Estonian nationality law
Estonian citizenship - based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis - is governed by the 19th January 1995 law promulgated by the Riigikogu which took effect on the 1st April 1995. The Citizenship and Migration Board (Estonia) is responsible for processing applications and enquiries concerning Estonian citizenship.
Resolution Concerning the Citizenship of the Democratic Republic of Estonia, the first Estonian citizenship law was adopted by the Estonian National Council on November 26, 1918. According to the law all people who
1) were permanent residents on the day the law came into force on the territory of the Republic of Estonia;
2) prior to the Estonian Declaration of Independence on 24 February 1918 had been subjects of the Russian State;
3) were entered in the parish registers or originated from the territory of Estonia,
regardless of their ethnicity and faith were proclaimed Estonian citizens.
The Citizenship Law adopted in 1922 defined the principles of succession by applying the jus sanguinis principle.
Eligibility for Estonian citizenship
Children born to parents, at least one of whom was Estonian citizen at the time of birth (regardless of the place of birth) are automatically considered Estonian citizens by descent.
By place of birth
Children born in Estonia are eligible for Estonian citizenship if at least one parent holds Estonian citizenship at the time of birth.
A person who married an Estonian citizen before the 26th February 1992 is eligible for Estonian citizenship.
Those seeking to become Estonian citizens via naturalisation require to fulfill the following criteria:
- applicant is aged 15 or over
- resided in Estonia legally for at least eight years and from that last five years permanent stay in Estonia
- be familiar in the Estonian language. People who have graduated from an Estonian-speaking high school or an institute of higher education are assumed to fulfill this criterion without the need to take a full examination.
- take an examination demonstrating familiarity with the Estonian Constitution
- showing a demonstrated means of support
- taking an oath of loyalty
Those who have committed serious crimes or are foreign military personnel on active duty are ineligible to seek naturalisation as an Estonian citizen.
Duties and rights of Estonian citizenship
'Undefined citizenship' (Estonian: kodakondsuseta isik, Russian: негражданин) is a term used in Estonia to denote a post-Soviet form of statelessness. It is applied to those migrants from former Soviet republics and their children, who were unable or unwilling to pursue any country's citizenship after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia being a successor state to the Soviet Union, all former USSR citizens qualified for citizenship of Russian Federation, available upon mere request, as provided by the law “On the RSFSR Citizenship” in force up to end of 2000. Estonia's policy of requiring naturalisation of post-war immigrants was in part influenced by Russia's citizenship law and the desire to prevent dual citizenship.
Stateless persons who reside legally in Estonia can apply for an alien's passport. Estonian alien's passport allows visa-free travel within Schengen treaty countries for a maximum of 90 days in a 6-month period.
Although not legally permitted, some naturalised Estonian citizens also possess another, e.g., Russian citizenship. According to law, acquiring a foreign citizenship voluntarily and entering into a military or civilian service for another state constitute forfeiture of Estonian citizenship. In effect, this forfeiture requirement applies to naturalised Estonian citizens only, because, according to the constitution, Estonian citizenship obtained by descent is inalienable and cannot be taken away by anyone else other than the citizenship holder.
Citizenship of the European Union
Estonian citizens are also citizens of the European Union and thus enjoy: rights of free movement and have the right to vote in elections for the European Parliament, Voting in municipal elections: a right to vote and stand in local elections in an EU state other than their own, under the same conditions as the nationals of that state (Article 22).. etc.. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizenship_of_the_European_Union )
The situation in Estonia and Latvia has been characterized by scholars as a closed and semi-exclusive "Ethnic Model" of citizenship, designed to safeguard and reinforce the interests and well-being of the majority ethnic groups in the republics (Estonians, Latvians) at the expense of non-native residents (predominantly ethnic Russians and Ukrainians) who are unable to vote, stand for election or receive the full benefits of citizenship. This has been accomplished by granting citizenship predominantly through Jus Sanguinis (right by blood/descent) as outlined above.
This can be contrasted with the more inclusive "Civic Model" of citizenship adopted by other post-Soviet states, whereby anyone born in the republic or a citizen of the former USSR may qualify for citizenship due to Jus Soli. This ensures that all residents regardless of ethnicity, can receive the full benefits of citizenship (suffrage, standing for elective office etc.) and fully participate in the national public-life. The interests of the majority ethic-group will be safeguarded through their possessing the majority of votes in elections, and may be reinforced through educational measures such as instruction in the national language in schools. The "Civic Model" by granting citizenship rights to all residents, precludes the existence of stateless persons and non-citizens, thus ensuring a smoother integration of minorities within the nation state.
Peter Van Elsuwege, a scholar in European law at Ghent University, however counters that the Estonian law is grounded upon the established legal principle that persons who settle under the rule of an occupying power gain no automatic right to nationality. A number of historic precedents support this, according to Van Elsuwege, most notably the case of Alsace-Lorraine when the French on recovering the territory in 1918 did not grant citizenship to German settlers despite Germany having annexed the territory 47 years earlier in 1871.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and UN Special Rapporteur on racism Doudou Diene recommend to Estonia simplifying naturalization generally or for the elderly and economically marginalized, as well as encouraging registration of children born in Estonia after 1991 as its citizens.
- "Birth of a State: Formation of Estonian Citizenship (1918-1922)". the Directorate General for Research of the European Commission, CLIOHRES.net. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
- The Policy of Immigration and Naturalization in Russia: Present State and Prospects, by Sergei Gradirovsky et al.
- Wayne C. Thompson, Citizenship and borders: Legacies of Soviet empire in Estonia, Journal of Baltic Studies, Volume 29, Issue 2 Summer 1998 , pages 109 - 134
- Tänasest saab välismaalase passiga Schengeni ruumis viisavabalt reisida
- Peter Van Elsuwege, From Soviet republics to EU member states: a legal and political assessment of the Baltic states' accession to the EU, BRILL, 2008, p75
- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance Third report on Estonia (2005) — see Paragraph 129, 132
- Second Opinion on Estonia, Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, 2005 — see Para. 189
- UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance Report on mission to Estonia (2008) — see Paragraph 91