Right of return
The right of return is a principle which is drawn from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, intended to enable people to return to, and re-enter, their country of origin.
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (read together with its 1967 Protocol) does not give refugees a right to return, but rather prohibits involuntary return (refoulment) to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom. The 1951 Convention binds those countries which have ratified it.
By contrast, the right of return has not passed into customary international law, although it remains an important aspirational human right. Instead, international law gives each country the right to decide for itself to whom it will give citizenship.
- 1 Background
- 2 By country
- 2.1 Armenia
- 2.2 Belarus
- 2.3 Bulgaria
- 2.4 People's Republic of China
- 2.5 Croatia
- 2.6 Cyprus
- 2.7 Czech Republic
- 2.8 Diego Garcia's Chagossians
- 2.9 Estonia
- 2.10 Finland
- 2.11 France
- 2.12 Germany
- 2.13 Greece
- 2.14 Hong Kong
- 2.15 Hungary
- 2.16 India
- 2.17 Iraq
- 2.18 Ireland
- 2.19 Israel
- 2.20 Japan
- 2.21 Kazakhstan
- 2.22 Lithuania
- 2.23 Norway
- 2.24 Palestinian Territories
- 2.25 Philippines
- 2.26 Poland
- 2.27 Portugal
- 2.28 Romania
- 2.29 Russia
- 2.30 Serbia
- 2.31 Spain
- 2.32 Turkey
- 2.33 Taiwan
- 2.34 Ukraine
- 2.35 United Kingdom
- 2.36 Other
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
There are various recorded cases in ancient history where people deported or uprooted from their city or homeland were allowed (or encouraged) to return, typically when the balance of military and political forces which caused their exile had changed.
A well-known example is the Return to Zion, when King Cyrus the Great granted the Jews expelled in the Babylonian Exile to return to their ancient homeland and rebuild Jerusalem. Recorded in the Hebrew Bible (Book of Ezra and Book of Nehemiah) this case is often cited as a precedent by modern Zionism and also inspired other groups seeking to pursue their own return.
The wars of Classical Greece provide several more examples. In the Peloponesian War, Athenians destroyed the island city of Melos, killed all adult male citizens which they caught and sold the women and children into slavery. Following Athens' defeat, in 405 BC, the Spartan general Lysander expelled the Athenian settlers from Melos and restored the survivors of the original Melians to the island. The victorious Spartans and their allies made an effort to trace and liberate the dispersed Melians and restore them to their homeland.
In the same war, the pro-Athenian city of Platea was destroyed by its hereditary enemy Thebes and many of its citizens killed. Surviving Plateans were harbored in Athens, where they lived for generations as a distinct community, hoping for a chance to return. This was facilitated in 386 BC, when Thebes was on the losing side in the Corinthian War. Thereupon, the Plateans returned and rebuilt their city - but soon, the resurgence of Thebes and the creation of the Theban hegemony by Epaminondas led to the Thebans destroying Plataea again in 373 and driving its people into a second exile. Still, the Plateans persisted in the aspiration of returning to their city. This was fully and permanently realized after Philip II of Macedon defeated the Thebans at the Battle of Chaeronea and his son, Alexander the Great altogether destroyed Thebes. This enabled the exiled Plateans to return and rebuild their city in 338 BC, with no apprehension of a further exile.
In another context, the Thebans themselves acted as the generous returners of exiled people to their homeland. In 370 BC the prominent Theban general Epaminondas arrived at Messenia, a region which the Spartans had conquered some 200 years before. Epaminondas freed the helots of Messenia, and rebuilt the ancient city of Messene on Mount Ithome, with fortifications that were among the strongest in Greece. He then issued a call to Messenian exiles all over Greece to return and rebuild their homeland.
Modern legal situation
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) article 13 states that "[e]veryone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." (emphasis added). There is disagreement as to what this actually means in practice as well as whether country refers to a state or a specific area of land. In addition, the change from State to country from the first sentence to the second clouds the issue.
Much of the controversy surrounding such a right, however, derives from disagreement surrounding what in UDHR article 13 is referred to as "his own". Because many countries are nation states predicated on the right to national self-determination, such countries often identify a special link between them and persons identified with the nation, or people, whose self-determination that country enables. National laws implementing a "right of return" tend to be predicated on that link. Because they give people of a certain background preferential immigration, however, such laws are controversial, especially where they are perceived to be at the expense of other people who want to immigrate or return.
