I am responding to no questions on this topic if I consider them already answered below. See Update 2 for the rationale.
This morning, I rode my bicycle to the Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in Chicago and picked up my Lithuanian passport. I used my driver’s license as ID, which means I now have both a Lithuanian passport and a US passport. I am now a dual citizen.
My “Guide to a Passport” series was written as a diary, so it lacked the summarizing benefit of writing about the whole affair with hindsight. So I’ve decided to collapse all of the information from the series into one concise post–this one!–which will serve as the one-stop shop anyone in the world (I’m generalizing this for not just US citizens) can use in pursuing dual citizenship with Lithuania. Throughout, I’ll also include links to posts that include the specifics of the various things I had to do.
The requirement for dual citizenship is a simple one:
Proving this is, of course, the hard part. So first, an outline:
- Citizen 0
- Gathering evidence
- Preparing evidence
- Submitting evidence
“Citizen 0″ is a term I made up to describe the source individual of a person’s claim to Lithuanian citizenship. Who is eligible to be Citizen 0 widens if dual citizenship is no longer necessary, but since this post is about dual citizenship, I’ll provide the most narrow definition:
Citizen 0 is a person who was a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania before 14 June 1940 and left Lithuania between 15 June 1940 and 11 March 1990.
Any project of acquiring dual citizenship has to begin with determining who should be the applicant’s Citizen 0. Ideally, it would be the person herself, but that’s not likely to be the case, so throughout I’ll assume it’s a parent or grandparent. It is probably useful (because last names don’t change) to trace a genealogical chain through male ancestors. I suspect also, because of the patriarchy, that in the gathering stage it is easier to find evidence about fathers or grandfathers.
Picking a single Citizen 0 is helpful since it focuses the approach. If an applicant has many ancestors who could be Citizen 0s, she should choose the ancestor who is most likely to have the largest governmental paper trail: served in the army, owned land, completed advanced education, etc.
Once an applicant has determined a Citizen 0, the next step is to start gathering evidence.
But first, an important note! Of the materials submitted in a citizenship application, the only documents the applicant should expect back are her current passport and driver’s license (both are photocopied at the consulate). So if one is considering using an heirloom like grandpa’s 75 year-old passport to prove that he qualifies as a Citizen 0, one shouldn’t expect it back. One should, in light of the quick turnaround, always consider utilizing the services of the Lithuanian Archives, who provide authenticated copies of documents they have on file. These photocopies have no sentimental value, after all.
Furthermore, this warning extends to the applicant’s own birth certificate. If there is a sentimental attachment to the “original” birth certificate, the applicant should find out how to get a new official certificate made. It will cost money and take time, but it is possible. I walked into a currency exchange and bought two at once, for example. Please see Update 1 for more information on birth certificates and notarization.
- That the applicant’s ancestor is a valid Citizen 0. Proving pre-war citizenship can be done most easily (and emotionally cheaply) by contacting the Lithuanian Archives. Similarly, there was a nationwide census in 1942 that the Archives have recorded, which can help prove that Citizen 0 did not leave before 1940. Proving flight between 1940 and 1990 can be done either via hunting down documents from DP camps or via naturalization documents and the like from the country where Citizen 0 ended up.
- That the Citizen 0 is, in fact, the applicant’s ancestor. This can be done via a chain of birth certificates–that of the applicant and the applicant’s parent who is the descendant of Citizen 0, etc. If names don’t match on the certificates (usually because of marriage), then supplementary evidence of name changes will be necessary. An applicant should see how she can acquire new birth certificates, as the rules change from state to state and country to country.
- That the applicant is who she says she is. Easy enough. A current, valid passport proves this. If the applicant’s name is different than that on the birth certificate, then, obviously, supplemental evidence of legal name changes is needed.
- That the applicant is eligible to be served by the specific consulate in question. Also easy, and done with a current, valid state ID like a driver’s license. This is important just so that the consulate knows that it’s the proper consulate for the job. I have to prove that I live in a state served by the Consulate General in Illinois, say, in order to expect their services.
