分类: parviz malakouti

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Czechia: Hidden Citizenship-by-Descent Gem? New Data Suggests So

 

 

Since September 2019, Czechia has allowed the descendants of former Czech and Czechoslovak citizens to the second generation (grandchildren) to claim citizenship by descent, thanks to Section 31(3) of an amendment to the Act on the Citizenship of the Czech Republic (“ACCR”). Former citizens have been allowed to claim their lost Czech or Czechoslovak citizenship since the new Czech Citizenship Act was passed into law back in 2014.

Czechia’s 2019 amendment is the penultimate law among the Visegrád countries furthering the region’s complete trend towards liberalization of citizenship by descent. As we wrote in March, Czechia’s southern neighbor, Slovakia, is currently on deck with its pending citizenship draft amendment proposing citizenship by descent to third generation descendants (great-grandchildren). 

Key Eligibility Point of Czech Article 31(3) Amendment

Article 31(3) applies to children and grandchildren of Czech or Czechoslovak citizens, given that those ancestors have lost their citizenship at some point. 

An important element of this law is that these descendants may claim their citizenship “by declaration” which means they are legally entitled to citizenship, taking discretion out of the hands of Czech authorities in the adjudication of the application (so long as they meet the formal requirements). Furthermore, this means applicants neither have to provide evidence of good character nor possess any Czech language skills.

The condition of loss of Czech/Czechoslovak citizenship means that this provision generally provides eligibility to two categories of applicants: 

  1. those whose ancestors emigrated to countries, which had signed treaties with Czechoslovakia banning dual citizenship (most notably the United States and almost all USSR-sphere-of-influence countries); and 
  2. those whose parents naturalized abroad after the Czech Republic became independent in 1993.

As a practical matter, a common scenario would look like this. In 1922, a Czechoslovak citizen (“Mr. Novak”) from the area now part of modern day Czechia leaves Czechoslovakia to emigrate to Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Novak is present in the United States until naturalizing in the United States, thereby losing his Czechoslovak citizenship. Fast forward to today, and as descendants of this former Czechoslovak citizen, Mr. Novak’s children and grandchildren would likely qualify under Czechia’s Section 31(3). 

So by now, planeloads of newly minted dual Czech-American citizens should be raring to raid the streets of Prague to drink fake absinthe and stuff their faces with trdelník, right? 

Not so fast. 

New Data Reveals Anemic Naturalization Rate with New Law

Thanks to a recent Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request by the authors of this article, the numbers released by the Czech Ministry of Interior show that since the ACCR was amended in September 2019 to include the descendants of former citizens (per Section 31(3)), only 280 applicants worldwide have successfully applied during the period of September, 2019 to April 9th, 2021 (the termination of the FOIA’s date range). Unfortunately, the figures in the FOIA do not reveal the total number of applications made during the same timeframe. 

For context, in the United States alone, over 1.2 million people claimed full or partial Czech descent in the 2000 U.S. National census. 

With presumably at least tens of thousands of eligible applicants worldwide, stunningly only the equivalent of a university lecture hall’s attendance have successfully applied for Czech citizenship under Section 31(3). 

Possible Causes for Slow Pace of Naturalizations

Despite the recent global economic downturn, one assumes that Czechia’s Section 31(3)’s $23 citizenship application fee is not cost prohibitive for applicants. 

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for potential applicants is the fact that the statute requires loss of citizenship on the ancestor’s part. As mentioned earlier, this only occurred in cases in which Czech/Czechoslovak ancestors who emigrated to certain countries antagonistic to dual citizenship at the time. Counterintuitive to our typical notions of citizenship by descent, under Czech Section 31(3), an applicant only qualifies if their ancestor lost their Czechoslovak or Czech citizenship by any means. 

Nevertheless, as one of those countries is the United States, which possesses the largest Czech diaspora in the world, it is astounding that more Czech/Czechoslovak descendants have not utilized this option of citizenship by descent to gain permanent access to Europe.  

From their experience discussing this Czech law with dozens of Czechoslovak and Czech ancestors, these authors believe that applicant doubt regarding eligibility may be resulting in a low application rate.  

Another possible contributing factor may be a lack of knowledge of family history among potentially qualifying applicants. Quite simply, many would-be applicants are not even aware that they are the descendant of a former Czechoslovak citizen.  

Key to Screening: Determining the Last Czech/Czechoslovak Citizen in an Applicant’s Family Line

With the investment migration market growing in the United States, it is reasonable to assume that potential CBI clients will start to take a harder look at the family tree in their bid to acquire mobility assets. 

For the purposes of Czech Section 31(3), investment migration professionals should screen clients who may have Central European ancestry. Extra attention should be given to screening clients from Czech-heavy areas of Chicago, Illinois, and the state of Texas. 

Professionals should also take extra care with the tricky business of determining which ancestor in an applicant’s lineal history was the last in the line to have had Czechoslovak or Czech citizenship, as that qualifying relative is often not the last relative born in Czechoslovakia. Such a determination often determines an analysis of bilateral citizenship treaties requiring the expertise of a professional. 

Lastly, any indication from a client that they have ancestry from any of the Visegrád Four (Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary) should serve as a big blue and gold-starred flag that the client should be properly and thoroughly screened for citizenship-by-descent eligibility. 

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The post Czechia: Hidden Citizenship-by-Descent Gem? New Data Suggests So appeared first on Investment Migration Insider.

Malakouti: The Guardian Reaching to Find “Loophole” in Malta

 

Last Thursday’s The Guardian article titled “Revealed: residency loophole in Malta’s cash-for-passports scheme” only revealed itself to be an overpromising non-exposé. 

