Dateline: Yerevan, Armenia
One of the things that I find most rewarding about my job is helping people get a second passport.
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, getting a second citizenship is one of the most important parts of becoming a global citizen and working toward a Nomad Capitalist lifestyle.
One of the most interesting ways to go about doing this is through citizenship by descent. Instead of making a major investment to get economic citizenship or living in the country to become naturalized, you must simply prove that your parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents were born in a particular country to obtain citizenship by descent.
So, when my fiancee mentioned that she had Armenian ancestry, I was all too excited to help get her Armenian citizenship by descent.
Both of her parents have both Russian and Armenian ancestry, but she was born and raised in Russia. So, she didn’t necessarily realize that because she has so much Armenian ancestry, she would be able to obtain an Armenian passport by proving her ethnicity.
Armenia is somewhere that you might not have thought about in terms of a second passport, but getting an Armenian passport can actually be quite beneficial in a number of ways. As an Armenian, you’ll have direct access to some of the best offshore banks in the world, and you’ll also have a few interesting visa-free travel options.
The process of getting Armenian citizenship by descent is also relatively simple, and if you have the right documents to prove your Armenian ancestry, then you can have your Armenian passport in as little as four months.
However, while the process for getting Armenian citizenship by descent seems fairly straightforward, you’ll need to know its ins and outs to avoid hiccups along the way.
So, the purpose of this article is to give you an idea of why you might want Armenian citizenship by descent and the process that you’ll need to go through to get it.
At this point, you might be wondering, “why would I want Armenian citizenship?”
A lot of people tend to think of former Soviet countries like Armenia as these dark, dismal places that are far behind the rest of Europe in terms of development.
However, after spending plenty of time in Yerevan, I can certainly tell you that isn’t the case here. Yerevan is a bustling and developed city with plenty of pockets of wealth, and it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a high standard of living at a low cost.
But even if you don’t necessarily plan on living in Armenia for any part of the year, there are still a number of practical benefits to getting Armenian citizenship by descent. In fact, Armenia is interestingly one of the few countries that will allow you to become president with a second passport.
First, being an Armenian citizen can help you more easily take advantage of banking and investment opportunities in the country. Banks in Armenia offer excellent interest rates on term deposits, and Armenia also has plenty of great real estate investment opportunities. You can get a city center apartment in Yerevan for about $50,000, and with your Armenian citizenship, you’ll be able to buy undeveloped land – a privilege that typically isn’t available to foreigners.
Second, this up-and-coming country also offers steadily improving visa-free access that can almost certainly enhance your current passport portfolio.
An Armenian passport offers visa-free travel to a lot of countries that aren’t particularly friendly toward the West. Russia and Iran are two of those countries, and currently, Armenia and China are negotiating a visa-free travel agreement for their citizens. So, while an Armenian passport still isn’t particularly strong, it can save you the trouble of getting visas to more closed-off countries like Russia and China.
An Armenian passport also offers visa-free access to a handful of Central and South American countries, and Armenia is expected to have a visa-free travel agreement with the EU within the next few years.
Additionally, unlike many European citizenships, Armenian citizenship is relatively easy to pass onto your spouse and your children. Once you receive your Armenian passport, your children will automatically be entitled to Armenian citizenship by descent, and if you and your spouse live in Armenia for a year, then they will also be entitled to Armenian citizenship if you have been married for more than two years.
Finally, if you have Armenian ancestry, then getting Armenian citizenship by descent simply won’t cost you much in time and effort.
Getting citizenship by descent is one of the easier ways to get a second passport – particularly if you already have proof of ancestry through your parents or grandparents. Unlike citizenship by investment, it’s not going to cost you upwards of $100,000 to get a passport, and you won’t need to expend the time and effort to become naturalized.
To get Armenian citizenship by descent, you won’t need to learn how to speak Armenian; you won’t need to pass a test on the Armenian constitution; and you don’t even necessarily need to reside there to be eligible.
And given all of the benefits of a second passport, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of this citizenship by descent program when the opportunity cost is so low?
How to Get Armenian Citizenship by Descent
If you have Armenian ancestry (and can prove it), then getting Armenian citizenship by descent can be worthwhile.
