by adv. Dainius Ambrazaitis
In my legal practice, I encounter many different clients. Some, motivated by the final result, i.e. approved Lithuanian citizenship, dive into the procedure without hesitation. Others are more cautious and curious about what the procedure will involve including but not limited to the list of the factors I discuss below.
The first thing you need to decide is whether to hire a professional attorney or someone who has gone through the process and is offering their assistance. I discussed this question in a previous article in the SA Jewish Report (13 September).
Second, what’s your budget? The prices and conditions for this type of service vary. Some assistants require upfront payment, some apply an hourly fee, whereas my legal assistance is based on an all-inclusive-success-fee basis. In other words, the client pays only after – and if – the application is approved. The fee is as originally stated in spite of any unexpected difficulties requiring additional time and effort. If the application is rejected, there is no fee.
All expenses on the Lithuanian side such as archival investigation, government application fees, and document translation are covered by IN JURE with no obligation to compensate. Clients incur additional costs only for the tasks we cannot carry out in/from Lithuania such as postage costs when sending us documents; the cost of sourcing and notarising documents needed in the client‘s home country; and getting a passport at the local embassy.
Third, there is a misconception that you have to have the original documents of your ancestors to be eligible to proceed. Be assured that in nine out of 10 cases, my clients don’t have such documents. This is completely normal, and is definitely not a problem. Knowing that at least one of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents hail from Lithuania is the only essential condition to successfully initiate the process. Clients who have all or some of the original documents are afraid that we might take them away from them, or they might lose them. We don’t ask for originals, but notarised, certified copies. Still, if it’s necessary, we send the documents back to clients, for example, after they are lodged with the migration department.
Fourth, applicants should take the timeline of application into account. Those who expect quick results will be disappointed. The application takes two to four months on average to prepare. The actual time taken mostly depends on how fast clients can get the necessary documents from their country of residence. It takes 12 to 15 months for inspectors at Lithuania’s migration department to process the application. Thus, the entire procedure normally takes from 14 to 19 months, even longer in some complicated cases.
The fifth thing to consider is the eligibility of other family members such as spouses and children. After the client gets Lithuanian citizenship, their spouse, unfortunately, will not automatically get Lithuanian citizenship. However it often turns out that the spouse’s family or part of their family also hails from Lithuania. It’s worth investigating whether she/he might be eligible to apply separately.
Regarding child eligibility, there are two different scenarios in which children can acquire Lithuanian citizenship. The first is when a child is born before at least one of the parents restores Lithuanian citizenship. The second is when a child is born after at least one of the parents restores Lithuanian citizenship. In the first scenario, the parent and child follow the same procedure for application for reinstatement of Lithuanian citizenship. The duration of the procedure will essentially be the same. In the second scenario, the child automatically becomes a Lithuanian citizen. I have discussed this question in more detail in one of my previous articles.
Lastly, there is the question of dual citizenship. The Republic of Lithuania permits dual citizenship in exceptional cases. Ancestral Lithuanian citizenship is one of the exceptional cases in which the reinstatement of your Lithuanian citizenship is possible without losing your existing citizenship.
South African citizens are required to apply for the retention of South African citizenship (Lithuanian citizenship would be a second citizenship) at the home affairs department. This procedure can take several weeks, and must be completed before you are granted Lithuanian citizenship. Other countries apply relevant procedures as well.
This article summarizes the most frequently asked questions and answers that I have encountered in years of consultation. Consequently, it shouldn’t be taken as individual legal advice in any particular case. My individual consultations are absolutely free of charge, and can be arranged at a time and place convenient for you.