So complicated.
August 19, 2009 9:47 PM   Subscribe

LithuaniaFilter: I need your esoteric knowledge regarding US/Lithuanian dual citizenship! I've got a project and now that I'm into this idea, I really, really want to make it work.. despite my target country being a little small.. and a little lacking in up-to-date information.

Say I fit into Lithuania's little loophole regarding dual citizenship by having a grandparent who emigrated between 1940 and 1990. Say I went through all the websites I could and found very conflicting laws regarding the subject.

Well, that's happened. I am 18 years old, I am a US citizen, my mom is a US citizen, and her parents came here, as far as I know (I haven't asked her until I know for sure I can even do this), after 1940. After going through websites, official and not, it's got really confusing. The laws seem to have changed considerably within the past few years.

I did call the Lithuanian Embassy in New York, but the lady answered in Lithuanian and seemed annoyed that I didn't know what she was saying and was too flustered to ask a coherent question. All I got out was, "Is dual citizenship legal?" And now I know, according to her, it is indeed legal. She sounded so annoyed by me that I hope I don't end up talking to her again. I get the feeling I shouldn't be calling them for it's reserved for Lithuanian tourists lost in the city or something.

However, according to some sources, dual citizenship will be gone forever in 2010. Some sources say it's still illegal. And some make it sound like it's here to stay [more]. I've been sure to look out for the year the articles have been published, because it sounds like dual citizenship was outlawed in 2006, and then made legal again in 2008.

The fact that some of this conflicting information is coming from their own embassy websites makes it even more confusing.
I've also been using this blog, but the simplicity of it makes me suspicious.

Does anyone happen to know the current Lithuanian law? I will try calling again, and I emailed all 3 US Embassies, but I don't know what else to do. Also, will not knowing any Lithuanian really hinder the process when I try to get the supporting documents proving my grandparents were citizens, did leave during Soviet occupation, etc.? I know I will need an Official Translator when sending the documents, and I will need apostilles, but what is notarisation, and will I need that? I tried to read all I could but it all turned into a cloud of technical terms.

Would the US recognise this dual citizenship? Could I "accidentally" renounce US citizenship by continuing with this? Will I have to go through an oath of allegiance and take a language test, even for dual citizenship? Does doing this only guarantee a passport? Would it make me an EU citizen?

Can I try to get copies of original documents without actually going to Lithuania and without an attorney? Do I need an attorney?

Will I have to live there for a while, or will they just send me a passport?
I do plan on visiting one day, but I have to admit, if it wasn't a part of the EU, a bit of the purpose would be lost.

I have so many questions! Will this just end up being so hard I will end up wishing I never started? I'm not afraid of spending (not too much) money and waiting a year for everything to get cleared. I enjoy a project...only if it ends up being worthwhile! Any advice on dual citizenship will be appreciated!
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Travel & Transportation around Lithuania (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about obtaining Lithuanian citizenship, but the US doesn't care if you have dual citizenship and you won't accidentally renounce your US citizenship.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 10:20 PM on August 19, 2009

It would make you a citizen of an EU state, with the right to live/work/study/whatever in other member states, though some states have restrictions on when citizens of the "new" member states can move there.

You may very well have to go through a language test; this is a major stumbling block next door in Latvia, for example, where lots and lots of Russians live as non-citizens because they can't/don't want to pass a Latvian language test.

You know what I would do to get your questions answered, since this very well may pay off big-time in the future? You called the Lithuanian consulate in New York - which is, actually, probably spending its time helping tourists. I'd go as far as contacting the Lithuanian EMBASSY in Washington to set up an in-person appointment about "applying for citizenship", since I'm not sure there's another way to get your question 100% for-sure answered. You may spend a few hundred bucks on getting there and a hostel/hotel - they only receive people for two hours, M-F, in the "consular section", which is possibly what you need - but again, huge payoff later on, perhaps...because this page on the official site seems to say that you do, in fact, have to renounce your other citizenships.

