Ukrainian nationality law
Ukrainian nationality law is the law that governs the acquisition and loss of citizenship of Ukraine. This body of law includes the constitution, several treaties, and the Law on Citizenship of Ukraine. Key secondary legislation comprises the procedure, established by the president, for the authorities to decide on and record each case of acquisition or loss of citizenship. There also exists a body of administrative case law.
|Ukraine Citizenship Act|
|Parliament of Ukraine|
|Enacted by||Verkhovna Rada (parliament)|
|Passed||18 January 2001|
|Signed by||President of Ukraine|
|Commenced||1 March 2001|
|Constitution of Ukraine|
|Status: Current legislation|
Ukrainian People's Republic
The Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR) established Ukrainian citizenship for the first time when it adopted citizenship laws on 2 and 4 March 1918, just as Soviet Russia recognized the UPR's independence under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The laws instituted jus soli, prohibited dual citizenship, and required "registration of citizenship through the process of proving one's right to citizenship through witnesses." The legislation was vulnerable to "undemocratic" abuse, and many provisions were "incorrectly formulated" so as to make compliance impossible. Therefore, the Central Council planned a revision.
The German-backed Ukrainian State seized control in April and adopted a law based on the UPR's proposed changes on 2 July. This law claimed as citizens all Russian subjects who resided in Ukraine and did not formally reject Ukrainian citizenship. The UPR resumed power in December. The autonomous Western Oblast of the UPR, whose territory remained in dispute with Poland, saw citizenship legislation enacted on 8 April 1919. This law likewise conferred citizenship on everyone who belonged to one of the oblast's communities and who did not reject it.
Poland occupied most of the Western Oblast's territory by July, and the UPR recognized the territory as part of Poland in April 1920. In September of the same year, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the UPR, then in exile in Tarnów, stated in a letter that the Ukrainian State citizenship law remained valid. By November, the UPR had conclusively lost the last of its territory, which was divided in 1921 between Poland, Soviet Russia, and the Ukrainian SSR.
The Ukrainian SSR became a founding republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. The 1924 Soviet Union constitution affirmed "single Union citizenship" for the citizens of all Union republics. The 1929 Ukrainian SSR constitution stated that all Ukrainian SSR citizens were also Union citizens. Successive Soviet constitutions maintained this arrangement.
The 1978 Soviet Union citizenship law delegated to the presidiums of the supreme soviets of the Union republics the authority to grant republican citizenship and thereby Union citizenship to resident non-citizens. A 1981 decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR provided for naturalization in this way. This procedure "applied to non-Soviet citizens only and not to Soviet citizens who moved from one Soviet republic to another."
The Ukrainian SSR, like other Union republics, neither made laws on nor administered its own citizenship. Soviet law did not provide for documentation of republican citizenship. Thus, Ukrainian SSR citizenship had no practical consequences and its existence was dubious.
Independent Ukrainian citizenship and the end of the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union allowed the Union republics to make laws to govern their own citizenships beginning May 1990. The Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine, adopted 16 July, established Ukrainian SSR citizenship independent of and alongside Union citizenship, and envisaged further legislation to govern the acquisition and loss of this new citizenship. Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union on 24 August 1991.
In the Verkhovna Rada, factions of nationalists, unreformed Communists, and the former nomenklatura in power supported different citizenship policies. The nationalists wanted citizenship for all ethnic Ukrainians. The Communists desired no independent citizenship or, when the collapse of the Soviet Union loomed, dual citizenship with Russia. Both nationalists and the nomenklatura disfavored dual citizenship. They feared that Russia would grant its own citizenship to Ukrainian citizens to justify intervention in Ukraine on behalf of Russian dual citizens. The first citizenship legislation resulted from compromise between these three factions.
The Law on the Succession of Ukraine, which took effect on 5 October, extended citizenship only to Soviet citizens with permanent residence in Ukraine as of independence. The first Citizenship Law entered into force on 13 November. The Law allowed those born in Ukraine or with parents or grandparents born in Ukraine to register for citizenship, and neither prohibited nor protected multiple citizenship. Its preamble proscribed deprivation of citizenship, or denaturalization as the Soviet authorities had deployed "against the enemies of Soviet power", as well as deprivation of the right to change citizenship. The following month, the Soviet Union dissolved.
The 1978 Ukrainian SSR constitution remained in effect but the Verkhovna Rada removed references to Soviet Union citizenship effective 18 July 1992. Ukraine ratified a new constitution on 28 June 1996 that banned deprivation of citizenship and of the right to change citizenship.
From 1991 to 2005, Ukraine repeatedly expanded the grounds on which people anywhere could register for citizenship by birth on or through relatives born on Ukrainian or formerly Ukrainian territory. To defend its own "compatriots abroad", Russia campaigned from 1993 to 1997 for multiple citizenship in other post-Soviet states including Ukraine. Though some in Ukraine favored Russia's efforts, the authorities continued to oppose them. Restrictions on multiple citizenship tightened in the late 1990s but softened in the subsequent decade.
To reduce dual citizenship in cases of naturalization, Ukraine formed agreements with other post-Soviet states to establish a simplified, free-of-charge procedure to change citizenship from one country's to the other's. Ukraine and Uzbekistan implemented the first such agreement in October 1998 and enabled some 28,000 formerly deported Crimean Tatars to switch from Uzbek to Ukrainian citizenship. Though Russia and some other countries declined, Ukraine also concluded agreements with Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Some of these agreements later ended, and by 2017, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reported only that such treaties remained in force with Belarus, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The current Citizenship Law replaced the first law in 2001 and has undergone several amendments, the most recent of which occurred in 2021. In 2002, Ukraine acceded to the 1967 Protocol to the 1951 Refugee Convention, then to the Convention itself. Ukraine signed the European Convention on Nationality in 2003 and ratified it in 2006. That year, Ukraine also became the first country to sign the Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession, but never ratified it. The country acceded to the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in 2013.
