How exactly should Slovakia offer citizenship to its diaspora?
Slovakia is currently considering this question via a new amendment to its citizenship law, which includes an exciting citizenship-by-descent provision. As I wrote about in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the citizenship-by-descent amendment is causing a buzz among Slovak descendants worldwide, as well as spurring an initiative to nudge Bratislava to streamline its citizenship by descent provision.
Slovak descendants worldwide (including this author) want Bratislava to streamline the process by ditching the requirement that applicants be in a period of residency when applying for citizenship.
Although initially scheduled for a second reading in Parliament earlier this month, the draft’s second reading has been postponed to the parliamentary session beginning June 15, 2021. Slovak members of Parliament are expected to discuss the amendment and possibly make changes. If the amendment is passed by Parliament, the earliest implementation date would be this fall.
Here are five reasons why Slovakia’s parliament should simplify the proposed citizenship amendment by removing the residency requirement and passing the proposed law.
Slovakia would benefit from an influx of human capital
Slovakia should simplify its citizenship amendment for the sake of its own demographic survival.
Slovakia famously lost one third of its population in the decade before World War I – the most of any country in Europe. Furthermore, Slovakia suffers from a low fertility rate (1.52 births per woman in 2020), well below the rate needed to even sustain its population, let alone to grow.
Slovakia needs people and has a willing diaspora. Looking first to children of its own former citizens is the easy and sensible solution. Of course not all foreign Slovaks whoare granted citizenship will move to Slovakia. But a percentage of them will do so and provide much needed human capital to the country.
The ones who stay in their country will naturally look more towards Slovakia for future economic opportunities whether in-person or in our increasingly virtual business environment.
Boost in tourism
It’s no secret that tourists visit places to which they feel a connection.
Granting a right of citizenship to the descendants of Slovaks would create a new group of people with a formal connection to the country. It’s inevitable that this would spur an increase in tourism from Slovaks abroad wanting to explore not only their heritage, but also their new recognized nationality.
Of course one doesn’t necessarily need Slovak citizenship to visit Slovakia but it certainly provides a powerful incentive for Slovak descendants to want to spend more time visiting, and investing emotionally and economically into the country.
Just the news last summer of this possible amendment has been enough for 1,100+ Slovaks (including this author) to self-organize into the facebook group Slovak Living Abroad Certificate & Slovak Citizenship where they optimistically discuss plans for spending time in Slovakia post-pandemic.
Nobody likes pointless paperwork, so it should be tossed.
In the draft amendment’s current form, new applicants applying for citizenship would have to be in a period of residency. This means for every citizenship by descent applicant received by Slovak consulates, they would also have to process a needless Slovak residency application as well.
There’s no need to further burden Slovak consulates worldwide. Furthermore, all
background checks and due diligence can easily be completed as part of the citizenship application, just as they are handled in applications for the Slovak Living Abroad certificate.
Let’s remove this wasteful, kafkaesque residency requirement so that qualifying citizenship applicants would be able to apply for citizenship straight away without piling more papers on the desks of overworked government employees.
Czech and Hungarian neighbors don’t bother with a residency requirement
You shouldn’t always follow your neighbor’s lead, but when all of them are going in one direction, you should at least take a look. As of 2019, Czechia has offered its descendants citizenship by descent. Hungary has famously offered its descendants citizenship since 2011.
These neighbors of Slovakia have one thing in common – neither of them require their applicants to have even a single day of residency in the country before applying for citizenship by descent.
Having a residency requirement is quite abnormal in this context and many Slovak descendants also have Czech or Hungarian ancestry which make them eligible in those countries.
If Slovakia keeps its current, baffling residency requirement, it would be on an island in the Visegrad, and would continue to lose mixed-ancestry applicants to neighboring Czechia and Hungary that open their arms to their diaspora by having a streamlined citizenship process.
It would strengthen the Slovak community and ties abroad
Slovakia has a self-stated interest in nurturing and helping “foreign Slovak” communities grow through its Slovak Living Abroad office and its foreign consulates.
There are over one million descendants of Slovaks worldwide, plenty of which are
fiercely proud of their Slovak heritage. Many of them identify as Slovak, maintain the customs, celebrate the holidays, and speak the language.
Simplifying its citizenship by descent provision would result in a net increase in dual Slovak citizens, the majority of which would be in the United States.
The United States already permits multiple citizenship (as do the vast majority of western countries), and allowing these individuals who already identify as Slovak to be formally recognized would further galvanize these cultural communities abroad and strengthen their attachment to Slovakia.
Win-win for Slovakia & Slovaks abroad
Removing the residency requirement from the current draft citizenship amendment would be economically beneficial for Slovakia, more efficient, and would reflect the values of a new modern Slovakia continuing to step onto the world stage.
Slovaks abroad want it and Slovakia needs it.
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald
Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald is a Los Angeles-based immigration attorney at the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti and an adjunct professor of immigration law at Nevada State College. Parviz is also of mixed Slovak/European and Iranian heritage.