Insight Slovakia

Five reasons why Slovakia should simplify its Citizenship Amendment

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.

Reduced bureaucracy

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.

Parviz@malakoutilaw.com, www.malakoutilaw.com

8 comments on “Five reasons why Slovakia should simplify its Citizenship Amendment

  1. James Kalmer

    Don’t forget that over the course of the 20th century, regimes stripped many Slovaks of their citizenship without their knowledge or for punitive reasons. Easing dual citizenship would be, in a way, restitution to those descendants.

    • Agreed James.

      It would welcome people who are stripped under previous Slovak regimes that had values not consistent with modern Slovakia.

  2. I fundamentally disagree with the reasoning offered for the automatic extension of Slovak citizenship to descendants of Slovaks. Slovak citizenship, as with citizenship of any nation, comes with duties and responsibilities to the State and must be given the seriousness it deserves.

    The obvious first question is how would extending citizenship to foreign nationals living abroad benefit the State? The short answer is “not at all.” But let us review the author’s reasons and see how they hold up.

    1) Slovakia would benefit from an influx of human capital
    There is no barrier to foreign nationals coming to Slovakia to live and work. If you can prove some tangible value to the State, you will receive provisional residency. After five years, one can apply for permanent residency and citizenship. Just as the United States has laws and restrictions to emigration, so does Slovakia. It is no different.

    2) Boost in tourism
    Foreign nationals are free to visit Slovakia. It does not require citizenship. Come spend your money!

    3) Reduced bureaucracy
    This might be the silliest of all reasons. Name me one country without bureaucracy and I will move there.

    4) Czech and Hungarian neighbors don’t bother with a residency requirement
    I am unfamiliar with Czech law, but I am aware that Hungary has been bestowing citizenship on individuals, even those without ancestral connections to Hungary. The law was implemented to antagonize neighboring countries (like Slovakia) with large ethnic Hungarian populations.

    5) It would strengthen the Slovak community and ties abroad
    Really? How? What does that even mean? Which benefits would Slovakia receive by offering citizenship to foreigners? It is a ludicrous claim.

    I believe the underlying truth here is that Americans would like to have a European passport, kind of like winning a golden ticket in a chocolate bar. But citizenship is not a game, and a Slovak passport is not a “golden ticket.” Furthermore, Slovakia does not recognize dual citizenship.

    As an American, I have lived in Slovakia for over ten years and hold a permanent residency permit. During my time here, I have invested money, purchased property, paid taxes, and have voted in local elections. In short, I have acted like a true citizen of the State. I do not intend to renounce my American citizenship to become a Slovak citizen; the status quo suits me just fine.

    • Hi Thom,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment sharing your experiences moving and living in Slovakia.

      It sounds like your emotional criticism boils down to one idea:

      “I have had to earn citizenship the hard way therefore I want everyone else to do it the hard way.”

      My response is I’m truly sorry that you had to go through all this for citizenship and that other descendants may be offered citizenship without having to go through all you went through.

      Again, thanks for commenting and good luck to you.

      • Emotional criticism? I thought I had l laid out a pretty good argument based on sound reasoning. But some may interpret it differently.

        In any case, this is not about me. I reiterate here the question I posed earlier: What value would issuing passports to foreign nationals bring to the State? Were there compelling reasons to do so, I’m sure the administration would seriously consider it.

    • Christopher N

      “I had to suffer and work hard to get here, so why should you be able to get in without suffering?”

      I’ve often said if the requirement for citizenship in a country was being forced to have a finger removed, and someone said we should get rid of that barbaric practice, you’d have a lot of 9-fingered people angrily arguing to keep it in place.

    • Michael Alavi

      @Thom Koton “tell me you’re bitter without telling me you’re bitter.”

      You seem to have seen so much red at the idea that citizenship MIGHT became more accessible to people moving forward that you’ve managed to miss every single point of the articles case.

      1. Slovakia’s draw as a “magnet” for foreign human capital is not remotely comparable to USA’s, with all due respect to the beautiful nation of Slovakia, describing the situation as “no different” is laughable. Your counter argument says there is “no barrier” and then proceeds to describe the various barriers. You’re not even internally consistent with your own logic.

      2. Your counter equates “not needing” citizenship to visit as ironclad proof that offering citizenship would not promote tourism? I think you start with the premise of someone who is already very motivated to visit Slovakia and then say “well they don’t NEED citizenship to do that”. Ignores the several hundreds of thousands of people that may not even have Slovakia on their radar until they find out that they may be entitled to citizenship and then get curious about the country. Even a couple times googling a country and looking at pictures etc (especially such a picturesque country!) will increase the likelihood of scheduling a visit exponentially.

      3. All countries have bureaucracy, therefore simplifying the process won’t be a major motivation to people?!!! This is probably the most bizarre argument on your list.

      4. At least you’re honest on this one and half admit you don’t know what you’re talking about on this point; then you offer up the one piece of info you’ve heard on this topic, as a complete non sequitur.

      5. It’s ludicrous to claim that granting citizenship to folks would strengthen their ties to the country?! Companies give out ballpoint pens with their name on it because even that tiny gesture builds a small amount of customer loyalty, but you think issuing a passport will have no effect on how an individual perceives their relationship towards a country?!!!

  3. Many other European countries offer citizenship by descent – this is not a new concept. Why do they do it? Because ethnicity matters!

    Slovaks were one of the largest immigrant groups to North America and today Slovak students and professionals are still seeking opportunities abroad. Why wouldn’t Slovakia want to attract its educated and talented diaspora back to its borders. If one’s skills are in demand, they may fill a gap. If they work remotely for a company abroad, they spend their money in Slovakia. The argument for human capital is significant.

    I’m interested to know what the poster who fundamentally disagrees with citizenship by descent considers to be so negative about it – to me it just seems like he doesn’t understand it, and certainly not from the viewpoint of an ethnic Slovak.

Had a good read?

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