Here's their website with contact info at left.

posted by mdonley at 10:44 PM on August 19, 2009

mdonley: Yes, but that site only mentions the law as of 2006 for some reason. And then an actual lady said dual citizenship is accepted...I am fairly certain it is, since it's in 2008 that the documents start saying it's possible.
You're right about going to DC.. I actually live in SW Virginia so it would just be a day trip. I could ask them the preliminary questions on the phone.... ie. "So, IS dual citizenship Legal??"
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 10:48 PM on August 19, 2009

Oh, and on the hard work/philosophical aspect of things - I've been working to get Italian citizenship through similar legal means for about three years now, only because there were a number of documents to gather (interestingly, the Italian ones were the easiest!), and because it's all a part-time endeavor. We've got everything now, and it's just a matter of waiting for an appointment at the consulate in LA. It's not a two or three-month thing, and it's not cheap when you consider the translations and apostilles and things you need. But it's worth it.
posted by mdonley at 10:51 PM on August 19, 2009

I'd be clearer than that - explain your situation exactly over the phone, with dates and years and as much detail as you can, and then ask if your situation would permit a dual-citizenship thing - Italy, for example, has about five ways you can become a dual citizen, all with various different qualifications. So asking your question will get a yes, but that yes will not apply, necessarily, to your situation. Going in person is easier also because you can draw a little family tree if things get linguistically complicated as you mentioned with the New York office, and since you're close-ish, that may be the best option. :)
posted by mdonley at 10:55 PM on August 19, 2009

That does sound like the most logical thing to do.
I emailed the Lithuanian Central State Archives, in English. The biggest problem that I can think of so far will be trying to get internal passports without knowing Lithuanian, having Lithuanian money, or even being in the country. I'm not worried about getting apostilles for US documents; it's trying to get things abroad (and the translations) that will definitely be the main challenge here.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 11:40 PM on August 19, 2009

You can't "accidentally" renounce your US Citizenship. It's actually very very difficult to do.

Renouncing US Citizenship is viewed negatively by the United States in general, and the IRS specifically. After a lot of high profile cases in the 1980's, The Internal Revenue Service now assumes this is being done solely to evade taxes. Typically what the agency does in these cases is look back a decade and take your highest tax liability over that term.

They then assume this will be your annual liability going forward, and send you a bill for the next decade. ("The Ten Year Attribution Rule").

Pay that bill and IRS won't contest your renounciation. Don't pay it and a US Citizen you shall remain.

Don't have the money to pay your US taxes or the next ten years? Well, you could probably go to court at that point and extricate yourself out of US Citizenship (costing $$ you don't have in the process), but the IRS is a remarkably goal oriented agency, therefore I suspect that bill will follow the erstwhile US patriot about until resolved one way or another.

Governments do cooperate with each other, and a wide array of MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties) and TIEA (Tax Information Exchange Agreements) will allow the IRS to seize any real property maintained in all but the most lawless of nations. When I was living in Nigeria I knew American ex-pats who were threatened by the IRS, who tried to seize bank accounts and even property.

And other US agencies? Well, I've been living abroad for about thirteen years, heavily plugged into the US ex-pat network, and I've heard of folks who renounced US citizenship. You can't do it while living in the United States, and if you do try to undertake it they will not make it easy. Get ready for multiple, in person visits to a US Embassy where they will interview you and insure you are fully aware of what you're giving up.

Another, potentially game stopping point - besides being a very long, drawn out process, the people at the US border have been known to hassle and even refuse entrance to prior citizens traveling on other passports. I've heard that US tourist visas, if necessary, have been for some ex US citizens very, very tough, and in some cases impossible to obtain.

So renouncing US citizenship can't happen by accident. And you'd have to very, very carefully think through the ramifications which might go far beyond a significant cash outlay.

Reading the rest of your question, I guess I'd ask what is your end goal?

You seem to just want the passport, but don't want to live there and never have visited? Well, as unseemly as this might sound (apologies!) there are domiciles that will effectively sell you a passport and not force you to renounce your US citizenship.

Typically these are "entrepreneur programmes", intended to attract businesses to the country in question.

