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Dual Citizenship

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Armenia allows dual citizenship now, and grants citizenship to any Armenian anywhere in the world, or their spouse and children. The application process can be mysterious, though in theory it is not complicated.

How to apply for Armenian Citizenship

Requirements

This section is relevant to everyone, but is most directly relevant to Armenians from Western countries residing applying in Armenia.

In order to apply for Armenian citizenship in Armenia, you need the following things:

  1. 1,000 dram fee ($2 US, yes, it's very cheap to apply)
  2. Your passport
  3. Perhaps your birth certificate (it's not clear to me if this is necessary if you already have proof of being Armenian through another means)
  4. 6 passport photos
  5. Proof that you are Armenian (at least one of your grandparents so far as I understand it)
  • below is a list of documents that qualify as proof, you only need one of these
    • a baptismal certificate from the Armenian Church stating your nationality is Armenian
    • a baptismal certificate of one of your parents from the Armenian Church stating your nationality is Armenian
    • a birth certificate from a country that states your nationality as Armenian
    • a birth certificate from a country that states one of your parents nationality as Armenian

If you are not Armenian, but are married to an Armenian, your spouse needs to be an Armenian citizen before you can apply with your marriage license.

IMPORTANT NOTE! Before bringing US Government documents such as a birth certificate, marriage license or name change certificate to Armenia, you must have an Apostille stamp them in the USA. You do NOT need an Apostille stamp for your baptismal certificate or passport however. Apostilles are not always easy to find, but they can be found online and get everything done by mail and electronically. There is a link to a very helpful one here.

Process

In Yerevan, there is at least one company that will help you fill out your citizenship application for a very small fee. They have a lot of experience with the process, know what is being asked and what is important, and can fill it out in front of you in a matter of minutes. They can also do translations of necessary documents (like your foreign passport) and notarize them. They can also take your necessary photos. It's a one-stop shop. This office can make preparing your application very very easy. You can of course do it yourself, but this is a very easy and cheap alternative, by people with a lot of experience. Just ask the people at OVIR where you can go for this service.

When/If you find this office, tell them you need assistance with your citizenship application.

  • Someone will take your documents, look them over, and have the necessary ones which are in English translated and notarized by the next day. 3 to 4,000 dram ($10) per notarized page translation.
  • They will also take your 6 passport photos for you for around 1,500 dram.
  • Then they will fill out the 4 page application for you in Armenian. This costs about 1,200 dram. Questions are relatively basic. Education, Profession, Employment, the names of your parents (and their fathers names), siblings, spouse and children, and some other pretty easy questions. They will help you to fill this stuff out.
  • They will put all of these documents into a plastic sleeve for you, and xerox copies of whatever you need (50 dram a page), and you are done preparing your application with one exception, the bank fee.
  • You pay your 1,000 dram application fee at any bank. You tell them the account number they will give you at this application office, and say you need to pay a 1,000 dram fee for dual citizenship. You need your passport to do this, and they'll give you a receipt you must sign and take back to put in your packet. There is a 100 dram fee in addition to your 1,000 dram payment for processing.

When your packet is ready, you walk into OVIR, head to the room that takes applications and ignore anyone waiting. Just walk in, hand them your packet, and say you'll be waiting outside. Then, you wait outside until they call on you. Some times of the week are much busier than others, so if it is very busy you may be better off walking in and asking when a better time to come back is. First thing in the morning is often a good window.

When they do call you in and accept your application. You sign it. They give you a webpage address where in a month and a half they say you can track your application process. And then you wait for them to finish. They say it takes 6 to 12 months. Most people seem to get it in 6 months. If you want it sooner, tell them, they may be able to rush it for you in 2 or 3 months, but I don't know what the deal is with that.

Dual Citizenship: An Interview with Vahan Hovhannesian

The Armenian Weekly On-Line
80 Bigelow Avenue
Watertown MA 02472 USA
(617) 926-3974
armenianweekly@hairenik.com
http://www.armenianweekly.com

The Armenian Weekly; Volume 73, No. 32; August 11, 2007

Interviews:

Dual Citizenship: An Interview with Vahan Hovhannesian
By Khatchig Mouradian


On February 26, the Armenian National assembly passed a law allowing dual citizenship. In this interview, conducted in Washington on April 23, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Vahan Hovhannissian discusses the importance of that law.