The process of getting Armenian citizenship by descent can be fairly straightforward, and for my fiancee, it took all of about five months.
Getting Armenian citizenship by descent is also fairly inexpensive. The application and passport fees are about $2 each, which means that you’ll spend less than $5 getting your Armenian citizenship. While travel, a lawyer, and other costs can add up, you can certainly go through the entire process for well under $5,000 – flights included.
In general, getting citizenship by descent anywhere isn’t too difficult. The most involved part of the process is gathering the correct documents that you’ll need to provide to prove your ancestry, and how long that takes will depend on how much research you’ve done and your ties to your Armenian roots.
However, proving your Armenian ancestry isn’t as simple as having an Armenian last name or even speaking fluent Armenian. You’ll need to have real, solid proof of your Armenian ancestry to be eligible to apply.
Once you have that proof, the process from there is fairly straightforward. You will need to visit Yerevan twice, have a few meetings, and fill out some paperwork, but you won’t need to jump through an endless series of hoops as you would if you were trying to get, say, US citizenship.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the process for getting Armenian citizenship by descent, the kinds of documents that you’ll need to provide, and what to expect when you visit Yerevan to get your Armenian passport.
Step 1: Gather your Documents
The hardest and most involved part of getting Armenian citizenship by descent is gathering the documents that you’ll need to prove your Armenian ancestry.
As I mentioned earlier, proving your Armenian ethnicity isn’t as simple as having an Armenian last name or knowing how to speak a bit of Armenian. You’ll need to have more official proof of ancestry to be eligible to get an Armenian passport.
My fiancee, for instance, had a baptismal certificate from the Armenian church, and along with her birth certificate, she was able to use this as sufficient proof of her Armenian ancestry.
Most people will use those two documents – a baptismal certificate and a birth certificate – to prove their Armenian origins. However, if you don’t have a baptismal certificate readily available, you’re not totally out of luck.
You see, the Armenian government doesn’t have an official list of exact documents that can be used to prove your Armenian ancestry. This means that a variety of different documents, such as a letter from the Armenian association in your city, can be used to prove your Armenian ethnicity.
Other documents that you might use are a parent’s baptismal certificate, family records that denote your Armenian ancestry, or a birth certificate that mentions your ethnicity.
Then, once you’ve gathered the documents that you need, you need to take them to the Armenian embassy or consulate in your home country to have those documents certified, and you may also need to have your birth certificate translated into Armenian for your application.
Regardless of which documents you decide to use, having them stamped, sealed, and certified by your local Armenian embassy is a critical part of the process. Without these certifications, you will not be able to submit your documents to the Armenian government to apply for citizenship.
Step 2: Travel to Yerevan and Apply for Citizenship
Once you’ve gathered your documents and have had them certified by your local embassy, you must then travel to Armenia to apply for citizenship.
While it is technically possible to apply for Armenian citizenship by descent at an embassy or consulate, I generally don’t recommend doing that. It’s simply much easier and faster to take a trip to Yerevan and apply there.
So, you’ll need to begin by planning your travel.
A common misconception that I’ve heard about Armenia is that it’s this far-flung place that’s expensive and difficult to get to. However, that’s certainly not been the case when I’ve traveled there.
You won’t be able to find a direct flight from the US, but Armenia is well-connected to many European airports and is served by major airlines like Emirates and Air France. You might have a stopover in Paris or Dubai, but traveling to Yerevan is no more difficult than getting to a city like Bangkok or Panama City.
You should also check to see if you’ll need a visa to enter Armenia. Citizens of most Western countries – including the US, Australia, and the UK – can enter the country without a visa, and those that do not have visa-free access to Armenia – namely Canadians – can typically obtain a visa on arrival. Citizens from only a small handful of countries will need to apply for a formal Armenian visa, but if you need to do so, then you will need to get an invitation letter from the Armenian government.
Once you have your flight and visa secured, finding a hotel and getting around is relatively simple – and inexpensive, too. International hotel chains like Hyatt have properties in the city, and you can book a four-star hotel in the city center for around $100 per night. There’s also plenty to see and do in the city, and between taxis and public transit, you’ll be able to get around quite efficiently.