Some countries, such as the Philippines, have devised means to "reacquire" or retain former citizens who lost their citizenship upon accession to another country, particularly to recover the contributions and potential investment opportunities of former citizens abroad. Schemes such as these bear some resemblance to right of return plans, because they highlight how a homeland's motivation to build links of citizenship with diasporas may draw from potential investment, not just the nation-state's perceived cultural duty towards one or more particular peoples. Such schemes do not necessarily constitute rights of return, however, particularly where they target former citizenship-holders rather than members of an ethnic group who may never have held citizenship, or whose diaspora location even predates state formation.
Choice of a former-citizen scheme, such as the Philippines' Republic Act 9225 ("Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act of 2003"), rather than a right of return such as those listed below, may be more closely associated with the historic circumstances of a people's dispersion and of nation-state formation, respectively, than with principled choices between them. Use of a right of return is therefore more likely in nation-states constituted more recently or whose diasporas are long-standing, and less likely in nation-states constituted earlier or whose diasporas were constituted more recently.
Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (1995) provides that "[i]ndividuals of Armenian origin shall acquire citizenship of the Republic of Armenia through a simplified procedure." This provision is consistent with the Declaration on Independence of Armenia, issued by the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Armenia in 1989, which declared at article 4 that "Armenians living abroad are entitled to the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia".
Citizenship act of the Republic of Belarus (2002) states that permanent residence term requirements may be waived for ethnic Belarusians and descendants of ethnic Belarusians born abroad.
Chapter Two of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act is entitled "Acquisition of Bulgarian Citizenship". The first section of that chapter is entitled "Acquisition of Bulgarian Citizenship by Origin", and provides at article 9 that "[a]ny person ... whose descent from a Bulgarian citizen has been established by way of a court ruling shall be a Bulgarian citizen by origin." Separately, article 15 of the Act provides that "[a]ny person who is not a Bulgarian citizen may acquire Bulgarian citizenship ... if he/she ... is of a Bulgarian origin".
People's Republic of China
The immigration law of the People's Republic of China gives priority to returning Overseas Chinese – ethnic Chinese who were living abroad. As a result of the intersection between this provision and other factors such as the PRC's poor human-rights record that discourage foreign nationals in general from wanting to move there, practically all immigrants to the PRC are ethnic Chinese, including many whose families lived outside of China for generations.
The PRC government encourages the return of Overseas Chinese with various incentives not available to others, such as "tax breaks, high salaries and exemptions from the one-child policy if they had two children while living abroad".
The "rights and interests of returned overseas Chinese" are afforded special protection according to Articles 50 and 89(12) of the PRC Constitution.
The Croatian law on citizenship (Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu), article 11, defines emigrants (iseljenik) and gives them privileges by excluding them from certain conditions imposed on others.
In the proposed Annan Plan of 2004, the right of return was to be severely limited with respect to Greek-Cypriot internally displaced persons/refugees to districts such as Kyrenia, Morphou, Famagusta, and parts of Nicosia, despite judgements of the European Court of Human Rights in cases such as Loizidou v. Turkey, and numerous UN resolutions recognizing the right of return. Two referendums on the Annan Plan were held in April 2004, separately along ethnic lines. The Annan Plan was overwhelmingly rejected in the Greek-Cypriot referendum.
The right of return continues to remain a stumbling block to the settlement of the Cyprus problem.
The Czech Republic grants citizenship, and thus the right of residence, to anyone whose parents are or were Czech citizens (unless the individual is also a citizen of a country that has a treaty with the Czech Republic barring dual citizenship of the Czech Republic and that country). Moreover, people of Czech origin might be granted the right to permanent residence (Czech origin is a reason worth of consideration).
In 1995, the Czech Republic amended its Citizenship Law to provide the Interior Ministry with the discretion to waive the usual five-year residency requirement for foreigners that had been resettled in the Czech Republic by 31 December 1994. This amendment was aimed particularly at several hundred ethnic Czechs which had been brought by the Czech government from the Ukrainian region of Volhynia, and was of a limited duration.
The amendment was consistent with what the Czech Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has identified as "the Czech government's policy principles regarding the resettlement of foreigners of Czech origin living abroad." A private fund, the People In Need Czech TV Foundation, worked with government authorities between 1995 and 2001 to effect this resettlement in the specific instance of Russian and Kazakh citizens of Czech origin, and had resettled approximately 750 such persons as of 2000.