Khatchig Mouradian-My first question goes beyond the legalities of the dual citizenship law. In a sense, the dual citizenship law could bring the two divided wings of the Armenian nation together. What are your thoughts on this matter?

Vahan Hovhannisian-First, I must say that the passage of the dual citizenship law will be considered one of the greatest victories of the ARF in this term of the National Assembly. As you know, the law wasn't passed easily. But at the end, it passed more or less the way we wanted it to. In the beginning, constitutional obstacles to dual citizenship were removed, and then the law itself was passed. Now the third act remains: the implementation of the law on the ground and the coordination of details. How do people apply? What documents will they need to present? How will the applications be processed?

You are right to point out that the law has many different layers. On the one hand, it has a huge moral significance. As we all know, the Armenian diaspora was not the result of emigration, it was the result of the genocide when people were forced to leave their homeland. Thus, if the homeland, though not complete, has been able to achieve independence, then it is forced to give all of its children the right to citizenship. In our opinion this law should have been passed as early as 1991, as soon as Armenia became independent. Due to various political reasons, that was not accomplished. But at least now we have been able to bring this process to its end, and now any Armenian who would like to receive Armenian citizenship can do so, thus gaining the rights of any citizen, not limited to voting.

Here I must emphasize that I hope the number of applications will be plentiful and the number of Armenian citizens will grow. In the international theater, a country with a population of three million and another country with a population of five million carry different weight. The dual citizenship law must strengthen Armenian's position.

Aside from that, the introduction of dual citizenship in Armenia will encourage investments. It is one thing to make investments in Armenia out of a feeling of moral obligation toward the homeland. It is an entirely different thing to be a citizen and a full participant of the civic life of the nation, whether in politics, in the social sphere, or in other spheres.

In one word, the law will create new waves of Armenians heading toward Armenia. Thus, the law will have far-reaching positive results.

K.M.-Perhaps this was more widely felt in the past, but there are some in Armenia who say that the diaspora did not go through the difficult times that Armenians in Armenia had to endure in the last decade, and claim that this should be taken into consideration when thinking about dual citizenship. What do you think?

V.H.-Such thinking easily crumbles in the face of criticism, since a large section of the Armenian population did not go through those difficult days either, and did not participate in the war. The Armenian authorities back then shielded their sons from military service, had electricity and heating, and did not share the people's suffering. Can we take away their citizenship because of this? I think this line of thinking is madness, especially since there is a price to pay for becoming a dual citizen of Armenia-that is, a dual citizen cannot run for the presidency or for a seat in the National Assembly. I think from the point of view of fairness, this law is perfect.

K.M.-Naturally the passing of this law was welcomed by the diaspora. The question in the minds of diaporan Armenians is when and how will this law be implemented? Can applications only be filed in Armenia or will embassies also be accepting them?

V.H.-We didn't get to discuss the concrete steps to implement the law because the elections are upon us and naturally the Assembly is on a hiatus. But I think this will be one of the first issues discussed after the elections. A committee has already been established that is dealing with the details, including how one applies, what documents are needed, how applicants will have to prove their Armenian origin, etc. There are some points that need to be fine-tuned, and some time will be needed, but I think it is a matter of weeks and that it will be resolved quickly after the elections.

In reality, there are no obstacles for applying now. Meaning, just like before, any individual who wants Armenian citizenship must apply to the President of the Republic. It is natural, of course, that under the circumstances a new process for the applications must be created. It is also not a secret that the security services will need to review applications, as some will attempt to abuse the system.

K.M.-What are the expectations from those who will benefit from the dual citizenship law? What are their duties and what will they gain?