Definition of Ukrainian citizenship
Citizens of Ukraine typically fall into at least one of the following categories:
- Former citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics who were permanently resident on the territory of the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic at the moment of the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine on 24 August 1991.
- Stateless people, residing on the territory of Ukraine on 13 November 1991.
- People who came to Ukraine with the intent of taking up permanent residence since 13 November 1991 and who had the endorsement "Citizen of Ukraine" inserted into their 1974-type Soviet passport by Ukrainian authorities, as well as the children of such persons who arrived in Ukraine together with their parents, provided that they had not attained their majority before their entry to Ukraine.
- People who acquired Ukrainian citizenship in accordance with the laws of Ukraine and the international treaties of Ukraine.
Acquisition of citizenship
- By descent:
- Being born to parents, at least one of whom is a citizen of Ukraine.
- Being born abroad to stateless parents, but legally residing in Ukraine, and having acquired no other nationality at birth.
- Being born in Ukraine to non-Ukrainian parents, but legally residing in Ukraine and having not acquired the nationality of either parent.
- Being born in Ukraine to parents, at least one of whom is a registered refugee under Ukrainian law, and having not acquired the nationality of either parent or only the nationality of the parent holding refugee status.
- Being born in Ukraine to unknown parents.
- By registration:
- Being adopted as a child by citizens of Ukraine.
- Having no other citizenship and at least one parent or grandparent Ukrainian by birth.
- Having no other citizenship, under certain conditions listed in the Statute on Citizenship.
- By naturalization:
- Having resided in Ukraine for at least five years, being able to function in the Ukrainian language, and being knowledgeable of the Ukrainian Constitution. The individual is required to voluntarily renounce any foreign citizenships they may hold.
Birth within the territory of Ukraine does not automatically confer citizenship.
Loss of citizenship
From 2005 until mid-2017, 87,376 people lost their Ukrainian citizenship. 67,305 of them voluntarily renounced it, 19,738 lost it because of international agreements and 333 were involuntary deprived of their citizenship.
Voluntary loss of citizenship
According to Ukraine's nationality law, Ukrainian citizenship can be voluntarily renounced by Ukrainian citizens who have taken up permanent residence in a foreign country and who have acquired a foreign citizenship or have received confirmation that they will acquire a foreign citizenship upon successful renunciation of their Ukrainian citizenship. Citizenship can only be renounced in the presence of a Ukrainian consular official at a Ukrainian diplomatic mission and proof of the final/impending acquisition of foreign citizenship is required to do so.
Automatic loss of citizenship
Automatic loss of Ukrainian citizenship occurs in the event an adult Ukrainian citizen voluntarily acquires a foreign nationality or enters into the military or governmental service of a foreign power.
Ukrainian citizenship is not automatically lost in the following circumstances:
- Acquiring a foreign citizenship at birth by descent from a parent when Ukrainian citizenship is also acquired by descent.
- Being adopted by foreign nationals when Ukrainian citizenship was originally acquired by descent from a biological parent.
- Automatically acquiring citizenship of one's spouse upon marriage to a foreign national.
- Automatically acquiring a foreign citizenship upon reaching the age of majority in accordance with the nationality law of a foreign country. In this case Ukrainian citizenship is retained providing that the individual had no formal (documented) knowledge of the automatic acquisition of the foreign citizenship.
The decision on termination of Ukrainian citizenship must be taken by the President of Ukraine.
Ukrainian law recognizes a unique citizenship inside the country. That does not explicitly deny dual (external) citizenship, so there are citizens of Ukraine who hold dual citizenship. Ukrainian law states that, after a foreign citizen gains Ukrainian citizenship, they must renounce its non-Ukrainian citizenship(s) within two years. A 2009 estimate put the number of Ukrainians with more than one passport from 300,000 to a few million. Within Ukrainian borders, Ukrainian citizens who also hold other citizenships are considered to be solely Ukrainian citizens.
If a citizen of Ukraine acquires citizenship (nationality) of another state or states, in legal relations with Ukraine, the person is recognized as a citizen of Ukraine only. If a foreigner acquires the citizenship of Ukraine, then in legal relations with Ukraine, the person is recognized as a citizen of Ukraine only...— Article 2. Law on citizenship of Ukraine.
In June 2017, Ukrainian citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 132 countries and territories, ranking the Ukrainian passport 42nd in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index.
- The Ukrainian Embassy in Kazakhstan writes: "Угода між Україною і Республікою Казахстан про спрощений порядок набуття і припинення громадянства громадянами України, які постійно проживають у Республіці Казахстан, та громадянами Республіки Казахстан, які постійно проживають в Україні, та запобігання випадкам безгромадянства та подвійного громадянства (... з 8 липня 2011 року Казахстанська сторона висловила позицію про визнання дії Угоди припиненою, оскільки загальний термін дії Угоди складає 10 років з моменту набуття нею чинності)...." [Agreement between Ukraine and the Republic of Kazakhstan on a simplified procedure for change of citizenship by citizens of Ukraine permanently resident in the Republic of Kazakhstan and by citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan permanently resident in Ukraine, and the prevention of cases of statelessness and dual citizenship (... the Kazakhstani side has expressed its position on the termination of the Agreement on 8 July 2011, since the overall term of the Agreement is 10 years from the moment of entry into force)....]
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