Diego Garcia's Chagossians
The Chagossians, an ethnic group residing on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, were expelled to Mauritius in the 1960s, in connection with the erection of an American strategic military installation on the island. Ever since, the Chagossians have been conducting a persistent political and legal struggle to return to Diego Garcia. As of 2007, their right to return was recognised by several British courts but the UK government failed to actually implement it (see Chagossians, Depopulation of Diego Garcia, Order in Council#United Kingdom).
The Finnish Aliens Act provides for persons who are of Finnish origin to receive permanent residence. It is usually Ingrian Finns from the former Soviet Union who exercise this right, but American, Canadian or Swedish nationals with Finnish ancestry are eligible.
The Finnish Directorate of Immigration states on its Returnees webpage that;
- Certain aliens, who have Finnish ancestry or otherwise a close connection with Finland, may be granted a residence permit on this basis. No other reason, such as work or study, is required in order to receive the permit.
- Receiving a residence permit depends on the directness and closeness of Finnish ancestry. If the ancestry dates back several generations, a residence permit cannot be granted on this basis.
- People who may be granted a residence permit based on Finnish ancestry or close connections with Finland can be divided into the following three groups:
- former Finnish citizens:
- persons of other Finnish origin. This group includes the persons who have at least one parent or grandparent who has been a native Finnish citizen.
- persons from areas of the former Soviet Union. The group includes persons who have been determined to be of Finnish nationality by Soviet or post-Soviet authorities or who have at least one parent or two grandparents who have been determined to be of Finnish nationality in official documents, e.g., in their internal passports. Also all persons who were transferred between years 1943–1943 to Finland from areas occupied by Germany and were subsequently returned to Soviet Union or who served in the Finnish Defence Forces during the Second World War qualify. To qualify for permanent residence permit, the persons in this group must have a basic knowledge of spoken and written Finnish or Swedish. The knowledge is tested in pre-immigration training and in a subsequent language test. In addition, they must have a pre-arranged permanent residence in Finland, but the labour authorities assist in finding an apartment.
What might be historically the first law recognising a Right of Return was enacted in France in 1790, as part of the French Revolution putting a decisive end to the centuries-long persecution and discrimination of Huguenots (French Protestants).
Concurrently with making all Protestants resident in France into full-fledged citizens, the law enacted on December 15, 1790 stated that : 'All persons born in a foreign country and descending in any degree of a French man or woman expatriated for religious reason are declared French nationals (naturels français) and will benefit to rights attached to that quality if they come back to France, establish their domicile there and take the civic oath.'
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and expulsion of the Huguenots had taken place more than a century earlier, and there were extensive Huguenot diasporas in many countries, where they often intermarried with the population of the host country. Therefore, the law potentially conferred French citizenship on numerous Britons, Germans, South Africans and others – though only a fraction actually took advantage of it.
Article 4 of the June 26, 1889 Nationality Law stated that: 'Descendants of families proscribed by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes will continue to benefit from the benefit of the December 15, 1790 Law, but on the condition that a nominal decree [i.e., a decree stating the name of the specific applicant for citizenship] should be issued for every petitioner. That decree will only produce its effects for the future'.
Foreign descendants of Huguenots lost the automatic right to French citizenship in 1945 (by force of Article 152 of the ordonnance du 19 octobre 1945, revoking the 1889 Nationality Law). Many German descendants of Huguenots had become assimilated in Nazi Germany. France, just liberated from Nazi occupation, was unwilling to leave them the option of becoming its citizens.
German law allows (1) persons descending from German nationals of any ethnicity or (2) persons of ethnic German descent and living in countries of the former Warsaw Pact (as well as Yugoslavia) the right to "return" to Germany and ("re")claim German citizenship (Aussiedler/Spätaussiedler "late emigrants"). After legislative changes in late 1992 this right is de facto restricted to ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union. As with many legal implementations of the Right of Return, the "return" to Germany of individuals who may never have lived in Germany based on their ethnic origin or their descent from German nationals has been controversial. The law is codified in paragraph 1 of Article 116 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, which provides access to German citizenship for anyone "who has been admitted to the territory of the German Reich within the boundaries of December 31, 1937 as a refugee or expellee of German ethnic origin or as the spouse or descendant of such person". In those territories lived a Polish minority, which also had German citizenship and after World War II lived in Poland. Those Polish people are also Aussiedler/Spätaussiedler and came especially in the 1980s to Germany (examples: Lukas Podolski, Eugen Polanski, among others) Paragraph 2 of Article 116 also provides that "Former German citizens who between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial or religious grounds, and their descendants, shall on application have their citizenship restored".
