Acquiring the citizenship of the Grand Duchy goes three different ways: gaining it at birth through the parental affiliation (Jus sanguinis), through a marital status, or through the standard procedure of naturalisation.
In 2008, the Luxembourgish government added a fourth option, which allowed citizens to acquire citizenship through their ancestry: if proven that one of their ancestors held Luxembourgish citizenship prior to January 1, 1900, people could gain citizenship automatically. This process was limited in time, and ended at the end of last month.
In a first step, applicants needed to obtain an official certificate proving that they have a Luxembourgish ancestor. After transferring this to the Ministry of Justice, “the Second Step must be completed by the 31st of December 2020, where you must sign, in the presence of a civil registrar, a declaration to reclaim Luxembourgish nationality”. This is how the process is explained by the Luxembourgish consulate in San Francisco in the U.S state of California.
Specifically for US citizens this provision was of great interest, because the dual citizenship agreement between Washington DC and Luxembourg allowed people to gain citizenship without losing their American passport – and it gave them access to the European Union and the whole Schengen area unconditionally.
It is impossible to tell to what degree the decision of Americans to get Luxembourgish citizenship was purely motivated by a question of access to the EU, but some testimonies online suggest that there are a multitude of reasons. On the social media forum Reddit, one user writes this in a thread about how to gain citizenship by descent:
“I just did my consult call and I found out I fall under article 7 witch (sic) means I was always a citizen but just didn’t know it. This all started on one Saturday sitting on the couch googling my grandfather and grandmother for pictures I once found and just notice my grandfathers information was stored at the Luxembourg-American Cultural Society for some reason. I clicked and found out about the Duel Citizenship (sic) and just in time.”
Most requests for citizenship under this provision came from Belgium, due to a number of reasons. Between 2007 and 2011, Belgium was hit by a number of political crises, and frustration rose in our neighbouring country. Many people changed their citizenship in order to make a point. Others benefitting from the rule were those in the Belgian Province of Luxembourg: this province had fallen under the control of Belgium in 1839, but remained linguistically closely associated to the Grand Duchy. If you go to Arlon today, you’ll still find elderly people speaking Luxembourgish, as it was spoken in their families.
The onus of proof lies on the applicant, meaning that the ministry does not provide any help on proving the ancestry. The fact that most applicants got approved isn’t a surprise however: the Grand Duchy had a much larger territory throughout history, and encompassed a lot of people from what is today called the Greater Region. From a historical viewpoint, the policy is absolutely justifiable: war and economic turmoil might have led many Luxembourgers to seek a new life in North or South America, but the sacrifices of these ancestors towards the country are still as valid.
Twenty-three employers in the Ministry of Justice are currently working on the execution of this provision. Since some applicants are still in phase 2 of the process, those civil servants will still be needed in the next two years.
Does this require new tools?
The question now posed is the administrative problem associated with all of these new citizens. Citizenship was given to a number of people who have never resided in Luxembourg and who do not speak any of the official languages of the country. However, they are citizens and therefore eligible to vote, and to benefit from any of the other rights associated with being a citizen.
Luxembourg’s civil servants are all able to speak workable English, so considering an English option to explain official documents and forms online could benefit all the new citizens of this country.
This article was first published by the Luxembourg Times.
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