Getting evidence from Lithuania. I wrote already about my experiences with the Lithuanian Archives, but I can provide a synopsis here. I found that I had to make two queries: one that provided evidence that my Citizen 0 was a citizen before 1940 and one that provided evidence that my Citizen 0 was still in Lithuania in 1942. This involves making two separate requests of the Lietuvos centrinės valstybės archyvas, and the forms for both are available on this list of forms. The forms are available as .docs or .pdfs. Notable is that there is a possible third request, for proof of being shipped off to Germany. I don’t know if that is helpful or not, but I managed without it. One should also note that the Archive does not have records of births or marriages. That evidence is provided by Lietuvos valstybės istorijos archyvas, which has its own forms, etc. On the other hand, there is probably not much need for gathering vital statistic evidence about Citizen 0.
The Archive is cheap and fast. A five-day turnaround citizenship request costs 20 Lt, which is under $10. Getting the money to them, however, is a bit tricky, and the prices start to rise if you can’t draw on a Lithuanian bank. The five-day turnaround costs 7 Eur, and they add an 8 Eur fee to cover the bank’s fees if you send a check in lieu of making a wire transfer. Add in about two weeks for the mailed response, and the whole process still takes a less than a month, which is pretty shiny, considering.
The price and speed of using the Archive to find evidence of pre-1940 citizenship and of post-1940 residency make it my recommendation. One shouldn’t risk sentimental trouble with heirlooms. Rely on stamped photocopies from the Archive.
A final note about usage: the Lithuanian Archive presents “evidence,” not “proof.” They make no claims about whether whatever they find proves citizenship, etc. That is up to the Migration Department to decide. They just help make your case for you.
Getting evidence from DP camps. It is very likely that any Citizen 0 left Lithuania via Germany. If that is the case, then proving that Citizen 0 was in a DP camp is a good way of proving that Citizen 0 left Lithuania between 1940 and 1990. Depending on the applicant’s situation, it may be useful to use other evidence that’s a bit more solid, like naturalization documents or visas or something like that. I did not have those documents, and filing requests with US Immigration for new certificates took too long.
Instead, I followed a tip given by a professor and contacted the International Tracing Service. They have a form online for finding information about people in the camps, and it’s free. It takes some time (I think my search took about two months), but I received in the mail a stack of photocopies of trip manifests that showed my grandparents’ trip from Germany to Canada.
In the letter from the Lithuanian government that spells out their reasoning regarding my case for citizenship, they referred specifically to these documents. So considering the price, it is certainly a worthwhile venture.
Once all the evidence and materials are collected, they must be prepared for submission. Every document submitted in the request must be authenticated (perhaps via apostille) and translated into Lithuanian. The exceptions are, of course, documents provided by the Lithuanian government, which include any evidence sent by the Archive.
Authentication. Authentication is just proving that a foreign document is valid. For the Lithuanian government to accept a Canadian document as valid, for example, the document–a birth certificate, say–must be sent to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, which provides some guidelines for authentication. Once the document is returned, with a new set of stamps that prove that it has been authenticated, the Lithuanian government will reauthenticate it, which carries a fee ($14). Authentication is a bit of a pain, since it’s quite a bottleneck of doing the same thing over and over. Luckily, some countries, like the US and Lithuania, accept apostilles from each other.
Apostille. An apostille (wikipedia), simply put, is a document added to an original document that swears to the validity of the original document. This is a short cut to authentication, since when the Lithuanian government sees an Illinois birth certificate with an apostille attached to it, it trusts the apostille and doesn’t need to reauthenticate the document. Depending on the applicant’s situation, an apostille can be a nightmare to get, especially if the applicant lives in a different state from whichever state issued the birth certificate that she is trying to authenticate via apostille. For me, it was a quick trip downtown before work one morning.
Again, because every foreign government document must be authenticated, that means that naturalization documents must also be authenticated. In the US, getting an apostille for a federal document is a bit of a pain, since it requires mailing the documents to DC.