The historic context for Article 116 was the eviction, following World War II, of an estimated 9 million foreign ethnic Germans from other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Another 9 million German nationals of various ethnicities from former eastern German provinces, over which Joseph Stalin and eastern neighbour states extended military hegemony in 1945, were expelled as well. These expellees and refugees (known as Heimatvertriebene) were given refugee status and documents, and - as to foreign ethnic Germans - also the German citizenship (in 1949), and resettled in Germany. The Discussion of possible compensation continues; this, however, has been countered by possible claims for war compensation from Germany's eastern neighbours, pertaining to both Germany's unconditional surrender and the series of population transfers carried out under the instruments of Potsdam.
Various phenomena throughout Greek history (the extensive colonization by classical Greek city states, the vast expansion of Greek culture in Hellenistic times, the large dominions at times held by the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire, and the energetic trading activity by Greeks under the Ottomans) all tended to create Greek communities far beyond the boundaries of modern Greece.
Recognizing this situation, Greece grants citizenship to broad categories of people of ethnic Greek ancestry who are members of the Greek diaspora, including individuals and families whose ancestors have been resident in diaspora communities outside the modern state of Greece for centuries or millennia.
"Foreign persons of Greek origin", who neither live in Greece nor hold Greek citizenship nor were necessarily born there, may become Greek citizens by enlisting in Greece's military forces, under article 4 of the Code of Greek Citizenship, as amended by the Acquisition of Greek Nationality by Aliens of Greek Origin Law (Law 2130/1993). Anyone wishing to do so must present a number of documents, including "[a]vailable written records ... proving the Greek origin of the interested person and his ancestors."
Albania has demanded since the 1940s that Greece grant a Right of Return to the Muslim Cham Albanians, who were expelled from the Greek region of Epirus between 1944 and 1945, at the end of World War II – a demand firmly rejected by the Greeks (see Cham issue).
In April 2015, the Hong Kong Government announced a pilot scheme named "Admission Scheme for the Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong Permanent Residents" (ASSG).
In 2010, Hungary passed a law granting citizenship and the right of return to descendants of Hungarians living mostly on the former territory of the Hungarian Kingdom and now residing in Hungary's neighbouring countries. Slovakia, which has 500,000 ethnic Magyar citizens (10% of its population) objected vociferously.
A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is a person living outside of India and without Indian citizenship, but of Indian origin up to four generations removed. It is available to persons of Indian origin anywhere in the world as long as they have never been citizens of Pakistan or of Bangladesh (a reservation excluding Muslims who joined Pakistan during or after the 1947 partition). This unusual type of citizenship by descent is an intermediate form of citizenship in that it does not grant the full portfolio of rights enjoyed by Indian citizens.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2003 and Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance 2005 make provision for an even newer form of Indian nationality, the holders of which are to be known as Overseas Citizens of India (OCI). Overseas citizenship is not substantially different from PIO rights.
Holding either PIO or OCI status does, however, facilitate access to full Indian citizenship. An OCI who has been registered for five years, for instance, need be resident for only one year in India before becoming a full citizen.
Article 125 of the Iraqi constitution says, "This Constitution shall guarantee the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights of the various nationalities, such as Turkomen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and all other constituents, and this shall be regulated by law".
During the years Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq, he instituted a program of "Arabization" in the northern part of the country, that area inhabited by ethnic Kurds. This included moving Arabs from the south and replacing the Kurdish population, in particular the city of Kirkuk. After the removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003, there have been calls by the Kurdish Regional Government, which administers the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, for the return of Kurds to the areas from which they were removed, especially Kirkuk.
Irish nationality law provides for Irish citizenship to be acquired on the basis of at least one Irish grandparent. Note that for the purposes of Irish nationality law a person born anywhere on the island of Ireland (including Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom where British nationality law applies: thus, people born in Northern Ireland are entitled to both British and Irish citizenship), is considered "Irish." The entitlement to citizenship of all people born on Ireland and its islands was stipulated by the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State, and the 1937 Constitution of Ireland and reinforced by 1998 Belfast Agreement. A person born outside Ireland with entitlement to Irish citizenship through a grandparent born in Ireland may pass that right on to her or his own children. To do so, however, that person must register her or his birth in Ireland's Foreign Births Register prior to the children's births. Irish law also automatically grants citizenship at birth to any Individual born abroad to a parent born in Ireland, without the need to register with the DFA prior to the granting of citizen's rights like holding an Irish passport
Separately from this right, the Irish minister responsible for immigration may dispense with conditions of naturalisation to grant citizenship to an applicant who "is of Irish descent or Irish associations", under section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1986. With rare exceptions the applicant must be resident in the island of Ireland before applying for naturalisation.
