Dual citizenship is quite a delicate and complicated issue in Ukraine. Candidates barely mention it in their presidential campaigns, however, this issue is still very relevant. Opinion found out how dual citizenship is regulated in the Ukrainian legislation, if its legalization is necessary, what possible risks and advantages it can bring, and what experience of other countries is.

Regulations in Ukrainian legislation

Vasyl Cherednichenko, a partner of EXPATRO law firm, explained to Opinion that Article 4 of the Constitution says, “There is single citizenship in Ukraine”. However, it doesn’t mean that Ukrainians are forbidden to have other citizenships.

“This regulation means that another citizenship and documents which confirm the citizenship of another country aren’t recognized by the law and aren’t valid on the territory of Ukraine.”

If a Ukraine citizen has citizenship of another country or other countries, it means in Ukraine, he is recognized only as a citizen of Ukraine. It means that a Ukrainian with passports of Ukraine and, for example, the USA, will be recognized only as a Ukrainian citizen in Ukraine. Moreover, Ukrainian law doesn’t have any punishments for having dual citizenship. All that means that dual citizenship isn’t forbidden in Ukraine, it isn’t just recognized by the law.”

Yaroslav Bulychov, a head of the Ukrainian office of Immigrant Invest law firm, also says that there are no legislative consequences for Ukrainians who have a passport of another country. According to him, another citizenship isn’t just recognized by Ukraine on its territory.

“A Ukrainian with the passport of Ukraine and, for example, Hungary, will be recognized in Ukraine only as a Ukrainian citizen. Hungary will recognize him only as a citizen of Hungary. But when this person enters another country, they can decide what passport they will use to show to Border Guards and local Customs – then this country will consider them citizens of a country which passport they showed.

Also, Ukrainian legislation doesn’t oblige Ukrainians to inform state bodies about getting a passport of another country, while authorities are not obliged to control this issue and check whether their citizens have other citizenships.”

Is there any necessity to legalize dual citizenship?

Natalia Belitser, an expert of Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, explained to Opinion, that dual citizenship issue is now very important for Ukraine. There are several reasons for that.

“First, it concerns the Ukrainian diaspora – the “old” one which includes already several generations as well as the new one, i.e. emigrants who left independent Ukraine but still want to save connections with their Motherland. Second, we should look for civilized ways of solving a painful issue: some members of national minorities, who live quite compactly, have already two passports – in the first place, these are Hungarians and Romanians (in Zakarpattia and Bukovyna regions respectively). Third, we have to solve a situation, which is potentially dangerous for Ukrainian national safety – if dual citizenship is legalized, there will be many people with Russian passports.”

Dmytro Sinchenko, a head of NGO Association of Political Sciences, believes that dual citizenship should be legalized but only with one condition: Ukrainians will be forbidden to get passports of aggressor states.

“Getting Russian citizenship should be considered high treason and be punished. Nevertheless, multiple citizenship is legalized in most developed countries. We should follow their example. It doesn’t bother anybody there.”

Lilia Brudnytska, an expert of Political Studies Centre Vybor, also supports the idea of dual citizenship.

“It will allow decreasing tension in the relationship with neighboring countries. But there must be one exception: state employees and people who were elected for their positions renounce all their citizenships except Ukrainian. This requirement should be also applied to foreign consultants, heads of enterprises (even private ones) which are of strategic importance for Ukraine.”

Vasyl Cherednichenko also believes dual citizenship should be legalized. However, he highlights that some limits also should be introduced.

“We know many cases when people of Ukrainian origin, who have left Ukraine to live in another country, members of the Ukrainian diaspora, have reasons and want to become Ukrainian citizens, however, they have to renounce their another country’s citizenship.

However, it is crucial that dual citizenship should be legalized not for all citizens. Those, who are not of Ukrainian origin, who haven’t left Ukraine for permanent residency in another country and don’t want to come back to Ukraine not losing another citizenship, shouldn’t be permitted to have dual citizenships. Otherwise, it can lead to economic and political problems.”

Risks of dual citizenship

Yaroslav Bulychov explains that there are not many possible repercussions for a person with dual citizenship. However, there are some risks for the state.

“A state considers dual citizenship from the national security’s point of view as there are such dangers: access to state secrets, risks of separatist moods arising in society; another country army’s invaliding on the ground of protecting their citizens etc. Also, dual citizenship can be a legal way of walking free and escaping criminal prosecution. On the other hand, it also can be a way to protect a person from political repression.”