Overall, in my view, Yerevan is really a great place to come and spend some time.
After you’ve arrived in the city, you’ll then need to file your application in person at the Armenian Passport Office.
To do this, you’ll first need to make an appointment at the Passport Office. At that appointment, you’ll bring your documents and fill out an application, and you may need to answer a few questions to verify some information.
All in all, the appointment should take you no longer than an hour.
To help you through this process, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer. While this isn’t absolutely necessary, an Armenian lawyer will provide you with inside knowledge of the application process, and they can help keep things moving and answer any questions that you have.
When my fiancee applied for her Armenian citizenship, we decided to use a local lawyer, and our lawyer helped us with everything from making an appointment at the Passport Office to monitoring the status of her application.
However, regardless of whether you choose to hire a lawyer, this part of the process isn’t terribly difficult or confusing.
Step 3: Wait for your Application to be Processed
Once you submit your application, you then need to wait 4-6 months for the Passport Office to process and approve it.
For the most part, this step is just a waiting game. My fiancee’s application, for instance, was pretty standard, so she simply had to wait four months for it to be processed.
However, if you’re not using a baptismal certificate or have other special circumstances, then Armenian officials may reach out to you to answer any questions that arise during the process, and in some cases, you may need to provide them with further proof of ancestry or other documents.
This is where hiring an Armenian lawyer can come in handy. Should any problems arise, they’ll be able to help you resolve them quickly and efficiently.
Step 4: Finalize your Armenian Citizenship by Descent and Collect your Passport
After your application is processed and approved, you will then need to travel to Armenia again to finalize your citizenship and collect your passport – even if you filed your initial application at an embassy abroad.
This step is the most straightforward part of the process, but you’ll need to plan on spending roughly a week in Armenia to receive your passport.
When you arrive in Armenia, your first order of business will be to apply for your Armenian passport. Regular processing time for your passport can take up to three weeks, but for a mere $10, you can expedite that time to just five business days. You also have the option of shortening that time to three days for just $21, or if you want your passport the next day, you can pay $42.
Though expedited processing is incredibly cheap here, I would recommend taking your time and spending a week exploring the country. After all, it is your new country of citizenship.
Once you’ve applied for your passport, you will also need to register with the Armenian Military Office if you’re a man under the age of 50.
Armenia is one of a handful of countries that still require mandatory military service from its citizens, which is why all men under 50 must register with the Armenian military. Practically, however, only men in their late teens and early to mid-twenties will actually be conscripted, so if you’re in your thirties or forties, then you likely won’t need to do much beyond simply register.
Finally, when your passport application is approved, you’ll be given a date and time to come to the Passport Office to collect your Armenian Passport.
At the Passport Office, you will have your citizenship ceremony and sign an oath of allegiance, and you will officially receive your Armenian passport.
I Have Armenian Ancestry – Should I Get Armenian Citizenship by Descent?
If you have Armenian roots, then you might be wondering whether it’s worthwhile for you to pursue Armenian citizenship by descent.
Personally, I would say yes.
I’m always an advocate for getting a second passport, and if the option is available to you, getting Armenian citizenship by descent is one of the easier ways to go about it.
The process is relatively simple if you have the right documents, and you won’t need to deal with residency requirements or citizenship tests while applying for your Armenian passport. It’s also relatively inexpensive, and you’ll be able to get your passport in less than a year.
Armenian citizenship also has plenty of benefits in and of itself. You’ll be able to more easily take advantage of excellent investment opportunities in the country, and you’ll get visa-free travel to many places that aren’t as friendly to citizens of Western countries.
The only reservation that I would have about getting Armenian citizenship by descent is the country’s mandatory military service requirement. If you’re a man in your twenties, then you may want to hold off on getting your Armenian passport until you’re a bit older, and if you have sons, then they may want to do the same as well.
Despite this drawback, however, getting Armenian citizenship by descent can be an excellent option if you have Armenian ancestry. Compared to other second passport options, the opportunity cost is incredibly low in terms of time, money, and effort.
If you’re seriously considering getting Armenian citizenship by descent or have had a different experience with this process, then feel free to reach out.
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