Many nations have them, almost none openly advertise them, but they exist. Last time I checked The Dominican Republic charged about $80K for a passport, Canada about $300,000 CAD, and so on.

Finally, one thing about that Lithuanian page unnerves me; they seem to expect you to renounce prior citizenship upon learning you're eligible for their passport?

Following this process one would become, albeit temporarily, stateless.

This is to be avoided at all costs.
posted by Mutant at 11:46 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mutant: I'm glad it sounds so hard to renounce US citizenship; one of their websites made it sound sort of easy.. but then I learned you would also have to be on foreign soil.
I don't know if the process I am planning on going through would somehow only lead to a passport; my end goal is to live in the EU in about 3 years after getting my bachelor's degree in the US.

I would like to live in Europe, though not necessarily Lithuania, although like I said I'm not trying to avoid the place. That's why I especially want to be sure that I would be a citizen of Lithuania and the EU...and the US; and not just have a passport (and I don't even know if it's possible to have a passport without being a citizen, I'm just trying to avoid possible pitfalls.)
If I'd have to renounce US citizenship I can't continue trying to apply.

And I forgot to ask; are there any possible reasons why I shouldn't want to have two passports? Would it raise some kind of red flag if I tried to get back into the US with a US passport yet somehow their databases knew I had another passport? Are there any kind of tax obligations I should be potentially worried about? I know I would have to keep up with the news to keep up to date with the ever-changing immigration/citizenship laws.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 12:23 AM on August 20, 2009

lhude sing cuccu -- "(and I don't even know if it's possible to have a passport without being a citizen, I'm just trying to avoid possible pitfalls.)

If I'd have to renounce US citizenship I can't continue trying to apply.

And I forgot to ask; are there any possible reasons why I shouldn't want to have two passports? Would it raise some kind of red flag if I tried to get back into the US with a US passport yet somehow their databases knew I had another passport? Are there any kind of tax obligations I should be potentially worried about? I know I would have to keep up with the news to keep up to date with the ever-changing immigration/citizenship laws."

Well, a passport by definition is only issued to a nation's citizens. Look at it this way, the country involved is expressing a commitment to you, just as you are by adopting joining the ranks of that nations citizens.

I have seen ads for passports without citizenship, but they are scams (and I know you won't get suckered, you're doing great btw by asking questions and researching!) .

Why not have two passports? Then only reason I can think of would be if one of those nations required one to renounce US citizenship. That not only seems harsh and manipulative, but is counter to trends we're observing e.g., Germany recently dropped such a requirement. I'd be interested in hearing from someone who is familiar with EU law on this topic, as while it seems to be harmonising somewhat (i.e., dual citizenship is ok), there still are exceptions as you've illustrated.

"Would it raise some kind of red flag if I tried to get back into the US with a US passport yet somehow their databases knew I had another passport? "

I've got multiple passports and the rule is you as a US Citizen must enter and leave the United States on a US passport. Red flag? Yes, they get very upset / annoyed / you'll miss you flight or otherwise just be detained type of hassle. They do track these things so best not to try. Or make a mistake.

But not a big deal, just don't let the US Immigration folks see your foreign passport and you're good. If they ask if you're holding another passport refuse (politely!!) to answer. You don't have to declare foreign citizenships to enter or exit the United States (yet).

"Are there any kind of tax obligations I should be potentially worried about? "

US Citizens, even those residing abroad, still have to pay US taxes. The first $80K (or so) is tax free on the US side. But, of course, you've also got to pay taxes to the country you're living & working in, presumably the nation that has offered you a non US passport.

So yes, complications, two sets (for me three) of tax rules to track.

Still worth it not to live in the United States, in my view. But that's just me (nothing political here, my wife is Dutch, my entire life is focused on the UK and Europe, I prefer European lifestyle to American, so three sets of tax rules suits me fine).
posted by Mutant at 1:22 AM on August 20, 2009

One organization you might want to contact for help is the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago. At the very least they can provide you translation services for a fee.

posted by SteveInMaine at 6:17 AM on August 20, 2009

One thing you mentioned - internal passports - don't exist in Lithuania anymore; they were a relic of Soviet times.

