by adv. Dainius Ambrazaitis
The benefits of having a Lithuanian passport encourages Litvaks all over the world to consider applying for the reinstatement of their ancestral citizenship. The question is whether it is a complicated procedure requiring professional assistance, or something you can handle yourself.
You might be wondering if it is enough to consult someone who has gone through the process, or if you need an attorney. Further, should you hire an attorney in your country of residence, or should you get the services of an attorney based in Lithuania?
The answer is that reinstating Lithuanian citizenship doesn’t only require experience, it requires legal expertise.
First, to assess your eligibility for citizenship by descent, you require legal insight and experience as well as knowledge of eligibility criteria. There are a number of factors that might initially seem a hindrance to your application, deeming you ineligible. However, only an experienced attorney is able to assess your circumstances correctly to determine whether you are eligible for reinstatement of citizenship.
Second, applicants might encounter irremediable stumbling blocks in the collection of the legal documents required to justify the application, especially if they are attempting to do it on their own. The evidences gathering is not limited to consulting Lithuanian or broader archives. In the majority of cases, it requires legal procedures such as court applications.
Thus, instead of taking several weeks if done with professional legal assistance, the process could take several years for inexperienced individuals, and the outcome might not necessarily be a positive one. Considering the fact that the majority of ancestors changed their names and dates of birth upon arrival in South Africa and other countries of emigration, the process might also involve challenges in recreating the original spelling of the names and surnames of your ancestors.
Whereas experienced legal assistants would address the issue with historians and Yiddish-language specialists, and would prepare the needed paperwork unobstructed. I have had many clients contact me after several months – or even years – of unsuccessful attempts to solve the shortcomings in their application for the reinstatement of Lithuanian citizenship independently, or with non-professional help.
Third, it is important to keep up with changes at the migration department. This can be a game changer. Initial assessment of eligibility might vary later in the process as the department makes amendments that aren’t necessarily changes to legislation, but changes to interpretation of criteria for documentary proof. An experienced attorney will provide the additional evidence needed to keep the application on track.
Fourth, professional guidance makes the application process as smooth as possible, with no need for the applicant to be an expert on the law or other requirements, and no fear of missing something as the professional knows the procedure step by step. This saves the applicant time and money, and ensures peace of mind.
Furthermore, in cases where the application is rejected, the applicant has the right to a court appeal, making it obligatory to hire an attorney.
Last but not least, legal services where no intermediaries are involved ensures a more effective and smooth process.
It should be noted that some factors in the reinstatement procedure are beyond the powers of a professional attorney or non-professional assistant. This includes the time taken by Lithuania’s migration department to examine the application. This is the longest and most patience-testing stage, which currently takes about 12 – 15 months on average. Unfortunately, there is no legal way for applications to be expedited.