MPs seek end to dual citizenship ban; Latvian-Canadian asks Saeima’s help

Persons who went into exile during World War II, as well as their descendants, would be allowed dual citizenship under newly proposed amendments to Latvia’s citizenship law. Meanwhile, a Latvian-Canadian has turned to the Saeima asking it to restore her citizenship.

Six members of the Vienotība coalition—Uldis-Ivars Grava, Guntis Bērziņš, Anna Seile, Dzintars Ābiķis, Jānis Reirs and Gunārs Laicāns—proposed the amendments to the citizenship law in a bill submitted Oct. 14 in the Saeima.

Under Latvia’s current citizenship law, dual citizenship is not permitted. However, until July 1995 the law allowed exiles and their descendants to reclaim their Latvian citizenship while at the same time keeping the citizenship of their adopted homeland. A total of 30,793 persons obtained dual citizenship under the so-called transitional rule, according to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (Pilsonības un migrācijas lietu pārvalde).

The issue of dual citizenship has gained attention in the past few years because of new immigration from Latvia to countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as because of complaints from the exile community that some people either did not know of the 1995 deadline or could not complete the registration process in time.

Under the amendments proposed Oct. 14,  the restriction on dual citizenship would be lifted for children born abroad to parents who are Latvian citizens and who automatically become citizens of the other country; for persons who become citizens of another country through marriage; and for exiles and their descendants. Exiles are those people who were Latvian citizens as of June 17, 1940, and left their homeland from that date up to May 4, 1990, when the Latvian Supreme Council declared the nation’s independence from the Soviet Union.

This is not the first time Latvian politicians have sought to amend the citizenship law. For example, similar amendments pushed last year by the government coalition led by Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovkis failed to gain political support.

Vienotība, in a pre-election party meeting in July, announced that changes to the citizenship law should be on the agenda for the newly elected Saiema.

While the bill proposing the amendments would affect thousands of ethnic Latvians abroad, another bill submitted Oct. 14 seeks to restore Latvian citizenship for just one individual. Pēteris Tabūns, head of the Saeima’s commission on the citizenship law, submitted proposed legislation to recognize Latvian-Canadian Agra Vāgnere as a Latvian citizen.

According to the bill, Vāgnere, who was born in Latvia, moved to Canada in 1989 where she married an ethnic Latvian-Canadian and became a Canadian citizen. She admits failing to register as a Latvian citizen before the 1995 deadline, so now Vāgnere has turned to the Saeima commission for assistance.

Vāgnere’s contributions to the Latvian community in Canada and her work in defending Latvia’s interests abroad have earned her the right to be a Latvian citizen without giving up her Canadian citizenship, according to the bill. Among her community activities has been working with Latvian ethnic schools in Toronto, in 3×3 culture camps and the Daugavas Vanagi women’s auxiliary. She also has served with the Latvian National Federation in Canada (Latviešu Nacionālā apvienība Kanādā) and on the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība).

Vāgnere’s appeal to the citizenship commission is supported by Interior Minister Linda Mūrniece and PBLA Chairman Mārtiņš Sausiņš.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

4 thoughts on “MPs seek end to dual citizenship ban; Latvian-Canadian asks Saeima’s help

  1. While I support the review and revision of laws to extend Latvian citizenship to those in the Diaspora be it recent emigrants and their off-spring or to re-open the window for those descended from 1939 citizens of Latvia, revisions must be based on a clear set of principles and criteria, and should not be based on individual appeals however noteworthy the candidate. No doubt there are other individuals who also deserve consideration and a case-by-case approach dependent on political support in the Saeima is problematic and does not address the broader question.

  2. Atbalstu dubultpilsonibu visiem etniskiem Latvieshiem! Es esmu Latvietis un dzivoju Latvija ar savu gimeni bet esmu Krievijas pilsonis kopsh dzimshanas (Maskava). Es stradaju Krievija un man ir vajadziga Krievijas pilsoniba jo citadi atiecigi Krievijas imigracijas likumam man vajag pavadit 270 dienas gada Krievija ja es pieprasu uztureshanas atljauju. Paldies Vienotibai!

  3. Kudos to Vāgnere! Latvia has really lost the plot, the politicians can now not see the wood for the trees, Latvia’s emigration rates are so high that the streets in rural areas and in Riga are literally becoming empty. Latvians who left Latvia recently and moved to greener pastures in the EU and other countries are not only enjoying the freedom of movement, but also enjoying the lax citizenship laws of their host countries, five years, pass an fairly easy exam in english language and you are an English and/or Irish Citizen, with access to Latvia whenever you need it. Latvian government is holding onto their citizenship like it is something that no other country has or offers (The visa free travel etc). What they fail to understand that countries like Ireland and the UK have more countries they can access visa free, a better hospital and welfare system than Latvia and care more about their citizens. Latvia will have no choice but to allow dual citizenship for US – LATVIANS who may in some little way contribute to the country’s welfare, culture, development. When Latvia joined the European Union, it assumed it was bringing something unique to the table – and I agree they really did. It is our country, our motherland, our traditions, our culture, taking EU as a complete body one suddenly realizes that is a drop in the ocean. Latvia has some great ideas, however implementation most of the time lacks attention to detail, attention, and understanding of what is it that they have to do.

  4. What about my eldest daughter, who was born before I was granted citizenship? Misinformation at the enrolment center meant that she can now not be granted it whilst my youngest does. She has attended playgroup, latvian primary,high school and latvian summer camps, is in the latvian guide organisation, attends the local latvian church. Sings in a latvian choir and dances, already participating in several Latvian folkfestivals. Been to Latvia twice – Won a worldwide competition organised by IUMSIL and participated in ALA’s Sveika Latvija-even met the President twice!!! I could still go on… Despite all my letters,and the fact that she is an active member of our local latvian community and continuing to maintain her latvian heritage so strongly for a person her age (18), she cannot be granted dual citizenship! Isn’t she just as worthy? However she has not been on the PBLA commitee. Dual citizenship should not be a right for some individuals it should be for all who request it!

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