The Law of Return is legislation enacted by Israel in 1950, that gives all Jews, persons of Jewish ancestry up to at least one Jewish grandparent, and spouses of Jews the right to immigrate to and settle in Israel and obtain citizenship, and obliges the Israeli government to facilitate their immigration. Originally, the law applied to Jews only, until a 1970 amendment stated that the rights "are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew". This resulted in several hundreds of thousands of persons fitting the above criteria immigrating to Israel (mainly from the former Soviet Union) but not being recognized as Jews by the Israeli religious authorities, which on the basis of halakha recognize only the child of a Jewish mother as being Jewish. Moreover, some of these immigrants, though having a Jewish grandparent, are known to be practicing Christians. People who would be otherwise eligible for this law can be excluded if they can reasonably be considered to constitute a danger to the welfare of the state, have a criminal past, or are wanted fugitives in their countries with the exception of persecution victims. Jews who converted to another religion can also be denied the right of return. Since 1950 2,734,245 Jews have immigrated to Israel.
A special visa category exists exclusively for foreign descendants of Japanese emigrates (Nikkeijin) up to the third generation, which provides for long-term residence, unrestricted by occupation, but most Nikkeijin cannot automatically acquire Japanese citizenship, and must instead go through the process of naturalization. However, the Minister of Justice can waive the age and residence requirements if an applicant for naturalization has a special relationship to Japan, such as a Japanese parent.
From the Constitution of Lithuania, Article 32(4): "Every Lithuanian person may settle in Lithuania."
The Kola Norwegians were Norwegians who settled along the coastline of the Russian Kola Peninsula from approximately 1850 to the closure of the border in the 1920s. It is estimated that around 1000 Norwegians lived on the Kola peninsula in 1917. The Kola Norwegians were deported to or put in camps in other parts of Russia during the course of World War II.
It was only after 1990 that many of the Kola Norwegians again dared to emphasize their background. Only a few had been able to maintain a rusty knowledge of Norwegian. Some of them have migrated back to Norway. There are special provisions in the Norwegian rules of immigration and citizenship which eases this process for many Kola Norwegians. These provisions are in general stricter than in some other countries giving "Right of return". In order to obtain a permit to immigrate and work in Norway a Kola Norwegian will have to prove an adequate connection to Norway such as having at least two grandparents from Norway. Citizenship will then be awarded according to regular rules. As of 2004 approximately 200 Kola Norwegians had moved back to Norway.
Palestinians argue for a right of return to former Mandatory Palestine for the surviving Arab Palestine refugees and descendants of refugees from the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, and a right to property they left behind in what is now Israel. However, the PLO, as the representative of the Palestinian people, is not amongst the 19 signatories and 145 parties to the UN 1951 Refugee Convention.
As a rebuttal to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 being used in support, opponents note that General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and have no force as international law. However, Mandatory Palestine ceased to exist in 1948 and many Arabs who view themselves as Palestinians already live in territories currently disputed between themselves and the government of the State of Israel. In a bid to show Israel's de facto hold of these territories, Israel's Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was reported as saying in June of 2017 that his government will not allow any Palestinians to return to the lands historically settled by them and currently claimed by Israel.
Like the final 2 Plus 4 agreement treaty ended the occupation of Germany after 45 years, the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995 are seen by the international community as a first step towards a peace process between Israel and the Palestinian people.
Republic Act No. 9225, approved 29 August 2003, provided that all Philippine citizens who become citizens of another country shall be deemed not to have lost their Philippine citizenship. It further states that natural-born citizens of the Philippines who have lost their Philippine citizenship by reason of their naturalization as citizens of a foreign country are hereby deemed to have re-acquired Philippine citizenship upon taking an oath of allegiance to the Republic, and that their children whether legitimate, illegitimate or adopted, below eighteen (18) years of age, shall be deemed citizens of the Philippines.
On April 12, 2013, the Portuguese parliament approved unanimously an amendment to its nationality laws which would permit the descendants of Jews expelled from Portugal in the 16th century to become Portuguese citizens.