More sizzle than steak

The piece’s sensational title fizzles down to the humdrum “discovery” that some applicants to Malta’s citizenship by investment program only spend the minimum amount of time in Malta required by the program in order to satisfy the EU’s “genuine link” requirement [which, in any case, is an illegal argument]. 

Citizenship applicants the world over often complete the minimum statutory requirements to obtain the benefit. Immigration professionals and adjudicators alike know that this is hardly a revelation or a loophole. 

The core problem with The Guardian’s article is that instead of posing the simple but challenging question of whether Malta should be required to demand more physical presence of applicants (the intellectually honest framing of the issue), the article starts at the finish line by strongly implying from the get-go that residency with a “minimal” amount of physical presence is a “loophole” or “sham.” 

It’s a false insinuation that the authors likely employed due to either temptation to sensationalize or lack of understanding.

In fact, residence and physical presence are two separate concepts. Residence requirements for naturalization in some countries require significant physical presence whereas some countries require less or even no minimum statutory physical presence.

Unfortunately, the average The Guardian reader, unaware of this diversity in the world’s residence regimes, may have fallen prey to the article’s insinuating language regarding Malta’s program applicants. 

After all, melodramatic titles with the terms “revealed”, “loophole”, and “cash” sell better than the dry language of sober EU citizenship policy questions. 

The Guardian overreached on this one. 

More Opinion

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Parviz Malakouti: That CBI applicants the world over often complete the minimum statutory requirements to get the benefit is no “revelation”.

Many Americans still harbor serious myths and misunderstandings about alternative residences and citizenships, writes David Lesperance.

İsrafil Kahraman recounts five anecdotes of investors who had their Turkey citizenship applications rejected because of simple mistakes.

 

The post Malakouti: The Guardian Reaching to Find “Loophole” in Malta appeared first on Investment Migration Insider.

Slovakia to Grant Citizenship by Descent up to 3rd Generation: 800,000 Americans Could Qualify

 

 

Last Tuesday, Slovakia’s cabinet approved their proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act (no. 40/1993), finally addressing a sensitive issue in the small Central European country of restoring former Slovak and Czechoslovak citizens who were stripped of their citizenship in 2011.

Embedded in this proposed amendment lies a little-regarded provision which may have a big impact on the castle-dotted country of four and a half million, as well as the greater European migration community. The bill includes an offer of citizenship by descent up to the third generation (great-grandchildren) of former Czechoslovak and Slovak citizens.  

Bojnice castle in Slovakia : castles
Bojnice castle: Slovakia has more castles per capita than any other country.

The offer of citizenship has no Slovak language proficiency requirement, nor any history or cultural familiarity test. It is currently undetermined whether the applicant will have to be present in Slovakia to apply.  

Under normal circumstances, Slovakia offers an enviable passport with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 181 countries, as well as residency and work authorization throughout the European Union (EU).  

A parliamentary vote in Bratislava is expected by the end of March and the amendment is expected to be handily approved.    

Professionals in the Worldwide Slovak-Diaspora Following Closely 
While detailed information regarding this expected citizenship expansion has yet to proliferate greatly throughout the international migration services industry, some ethnic Slovaks in the United States are watching closely and wading into the political discussion from across the Atlantic.  

Leading the way in advocating for this bill’s passage on behalf of the Slovak diaspora is “One Slovak Family.” This group is comprised of Slovak professionals (including the authors of this article) who have galvanized to unite the Slovak diaspora and advocate for the passage of this proposed citizenship amendment. 

One Slovak Family’s leadership core of immigration experts and university professors have been in dialogue with allies in the Slovak government, news media, and Slovak cultural organizations with a stake in the proposed legislation.  

Ethnic Slovaks worldwide have also organized themselves into a Facebook group called “Slovak Living Abroad Certificate & Slovak Citizenship” to share information on this exciting development.  

Slovakia for Business? 
Since the 2000s, Slovakia has been known as the “Central European Tiger” thanks to restriction-loosening reforms that have helped attract foreign investment and complete its transition to a functioning, free-market democracy. Many foreign firms have established branches in Slovakia and the last three years, in particular, have seen Slovakia enjoy a slow but steadily growing buzz among those in the “digital nomad” community exploring options for foreign incorporation. In big business, the automotive industry, in particular, is credited with driving much of Slovakia’s recent economic growth.

As governments around Europe look for new ways to stimulate business growth, which has been hampered by the pandemic, more nations are experimenting with new solutions such as liberalizing descent-based migration and courting the fast-expanding “digital nomad” community.  Slovakia estimates that about one million Slovaks and their descendants live outside of Slovakia. Attracting even a fraction back to Slovakia could prove crucial in helping the region economically.

The Upshot for Migration Professionals
With an estimated 800,000 members, the United States has the largest Slovak diaspora in the world by far, followed by the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Canada. We predict that interest will continue to be most keen amongst Slovaks from non-EU states, (including the newly-single UK) who desire ultimate freedom of movement and to stay in Slovakia and the EU.  

Migration professionals should now add Slovakia to the list of countries to screen clients for when exploring options for a coveted second passport. Extra attention should be given when screening individuals from the Slovak-dense American states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.  

Due to the generous extension of eligibility to the third-generation descendant, potential applicants may earn eligibility through any one of up to fourteen direct ascendants. Given that even a single Czechoslovak or Slovak great-grandparent could be a qualifying relative, these authors conservatively predict that at least 20% of future qualifying applicants will not be aware of their eligibility. Migration professionals should be prepared for a number of these clients to initially present as potential investment or employment-based migration prospects.  

Determining finer points of eligibility will require a delicate legal analysis due to the last 110 tumultuous years in the region including a split from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, two world wars, communist dictatorship, and partition from big brother Czechia.  

After the parliamentary vote in March, we will analyze the citizenship amendment in its final form and publish a follow-up article for our readers.  

More Policy Updates

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