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Citizenship: dual, second and single. What’s the difference. Garegin Rubenyan

What rules govern the issue of several сitizenships in Ukraine and how these rules are applied in practice.

The relevance of the topic of dual citizenship in Ukraine goes over-the-top, many politicians and just wealthy people allow themselves to have two and three passports at the same time. What legal regime exists for persons with multiple citizenship in our country?

Let’s start with the following: where the issue of citizenship in Ukraine is enshrined.

Article 4 of the Constitution of Ukraine stipulates that there is a single citizenship in Ukraine. The grounds for the acquisition and termination of Ukrainian citizenship shall be determined by law. In addition, the special Law of Ukraine “On Citizenship” in Article 2 enshrines the principle of  single citizenship of the state of Ukraine, which excludes the possibility of the existence of citizenship of administrative divisions. Also, the Law sets forth that if a citizen of Ukraine has received citizenship (nationality) of another state or states, in legal relations with Ukraine he/she is recognized only as a citizen of Ukraine. Accordingly, if a foreigner has received citizenship of Ukraine, in legal relations with Ukraine he/she is also recognized only as a citizen of Ukraine.

And now a few more things. The principle of single citizenship is divided into two parts:

  • Inability to obtain citizenship of the administrative division of Ukraine;
  • A citizen of Ukraine who has a second citizenship, entering into civil relations with Ukraine always acts as a citizen of Ukraine.

Let’s consider each of the components separately.

The first point indicates the impossibility of obtaining citizenship of the administrative division of Ukraine. A classic example of violation of this principle is the acquisition of citizenship of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic”. Since Donetsk is an administrative division of Ukraine, obtaining its citizenship is an obvious violation of the principle of single citizenship of Ukraine. If you have a sudden wish to become a citizen not of the country as a whole, but of its separate region, for example, the city of Kyiv, then, for better or worse, you have no such opportunity under the law. The origins of this principle, of course, lie in the form of state structure. Ukraine is a unitary state, so it is difficult to imagine a situation where you are trying to get citizenship of its separate part – for example, Zhytomyr or Lviv.

An intriguing fact in Ukrainian legislation is that it does not provide for sanctions or any other penalties for violation of this principle.

The second point is rather the basis for understanding the principle of single citizenship in Ukraine. Alas, the vast majority of citizens do not understand this principle, so let’s clarify it.

Due to the existing gaps in the Ukrainian legislation, you can have an unlimited number of citizenship in practice, but in relations with Ukraine, you always act as a citizen of Ukraine only.

What does “an unlimited number of citizenships” mean? From the point of view of the Ukrainian legislation, if you wish to obtain citizenship of a country that has restrictions on the permissible citizenship for one person, then this issue will be resolved with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the relevant state. In this situation, Ukraine will not oppose you to obtain another citizenship, but in the end you will need to take into account the legislation of both countries. An approach to obtaining the third and all other new citizenships is exactly the same — it is possible only if you meet the requirements of the laws on the citizenship of absolutely all states, which passports you receive.

The concepts of second citizenship and dual citizenship should also be distinguished. The latter implies the existence of an International Treaty of Ukraine with a specific state, which, accordingly, regulates the principle and mechanism of dual citizenship, which constitute a set of mutual rights and obligations of both states in respect of such citizens. The concept of second citizenship does not imply the obligation of the state to recognize you as a citizen of two countries at the same time – in relations with each of the countries you will be considered a citizen of that state only.

We may provide Latvia as an example, where a citizen can retain his/her citizenship in the case of:

  • citizenship of another member state of the European Union or a member state of the European Free Trade Association;
  • citizenship of another member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO);
  • citizenship of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Brazilian Federal Republic, or New Zealand;
  • citizenship of the country with which Latvia has concluded an agreement on the recognition of dual citizenship (at the moment no agreement has been concluded);
  • citizenship of a country not previously mentioned, if in connection with important state interests the permission of the Cabinet of Ministers for the preservation of dual citizenship is obtained;
  • citizenship of a previously not mentioned country, if it is acquired automatically (ex-lege) at marriage or adoption.

From public sources it is known that at least a few dozen politicians in Ukraine have citizenship in addition to Ukrainian. Is it a problem? And if so, what measures can be taken? As mentioned above, there are no direct sanctions and any restrictions on citizenship in the Ukrainian legislation. (At the same time, Article 19 of the Law “On Public Service” contains a provision that prohibits persons with citizenship of another country from entering the civil service).

In Ukraine there is a mechanism of citizenship deprivation, but in practice it is absolutely ineffective as a sanction, and the possibility of its application is definitely limited. The President of Ukraine is entitled to deprive a person of his/her citizenship personally, and the existing procedure is far from perfect. However, we should consider, whether receiving of a second passport by a citizen is indeed a violation of the law As we have understood, although dual citizenship is prohibited by law, but citizens of Ukraine still have the right to obtain second, third and so on, even because of the imperfection of the national legislative system.

Of course, the issue of politicians and civil servants requires special regulation. We can definitely say that for these categories (and, perhaps, some other) it is important and necessary to comply with the restrictions even for obtaining a second citizenship. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which “dishonest” figures will not use in this case the opportunity to leave the country in search of a political asylum. Of course, this is a problem for Ukraine, because this situation makes it possible to avoid responsibility for those who should bear this responsibility.

Garegin Rubenyan, a lawyer at the Security Business Practices of Juscutum JSC

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