Romania extends citizenship to all former citizens, as well as to the children and grandchildren of those who have lost their Romanian citizenship, regardless of ethnic background.
Russia offers citizenship to individuals descended from Russian ancestors who can demonstrate an affinity for Russian culture and, preferably, speak Russian. Concern about Russia's shrinking population prompted the program. This has had a positive effect because this has not only reversed Russia's population decline but has also increased the birth rate. Officials estimate that 25 million members of the Russian diaspora are eligible for citizenship. The Foreign Ministry has sent emissaries to countries around the world to urge the descendants of Russian emigrants to return home. So far 70% of Russians have come from Ukraine. Many of these people are in the age group of 17 to 25 looking for a better education and a better place to start a family. With a recent increase of Russia's life expectancy and living standard more people have been willing to come back to Russia. As of the 2014 war in Ukraine this has triggered a mass exodus of ethnic Russians in Ukraine into Russia.  A small amount of these people have also come from Romania and a few Siberian people's reuniting with their families who have been split since the Cold War. Mostly immigrants have come from former communist countries. Some people returning are the descendants of Russians who fled Russia during the Russian revolution.
Article 23 of the 2004 citizenship law provides that the descendants of emigrants from Serbia, or ethnic Serbs residing abroad, may take up citizenship upon written declaration.
There are three categories of Spanish citizenship:
- de origen (original citizenship)
- por residencia (by residence)
- por opción (by choice)
De origen is [almost exclusively] acquired at the moment of birth, mainly to a Spanish parent, and can never be lost. Por residencia is acquired through a predetermined period of legal residency in Spain. This distinction is important because Spanish nationality laws primarily follow iure sanguinis, including those relating to the right of return.
The third category, por opción (by choice), is given to some people of Spanish origins that, though not complying with the requisites to attain the original citizenship, are able to prove close ties to Spain; this option is given mainly to the children of people that have attained or recovered Spanish citizenship after their birth, but it has age limits and one must exercise this choice prior turning 20 (in some countries, like Argentina, prior turning 23, as majority of age is attained at 21 there). Most of the por opción clauses do not confer original status (except those included in the Historical Memory Law), thus it can be lost, and, in case one possesses nationality other than those described below as historically related to Spain (e.g., United States), renounce their current nationality in front of Spanish consular officials.
In practice this renunciation has little practical effect, and in some cases no effect, as only renunciations made to one's own country's officials has an effect on the linked nationality.
The Historical Memory Law (Spanish: Ley de Memoria Histórica), which took effect in December 2008, introduced temporary two-year changes to current Spanish nationality laws. Those whose father or mother were born original Spaniards (regardless of their place of birth, whether they are still living, or whether they currently hold Spanish nationality) and those whose grandparents emigrated due to political or economic reasons will have the right to de origen Spanish nationality. Until and while the Law of Historic Memory takes effect, the following laws will also apply:
1. Natural-born Spanish emigrants (mainly exiles from the Spanish Civil War and economic migrants) and their children are eligible to recover their de origen Spanish nationality without the requirement of residence in Spain. They also have the right to maintain any current nationality they possess.
2. Regardless of their place of birth, the adult children and grandchildren of original Spaniards (original Spaniards are those who, at the moment of their birth, were born to people who possessed Spanish citizenship) can also access Spanish nationality on softer terms than other foreigners: they require just 1 year of legal residence, and they are exempted from work restrictions. This law in practice also benefits the great-grandchildren of emigrant Spaniards as long as their grandparents (born outside of Spain) are/were original Spaniards.
3. Ibero-Americans and citizens of other countries historically related to Spain (Portugal, Andorra, Philippines, and Equatorial Guinea) also have a Right of Return: They can apply to Spanish nationality after 2 years of Legal residence (the usual time is 10 years for most foreigners) and they have the right to keep their birth nationality.
4. Those of Sephardic Jewish origin also have the right to apply for nationality after a year of legal residency in Spain. Upon the rediscovery of Sephardi Jews during the campaigns of General Juan Prim in Northern Africa, the Spanish governments have taken friendly measures towards the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 under the Alhambra Decree and persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition. The motivation for these measures was a desire to repair a perceived injustice, the need of a collaborative base of natives in Spanish Morocco, and an attempt to attract the sympathy of wealthy European Sephardis like the Pereiras of France. The Alhambra Decree was revoked.
