not found in those registers. If you need help acquiring such a letter, let me know and I can try to help with that.
So as long as you have all of these documents in order, dual citizenship is a simple process. You don’t need to be able to speak Latvian. It also doesn’t matter what ethnicity your ancestors were, as long as they were Latvian citizens on June 17, 1940.
The other way how you can acquire Latvian citizenship by descent (that is, rather than citizenship by naturalization) is more complicated, but it doesn’t require your ancestor to have been a Latvian citizen on June 17, 1940. Instead, it requires them to have been an ethnic Latvian or Liv (an autochthonous ethnic group in Latvia most closely related to Estonians), and to have lived in Latvia at some point between 1881 and 1940. So this opens up the timeframe a great deal, however, it does require Latvian or Liv ethnicity, as well as ability to communicate in and understand the Latvian language.
In addition to ethnicity and language, of course paperwork is required, proving those connections – birth and marriage records, as well as whatever else could be applicable. Proving Latvian or Liv ethnicity could be tricky, but there are a variety of documents that will state ethnicity, and if nothing else then that can be proven by way of participation in a Latvian community abroad.
For more information and information on how to apply, visit these pages on the website of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs website.
Do you have any further questions I might be able to help with? Let me know in comments!