Monday, February 27, 2012

Israel's Law Of Return: One Of Many Countries With Such A Law

From time to time, we hear about criticism of Israel's law of return, which gives preferential treatment to those with Jewish parents when it comes to acquiring citizenship.

What critics overlook is the just how widespread and accepted the policy is.

Wikipedia has an article on Jus sanguinis, which it defines as:
a social policy by which citizenship is not determined by place of birth but by having one or both parent who are citizens of the nation. It contrasts with jus soli (Latin for "right of soil").
As examples of such a policy being put into practice, Wikipedia offers an impressive list (explanations have been shortened):

  • Bulgaria: Article 25 of the 1991 constitution specifies that a "person of Bulgarian origin shall acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a facilitated procedure."

  • Belgium: A former Belgian citizen (other than a person deprived of citizenship) may resume Belgian citizenship by declaration after a twelve months of residence. Residence abroad can be equated with residence in Belgium if the person can prove genuine ties with Belgium.

  • Czech Republic: From 1999 to 2004, some Czechs who had left Czechoslovakia for political reasons got Czech citizenship.

  • China: See Chinese nationality law. The only significant immigration to China has been by the overseas Chinese. Since 1949, the national government has offered them various enticements to return to China. Several million may have done so since 1949.

  • Croatia: Article 11 of the Law on Croatian Citizenship allows emigrants and their descendants to acquire Croatian nationality upon return, without passing a language examination or renouncing former citizenship.

  • Estonia: Article 36 of Estonian constitution states the right of every Estonian to come and live in Estonia.

  • Finland: Finnish law provides a right of return to ethnic Finns from the former Soviet Union, including Ingrians.

  • Germany: Article 116(1) of the German Basic Law (constitution) confers, within the range of the laws regulating the peculiarities, a right to citizenship upon any person who is admitted to Germany (in its borders of 1937) as "refugee or expellee of German ethnic origin or as the spouse or descendant of such a person."

  • Greece: Ethnic Greeks can obtain Greek citizenship by two methods under the Code of Greek Nationality. Article 5 allows ethnic Greeks who are stateless (which, in practice, includes those who voluntarily renounce their nationality) to obtain citizenship upon application to a Greek consular official.

  • Hungary: Section 4(3) of the Act on Nationality permits ethnic Hungarians (defined as persons "at least one of whose relatives in ascendant line was a Hungarian citizen") to obtain citizenship on preferential terms after one year of residence.

  • Iceland: The Icelandic nationality law says that a person can acquire Icelandic citizenship at birth if the mother is an Icelandic citizen or the father is both an Icelandic citizen and married to the mother (unless they are separated at the time of birth).

  • India: Persons of Indian origin who are nationals of countries not on the list (has never been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, or China) may apply for Overseas Indian Citizenship, which confers similar rights and also permits the holder to apply for full Indian nationality after one year of residence.

  • Ireland: The Nationality and Citizenship Act allows any person with an Irish grandparent to become an Irish citizen "by registering in the Foreign Births Register at an Irish embassy or consular office, or at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin."

  • Israel: In addition to Israeli citizenship being granted to all ethnic groups and religions (a) by virtue of birth in Israel or (b) by naturalisation after five years' residency and the acquisition of a basic knowledge of Hebrew, (c) the Law of Return confers an automatic right to citizenship on any immigrant to Israel who is Jewish by birth or conversion, or who has a Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse or who is the spouse of a child of a Jew or the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew.

  • Italy: Possibly alone in this respect, Italian nationality law bestows citizenship jure sanguinis. There is no limit of generations for the citizenship via blood, but the Italian ancestor born in Italian territories before 1861 had to die after 1861 anywhere in the world without losing the Italian citizenship before death to being able to continue the jure sanguinis chain.

  • Japan: Article 2 of the Nationality Act (Law No.147 of 1950) provides three situations in which a person can become a Japanese national at birth: when either parent is a Japanese national at the time of birth, when the father dies before the birth and is a Japanese national at the time of death, and when the person is born on Japanese soil and both parents are unknown or stateless.

  • Kiribati: Articles 19 and 23 of the constitution provides, "Every person of I-Kiribati descent... shall... become or have and continue to have thereafter the right to become a citizen of Kiribati.... Every person of I-Kiribati descent who does not become a citizen of Kiribati on Independence Day... shall, at any time thereafter, be entitled upon making application in such manner as may be prescribed to be registered as a citizen of Kiribati."

  • Lebanon: Lebanese law currently makes no provision for reacquisition of nationality by members of the diaspora, but A pending government proposal would permit descendants of Lebanese emigrants to acquire an overseas identity card that confers rights similar to the Person of Indian Origin scheme.

  • Philippines: Prior to 23 October 1985, a female citizen lost Philippine citizenship upon her marriage to a foreigner if, by virtue of the laws in force in her husband's country, she acquired his nationality. Prior to 29 August 2003, a citizen naturalized in a foreign country lost Philippine citizenship. A law approved 29 August 2003 provided an administrative mechanism for both classes of such persons to reacquire citizenship.

  • Poland: The Statute on Polish Citizenship, as amended in 2000, permits the descendants of Poles who lost their nationality involuntarily between 1920 and 1989 to take up Polish citizenship without regard to ordinary naturalization criteria.

  • Portugal: The essential principle backing the Portuguese nationality laws is jus sanguinis so whoever has a Portuguese parent is entitled to Portuguese citizenship.

  • Romania: Romanian expatriates who lost their citizenship prior to December 22, 1989, as well as expatriates' children and grandchildren, may reclaim their nationality upon presentation of a declaration and supporting documents.

  • Russia: Until recently, persons holding Soviet passports could exchange them for Russian Federation nationality virtually automatically basis.

  • Rwanda: "All persons originating from Rwanda and their descendants shall, upon their request, be entitled to Rwandan nationality."

  • Serbia: 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.

  • Slovakia: A person with at least one Slovak grandparent and "Slovak cultural and language awareness" may apply for an expatriate identity card entitling him to live, work, study and own land in Slovakia. Expatriate status is not full citizenship and does not entitle the holder to vote, but a holder who moves his domicile to Slovakia may obtain citizenship under preferential terms.

  • South Korea: South Korean nationality law grants special status to some descendants of ethnic Koreans.

  • Spain: Those born to an original Spaniard (whether or not the parent still retains Spanish citizenship or is still living) are entitled to original Spanish nationality.

  • Sweden: Swedish citizenship law gives a newborn child gets Swedish citizenship if the mother is a Swedish citizen, if the father (alive or not) is a Swedish citizen and the child is born in Sweden, or if the father (alive or not) is a Swedish citizen and married to the mother. Also, if a Swedish father and a mother from another country marry, their child (if less than 18) gets Swedish citizenship.

  • Turkey: Turkish law allows persons of Turkish origin and their spouse and children, to apply for naturalization without the five-year waiting period applicable to other immigrants.

  • Ukraine: Article 8 of the Law on Citizenship of Ukraine permits any person with at least one Ukrainian grandparent to become a citizen upon renunciation of the former nationality.
The Wikipedia article notes that in an article on Democratic Norms, Diasporas, and Israel’s Law of Return, Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein cite many other countries which have similar laws, including the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

Hat tip: JW

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