In November 2012, the Spanish government announced that it would eliminate the residency period for Sephardic Jews, and permit them to maintain dual citizenship, on the condition that such citizenship applicants presented a certificate of their Sephardic status from the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain.
Spanish diplomacy exercised protection over Sephardis of the Ottoman Empire and the independent Balkanic states succeeding it. The government of Miguel Primo de Rivera decreed in 1924 that every Sephardi could claim Spanish citizenship. This right was used by some refugees during the Second World War, including the Hungarian Jews saved by Ángel Sanz Briz and Giorgio Perlasca. This decree was again put to use to receive some Jews from Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.
In October 2006, the Andalusian Parliament asked the three parliamentary groups that form the majority to support an amendment that would ease the way for morisco descendants to gain Spanish citizenship. The proposal was originally made by IULV-CA, the Andalusian branch of the United Left. Such a measure might have benefited an indeterminate number of people, particularly in Morocco and other Maghreb countries. However, the call went unheeded by the central Spanish authorities (see Morisco#Descendants and Spanish citizenship).
The immigration law of Taiwan (officially the Republic of China) gives priority to returning Taiwanese and overseas Chinese who are not citizens of the People's Republic of China, Chinese who were living abroad, and encourages their return. However, although Republic of China have not ceded the claim on mainland China, the government does not consider the people in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau as Republic of China nationals.
Overseas ethnic Chinese can register as Republic of China national and apply for a Republic of China passport, however, they are not automatically have a right of return to Taiwan area if they don't have a household registration there.
Not all Republic of China nationals have a right of return to Taiwan area even if they hold a Republic of China passport - specifically, those without a household registration in Taiwan area do not automatically have the right of return, may be refused entry, removed or deported from Taiwan area, and an entry permit is needed before 2011.
According to Ukrainian law, anyone who was a citizen of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic who was residing in Ukraine at the time of its declaration of independence and any stateless person living on the territory of Ukraine at the moment of its declaration of independence was granted citizenship. Anyone born abroad to at least one parent with Ukrainian citizenship, including permanent residents of Ukraine, is entitled to Ukrainian citizenship. Children born within the territory of Ukraine to at least one Ukrainian parent, stateless persons with at least one Ukrainian grandparent, and children adopted by Ukrainian citizens are also eligible for citizenship.
The British Nationality Act 1948 conferred full and equal citizenship and settlement rights in Britain on all 800 million subjects of the worldwide British Empire. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, amending legislation passed in 1962, removed the right of entry from 200,000 south Asians long resident in British East Africa who had become the victims of the Africanization drive in newly independent Kenya and wished to move to Britain. The act required "substantial connection" to Britain, defined as (a) birth or the birth of a parent or grandparent in the United Kingdom, (b) a parent or grandparent who was Naturalised in the United Kingdom, (c) a parent or grandparent who became a citizen of the United Kingdom or its colonies by adoption (d) had acquired British Nationality under legislation passed in 1948 or 1964. Further provisions extended rights to stepchildren. The wording of this legislation refers to 'Citizenship', 'Naturalisation' and 'Residence', and at no point refers to any specific ethnicity or ethnic group. Announcing his support for right of return legislation in Britain, MP Quintin Hogg stated that, "All the great nations of the earth have what the Jews call a Diaspora," and affirmed that nations "special and residual obligation(s) toward them," which include recognizing their right to citizenship.
The Immigration Act 1971 affirmed the principles of the 1968 legislation, giving the right of immigration to the grandchildren of British citizens and nationals born in the Commonwealth nations. It was in effect long enough to enable the descendents of ethnic Britons to return to Britain from the former colonies.
The British Nationality Act 1981 differentiated between British Citizenship, British Overseas Citizenship, and British Dependent Territory Citizenship, recognizing the right of settlement only for British citizens. It is notable that it was enacted after the contraction of the Empire was completed, and was offered to all substantial populations of descendants of ethnic Britons in the former colonies.
A non-exhaustive list of other countries believed to have similar laws is South Korea, Moldova, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Similarly, the Liberian constitution (currently defunct and being rewritten) allows only people "of Negro descent" (regardless of ethno-national affiliation) to become citizens. As with other laws enacting rights of return, many of the laws in these countries appear to reflect a desire by governments to guarantee a safe haven to diaspora populations, particularly those assumed to be living under precarious conditions.
- Voluntary return
- Diaspora politics
- Freedom of movement
- Nationality law
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