V.H.-As far as the Armenian government is concerned, dual citizens are first and foremost citizens of Armenia. Where their other citizenship was issued is of no interest to us. As such, they have the same duties toward the Republic as any Armenian citizen would. That includes serving in the military and other duties. Of course, when an individual is a citizen of Armenia and another country, we cannot allow him or her to become an Assembly member or President. But that doesn't mean dual citizens will never be able to serve in those posts. After living in Armenia for 10 years, they may give up their other citizenship and receive full rights. There is one problem: How are people to pay taxes? There are international tax agreements and Armenia has signed such agreements with many countries. These will ensure that the individual doesn't pay the same tax twice in two separate countries. And of course, those who have served in another army for 12 months will not have to complete compulsory military service in Armenia. Also, those who are past the age of 27 will not have to serve in the military, Dual citizens are also completely under the jurisdiction of the Armenian government. For example-and this is a rather bad example-if an individual commits a crime, the Armenian authorities will consider him as an Armenian citizen, and the individual won't be able to claim, say, that he is a citizen of the U.S., or Syria, or France, and that he would like to be tried in those countries under their penal codes. As far as the authorities are concerned, a dual citizen of Armenia is a citizen of Armenia, and so if you were to commit a crime in Armenia, the Armenian authorities would prosecute you based on the Armenian penal code. The Armenian government's approach to dual citizens is identical to the approach used by the United States. The U.S., too, recognizes dual citizenships, but treats all of its citizens, including its dual citizens, the same way. Armenia will do the same.

K.M.-In your view, what will the future bring and are there concerns for possible obstacles? Is it possible that the law will be transformed into an internal political tool?

V.H.-I don't think that's a concern, because in essence no one was opposed to the concept of dual citizenship. People's hesitance had much more to do with voting rights-that is, there was the impression among many that diasporan Armenians, by becoming citizens of Armenia, were mostly going to vote for the ARF. This view, by the way, is far from the truth. I don't think that kind of vote will be large enough to have any effect on today's political landscape. On the other hand, if we really want the diaspora to be a political presence in our country, if we really want to create one nation in one state, and if we truly want to attract Western Armenians-the diaspora-into our political life, we must allow for their political preferences. So yes, all of those political parties that have come alive in Armenia over the last few years should start taking into consideration the interests of the diasporans, so they can gain their votes. This is a very normal process and there shouldn't be any problems, especially since in the future the flow towards Armenia should be large. But I don't think there will be enough applications in the next few months or enough citizenships granted that there will be a political imbalance in Armenia. I don't think it will happen and I think the fears that it will are not grounded in reality.

K.M.-You said that this law would allow the Diaspora to inch closer toward Armenia. As for the opposite effect-how will it move Armenia closer to the diaspora?

V.H.-Here the issue is dual. If citizens of Armenia today were to gain citizenship in another country, they would not be immune from their obligations, such as serving in the Armenian army. This is one serious problem. The second problem is the issue of the Armenian population in Russia, who have close ties to Armenia, yet value their ties with Russia. We must work with the Russian authorities and come to some kind of agreement regarding the status of the Armenian population there, since it is the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia.

As for the rapprochement between Armenia and the diaspora, I think that's going to take some time because the division between Western and Eastern Armenians, which was forcefully and artificially created by our enemies, was performed a long time ago. The division has been made. In that rapprochement between Eastern and Western Armenians, whole mentalities have to be reconciled with each other. And the issue is not just economic, it's not about investing in Armenia or buying a house in Armenia. It is about Armenian grammatical rules, the literary language of Western Armenians and Eastern Armenians-which Armenian children in both Armenia and the Diaspora should start studying in equal amounts. These are very serious and far-reaching issues that need to be resolved. This rapprochement won't be easy. For example, Armenia can't just move a magic wand and pass a law forcing classical orthographic rules down peoples' throats, because that means whole libraries will have to be corrected and a whole generation that doesn't know the rules will become illiterate. Instead, this change requires long-winded efforts as well as a government plan. We have had a few Armenia-Diaspora summits to find solutions to these issues. Unfortunately, the solutions have not yet been found. The Armenia-Diaspora rapprochement, unfortunately, has not yet occurred.

See also