However, Vasyl Cherednichenko reckons that the main risk is being neighbors with the aggressor country.

“Russian citizens can be interested in becoming Ukrainian citizens which will lead repercussions on the international arena and in the relationship with Russian Federation.

There is also a reverse process: in case Ukrainian citizens also become Russian Federation citizens, it can play an important role in justifying Russian aggression or separatism. That’s why this issue requires us to be careful and legalize dual citizenship only for certain categories of people I have mentioned before.”

This idea is also supported by Dmytro Sinchenko. He says that Russian passports of Ukrainians played into the hands of Putin during the occupation of the Crimea.

“Some of our neighbors, Russia and Hungary, in the first place, but it also concerns Poland and Romania, have granted citizenship to Ukrainians despite the Ukrainian legislation in order to start territorial disputes. Basically, that’s what Russia did in the Crimea. However, the fact of Russian citizenship held by most Crimeans wasn’t the main during the occupation of the peninsula. The language issue played a bigger role.”

Advantages of dual citizenship

Yaroslav Bulychov thinks the transformation of the institution of dual citizenship can help Ukraine integrate into the European family.

“Besides, it will give Ukrainians more freedom of movement, provide better chances for studying and working, give access to quality medical service, open opportunities for owning real estate and getting different social benefits and economic advantages, it will help to spread freedom of investments and enterprise, with saving a legislative connection with their Motherland.”

Vasyl Cherednichenko believes such changes can be useful for Ukrainian diasporas all over the world, too.

“Legalisation of dual citizenship in Ukraine will settle the situation when people of Ukrainian origin, those who have rights to become Ukrainian citizens because of territorial origins, will be able to be citizens of other countries and take part in developing the economy and political life of Ukraine.”

Dmytro Sinchenko reckons that there are more advantages than risks of dual citizenship.

“The first thing is if people don’t have to choose between citizenships of Ukraine and the USA, Canada or other wealthy countries, the Ukrainian diaspora will be able to take part in developing Ukraine. The second thing is dual citizenship will allow us to settle disputes with Hungary, with preserving language and educational principles, which are of big importance for our national safety. The third is it will increase the number of Ukrainian citizens and voters with a western mindset which will influence the political situation in the country.”

Experience of other countries

Natalia Belitser reckons that liberalization of national law systems concerning dual or multiple citizenships is a modern world tendency. However, approaches, conditions, and requirements may dramatically differ.

“For example, Latvia, which also doesn’t want dual citizenship with Russian Federation, implemented a so-called selective approach. It means they didn’t make an ‘exception’ for Russia, vice versa, they introduced a list of countries which citizens Latvians can be. The main goal of these changes was elaborating a policy which will help not only to save connections with the diaspora but also to encourage its members to take part in developing of the country.

In November 2014, the Seimas of Lithuania raised a point of dual citizenship for the first time. This issue was being discussed during several years, and on March 10, 2019, the date of the referendum was settled. Citizens will answer questions whether they agree to let people who have emigrated to countries which meet ‘criteria of Euroatlantic Integration’ have dual citizenship.

What concerns Estonia, this country failed to implement the institution of dual citizenship: on September 25, 2018, Estonian MPs didn’t support the bill that would allow dual citizenship for citizens of Estonia by birth. However, it is forbidden only de jure, but de facto, according to Article 5.3. About Citizenship, the state can’t strip citizenship from those who are Estonian citizens by birth.”

According to the expert, modern world tendencies prove the necessity for Ukraine to move towards legalization of dual citizenship.

“However, it is crucial to determine conceptional approaches and mechanisms of implementation of bills and to take into account world experience and ‘best expertise’. It would be efficient to determine certain countries Ukraine would let have dual citizenship with and criteria of the selection; the right for dual citizenship can also be exercised by signing some bilateral international treaties.”

By Dmytro Zhuravel

1 Comment

  1. Rance A.F.X. E. Nethken on

    I am an American citizen, born in the US. I would like to immigrate to Ukraine next year. I am retired from the US Air Force as well as the US Government. I am fully self-sufficient and would not be a burden on Ukraine in any way. I know ukraine does not recognize dual-citizenship; therefore I presume I would have to relenguish my American citizenship, which I would do without as prescribed by Ukrainian law. Could you offer assistance to my request?

    Rance A.F.X.E. Nethken
    MSgt, USAF/ret.
    306 S. Red Rock Point
    Payson, Arizona 85541-6293 (USA)

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