Russia seeks to change citizenship rules for children living abroad

At the request of Russian President Medvedev, the Russian Duma is considering amendments to the Federal Law On Amendments to Article 14 of the Federal Law On Russian Federation Citizenship. The purpose of the proposed amendments would be to make it as simple as possible for children living abroad, one parent of whom is a Russian citizen, to obtain Russian citizenship.

The president believes that the amendment is needed because in the cases of children living abroad, one parent of whom is a Russian citizen, the current provisions in the Federal Law On Russian Federation Citizenship, require the consent of the foreign citizen parent, and this often becomes an insurmountable obstacle in the way of obtaining Russian citizenship for children living abroad and who are foreign citizens or stateless persons.

According to the sponsors of the legislation in the Duma, not having Russian citizenship also makes it impossible for Russian authorities (through diplomatic or consular support) to protect the interests of these children, and makes it difficult for the Russian citizenship-holding parent to exercise their parental rights within at least the minimum guaranteed by Russian Federation law.

The foreign citizen parent ends up in a more advantageous situation in terms of being able to exercise their parental rights, as they have at their disposal the full range of legal mechanisms provided for in the foreign country’s laws.

The government’s position is that this is an inequality in the legal status of the foreign citizen parent and the Russian citizen parent contradicts the Russian Federation Family Code, which guarantees equal rights and responsibilities for both parents. The principle of equal rights applies not only to internal family life but also to other areas of social relations, including citizenship. They say the draft law’s aim is to give both parents equal rights in accordance with the Russian Federation Family Code’s provisions.

According to the president the possibility of obtaining Russian citizenship for a child at the request of the parent who holds Russian citizenship and without the consent of the foreign citizen parent does not contradict existing international law on children’s citizenship. Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child obligates parties to the Convention to provide children with citizenship in accordance with their laws. The Convention has no provisions requiring the consent of both parents before citizenship can be granted.

Constant requests to abolish the provision requiring the consent of the foreign citizen parent come from Russian organizations and people abroad. A number of well-known disputes have taken place, in the settlement of which the existence or absence of Russian citizenship for the child has played a key part.

The government believes that the proposed amendment will thus create an additional mechanism for protecting the interests of Russian citizens living abroad.