Translation. Every document submitted in the citizenship application must be translated in full into Lithuanian. The only exceptions are apostilles (just the certifications) and, of course, documents already in Lithuanian. Documents don’t need official translation–one can translate them herself–but those documents require an signed attestation that the applicant speaks both English and Lithuanian fluently and has translated the documents to the best of her ability (see example under “Pastabos”). I don’t know how much official translations cost, as I translated everything myself (with a native speaker friend who looked over what I did), but I suspect that, given the paucity of exposure to Lithuanian legalese that we get, in most cases it’s worth paying for the translation.
This is the easy part. The local consulate’s webpage should have links to forms to download and fill out for the application. The two required forms are linked to from this page on the Chicago General Consulate’s site. Add a few passport-sized photos, and it’s off to the Consulate to submit the application! I wrote about my experiences here, and I will add that the government has up to a year to decide on an application. That said, my decision came in just over two months, and I received my passport just over three months after submitting my paperwork. Super!
The most common question I’ve gotten about this post involves notarization and copies of documents like birth certificates. I suppose I didn’t make it clear above, but:
One cannot submit notarized photocopies of US documents. They must be official documents with translations and apostilles.
It is possible to have more than one birth certificate. The applicant must follow the laws for her state to figure out how to get a new birth certificate to submit to the Lithuanian government. In my case, I walked into a currency exchange, paid a fee, and picked up two certificates for myself a week later (or so). It is important to lose the magical, hyperliteral connection to some kind of “original” certificate that is the only “official” one. This view, brought to its extreme by certain Americans dissatisfied with the current President, is simply, legally, wrong. A birth certificate issued for me today is as official as the one issued the day I was born. In fact, even that old one isn’t the “original”–the original is kept by the state. And the state can certify to a birth over and over and over.
Perhaps it’s easier to think, then, that a birth certificate is more like a college transcript than like a passport. No one freaks about having to order 5 transcripts at once, though they are all official attestations of a certain academic record.
The previous update was about notarized documents (short version: Notarize nothing). This update is about another frequent question I get and on answering questions in general. To begin, I’ll reiterate what I already called an “important note” above:
DO NOT use “original” documents from Lithuania in your application.
Maybe your Citizen 0 kept meticulous records, saved everything, and can prove that she meets the criteria to be a Citizen 0. Congratulations, you have heirlooms. But that does not matter, since it is very likely that in making your citizenship request, the government will keep all those documents your Citizen 0 worked so hard to save.
So don’t do it.
Contact the Lithuanian Archives. They are cheap and fast, and they give you documents that are as valid as the documents your grandmother kept from 70 years ago. Having those old documents does not make the petition any easier in any real sense, and it only causes potential for heartbreak when the government keeps them.
Documents pertaining to leaving Lithuania are a bit trickier, but I’ve already indicated above how I managed to get around all that for free.
Recall that both of my potential Citizen 0s are long dead and that they left nearly no pre-war documentation behind. So I started with, basically, a blank slate. The only “old” documents I provided were my passport and driver’s license, which were photocopied at the consulate. Everything else I ordered from the various governmental agencies in the US, Canada, and Lithuania, as well as with ITS. I encourage everyone to follow that lead.
Now, the amount of bold text and italics in the previous few paragraphs indicate that I’m frustrated enough with questions I’ve gotten on this site pertaining to citizenship to declare, in general, that I am no longer responding to inquiries that I consider to be answered already in this document. I tried very hard to track every step and then generalize them for a wide, international audience. Answers to nearly every question that I could answer (remember, I’m not a lawyer, etc.) are already in the text above.
There are some things I have overlooked, such as an example of the attestation of competence in English and Lithuanian that one can write when translating English documents on one’s own. When asked about something like that, I’ll continue updating this page. But if a question is something like “can I use a notarized copy of my birth certificate?”, I won’t answer. I’m sorry to be a jerk about this, but I don’t consider it non-jerky to ask a question that has been already answered, too.