Your other concerns will not be borne out to resolution until you get a straight answer from the embassy. Everyone else on here, myself included, can only sort of pick at what we can find online, having never gone through the process.

On the citizenship renunciation thing...perhaps the IRS has some advice, since there are probably people who have gone through a process similar to yours (though perhaps for other countries) and there's some sort of deal they have in this specific case (as you are not, I presume, a zillionaire tax-dodger at 18.) :)
posted by mdonley at 9:46 AM on August 20, 2009

I've actually been looking into the same thing; I also qualify for dual citizenship since all of my grandparents left Lithuania after 1940. There's a great resource written by a US (I think?) citizen in Chicago who recently had success going through the dual citizenship process. He outlines everything you need to do in order to get your passport. There's certainly a lot of paperwork involved, but it doesn't seem too onerous.

Keep in mind that time is running out, unless the Seimas passes another citizenship law soon. There's been a lot of talk of that, but nothing's happened yet, and the current citizenship law expires in January. I really need to get off my ass and start gathering paperwork. Thanks for the reminder, and good luck!
posted by av123 at 10:57 PM on August 20, 2009

mdonley -- "On the citizenship renunciation thing...perhaps the IRS has some advice, since there are probably people who have gone through a process similar to yours... "

Hold on here - be very, very careful about approaching the IRS or any government organisation asking about the process to renounce US citizenship.

A few years ago one of my buddies, disgusted by what he perceived to be imperialistic US foreign policy, made similar queries to the US Embassy in Paris. He'd been living there for about a decade, had genuine, political motivations and in fact had organised several anti-war demonstrations and spoke out in the media against the wars.

When it came time to renew his passport a few months later (via the US Embassy) the IRS audited him. He was damn sure they knew he was considering renouncing as they were very, very curious about future events, unusual for a tax audit which, by definition, should be backward looking. They tried to bring his wife and wife's family into scope, apparently convinced some money was due my buddy from them.

While he was clean on the audit it did illustrate these agencies talk to each other and the government more than likely maintains lists of folks who either are renouncing or are considering renouncing. We already knew they kept lists of folks that have renounced, as sometimes ex-US citizens traveling on foreign passports are denied visas or even entry to the United States should a visa not be necessary.

But regardless, I'd first ask why one would consider renouncing in the first place?

I don't think I'd advise renouncing US citizenship solely because another nation wouldn't grant a passport otherwise. That is counter to EU & global trends we've observed, at least since 1997 when I left the United States. Most nations are glad to entertain dual citizenship, especially now in this era of globalisation and shrinking borders. As I mentioned upthread, requiring one to renounce existing citizenship is both aggressive and manipulative, and I'd suggest looking deeply at that nation's other policies before engaging. What the hell else do they order their citizens to do or not do?

If you do plan to renounce suggest you build up some background to dispel the assumption you're doing this solely for money.

We know IRS policy, in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, will consider your motives financial - even if you've had zero / modest earnings to date. In fact this innocent query would probably raise so many red flags they'd assume you were likely to inherit a sizable estate, either domestically or foreign. And I bet you'd be audited yourself in the near term, or your parents would be audited. The IRS will assume money is driving your query re: how to renouce, first and foremost and they will act accordingly. The fact that you don't already have a second citizenship will just prove this point, at least to them.

Also little known: the US government doesn't have to approve your renunciation request. There is no simple checklist to be followed; every case is different and considered on it's own merits and on it's own timeframe.

In fact a few years ago one guy had to litigate to get the US to accept his renunciation, something he'd been trying, without luck, to do for several years.

There are right ways to go about this, but approaching the IRS without solid reasons will just make an already suspicious organisation even more curious.

And will just create more hassle for you down the road should you decide to renounce.

Finally, I've got the view that citizenships & passports should be accretive NOT mutually exclusive.

I like the idea that I can live and work in Europe OR America without hassle, without having to get a work permit or visa. That's the way it should be; folks have already acceded far too much authority to governments.
posted by Mutant at 4:58 AM on August 22, 2009

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