Dual Citizenship Laws of Ukraine in Historical and International Contexts

Author:Victoria Kozyr
Position:J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, May 2007

Page 1058

I Introduction

Dual or multiple citizenship1 is a growing phenomenon in today's increasingly global community. While many countries have historically been opposed to dual citizenship status, dual citizenship has grown more common in the last thirty years.2 One of the main reasons for this proliferation is that new technologies have helped to dramatically increase travel, communication, and international commerce.3 Political changes, most notably the fall of the Iron Curtain, have fostered an environment of cross-border trade and investment.4 Rising levels of education and the spread of democracy and human rights norms have also promoted the globalization of the world community.5 While it is easy to attribute increasing instances of dual citizenship to economically-motivated immigration, the economic divide between more-and less-developed countries is only one part of the dual citizenship phenomenon. Increasing numbers of people leave their countries of origin to permanently or temporarily settle in foreign countries.6 Many businesses send workers abroad; these workers sometimes establish permanent ties in their new communities while still holding on to their first national identity. Cross-national marriages have become more common and the children of these marriages often acquire dual citizenship by default.7 In fact, according to the United Nations (U.N.), more than 185 million people live outside of their country of origin.8

Page 1059

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the process of nation-building for many of the Soviet Republics meant the adoption of strict citizenship laws to emphasize their separation from Russia and to define their distinct national identity. Despite Russian attempts to promote dual citizenship, most of the former Soviet Republics, including Ukraine, do not currently recognize dual citizenship.9 However, many people do not currently live in their country of origin, and are hesitant to return for fear of losing their current citizenship. For example, Georgian President Saakashvili took extreme measures to allow dual citizenship in order to insure that Georgian migrs abroad felt safe to return to their country of origin.10

This Note focuses specifically on Ukraine and the Ukraine government's decision to ban dual citizenship. The citizenship laws of Ukraine do not recognize the status of dual citizenship. If a Ukrainian citizen voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another state, that citizen will lose his or her Ukrainian citizenship.11 This law particularly affects Ukraine and Russia because of the long common history of the two countries, including, of course, their relationship during the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This Note explores the current status of dual citizenship laws in Russia and Ukraine and proposes that the vision for the future should include a dual citizenship agreement between the two countries. Ukraine should allow its citizens to hold dual citizenship for two reasons. First, this change in the law would better reflect the current political, social, and economic situation between Russia and Ukraine. Second, it will better serve the citizens of the two countries.

Page 1060

II Background on Citizenship and Nationality: An Introduction to Dual Citizenship Laws
A Obtaining Citizenship

Most countries around the world observe one of two rules for obtaining citizenship: jus soli or jus sanguinis. Jus soli, which translates from Latin to the right of the soil, is the "rule that a child's citizenship is determined by place of birth."12 The child will obtain citizenship even if the child is born in the territory to parents who are foreigners.13 The United States, for one, adopted and strictly applies the rule of jus soli.14 This rule is affirmed in the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that "all persons born . . . in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."15

Most countries, however, adhere to the rule of jus sanguinis.16 Translated from Latin, this means a right of blood. This rule states that the citizenship of the parents determines the citizenship of the child.17 Therefore, citizenship is transmitted through parental bloodlines. Countries that utilize jus sanguinis are more exclusive than those that adhere to the jus soli rule since they ascribe citizenship based on bloodlines.18 "This reliance has led many academic and popularPage 1061 observers to attribute a jus sanguinis regime to the ethnic character of its framer's conception of nationhood and to serve as a general expression of the state's national self-understanding."19

In jus soli rule countries, citizenship can also be acquired by registration,20 marriage, adoption, naturalization, and the "territorial transfer from one state to another."21 Registration allows certain persons to acquire citizenship without meeting all naturalization requirements specified by the destination country.22 This process usually requires the migrant to have blood ties to the country of destination, such as close relatives who are citizens of that country, or to marry a citizen of the country.

In many countries, marriage allows a person to become a citizen without having to fulfill naturalization requirements.23 Normally, however, naturalization involves a very formal process that requires the immigrant to meet various criteria, and citizenship is not guaranteed until these criteria are met.24 Some of the criteria include an application, a minimum age of eighteen years (otherwise parents' naturalization automatically grants the child citizenship), prior admission as a legal permanent resident, a specific period of residence (in the United States, this period is five years), familiarity with the language and culture of the country, and an oath of allegiance.25 Finally, applicants may be required to renounce other citizenships.26 Since most states apply these criteria in different ways, the overlap of one or more of these criteria may in some instances lead to automatic acquisition of dual citizenship, as discussed infra, Part C.27

Page 1062

B Loss of Citizenship

People can lose citizenship either voluntarily or involuntarily.28 Most countries have specific procedures for voluntarily renouncing citizenship. Most of the time, these steps involve paperwork, which can be obtained at the particular country's embassy. In rare circumstances, as in Argentina, a person must return to the country of origin in order to renounce citizenship.29 On the other hand, the United States requires the voluntary renunciation of citizenship to take place at a U.S. Consulate abroad, rather than on U.S. territory.30 Involuntary loss of citizenship is most relevant to this discussion. Most countries automatically withdraw a person's citizenship if that person voluntarily accepts citizenship from another country.31

C Defining Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship is the possession of two citizenships at the same time.32 Most countries only began to accept or tolerate dual citizenship within the last thirty years.33 Today, the combination of certain citizenship laws automatically allows certain individuals to acquire two nationalities at the same time.

The most common way to possess dual citizenship is to marry a citizen of another country.34 However, in many nations, these rules differ with regard to men and women.35 In some countries, a woman who marries a foreigner will automatically lose her citizenship and assumePage 1063 the citizenship of her husband. This was the case in the United States until 1932.36

Dual citizenship may also be acquired by adoption, where the adoptive parents are citizens of another country.37 This means that adopted children are allowed to maintain their original citizenship and also acquire the citizenship of their new parents.

Dual citizenship may also occur automatically by birth in a country with jus soli citizenship law to parents who are citizens of a country with jus sanguinis citizenship law, therefore incorporating the two principles.38 If all countries applied either the jus soli or the jus sanguinis rule, the cases of dual citizenship would dramatically decrease since citizenship could only be obtained either through descent or being born on the territory of a country. However, the fact that most countries apply one rule or the other results in people automatically acquiring dual citizenship at birth.39 The trend is that most countries of immigration, such as the United States, usually employ a strict application of jus soli, while most countries of emigration, such as Russia and Ukraine, have chosen to emphasize the traditional rule of jus sanguinis.40

How nations choose to apply varying citizenship laws highlights the importance of understanding the historical, social, and economic background of the...

To continue reading