Last updated: September 21, 2020
Dateline: Vilnius, Lithuania
Lithuania offers a citizenship by descent program that is just as liberal, if not more so, than the more commonly discussed European second passport programs.
You are eligible to restore Lithuanian citizenship if your parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents were born in Lithuania.
Sure, there are some eligibility hoops to jump through, and a €1,500 vendor cost. But, if a second passport (especially a European one) is on the table, you have to consider it.
At Nomad Capitalist, we sit down with government officials and program representatives to get you accurate information, loopholes, and the catch in programs that seem too good to be true, and how to strategize your future.
From start to finish, the citizenship by descent process in Lithuania usually takes a total of 1.5 years to complete.
Obtaining Citizenship by Descent in The Republic of Lithuania
If you’re not familiar with citizenship by descent programs, it’s pretty straightforward.
Certain countries – largely in Europe – offer the ability to claim citizenship if you can prove you have Lithuanian ancestry who left that country.
Usually, you’re allowed to go back two or even three generations in the family tree.
And, in the case of Lithuania, you are typically allowed to go back to third generations.
That means that if you have a great-grandparent who held Lithuanian citizenship, you should be able to qualify to obtain Lithuanian citizenship yourself.
You’ll need a copy of your own birth certificate, as well as birth certificates all the way up the family tree until you reach the ancestor with Lithuanian ties.
You have to prove that you are related to each person in the chain (parent, grandparent, etc.), which includes getting each and every birth certificate and, in some cases, marriage licenses notarized in the country or state (in the US) where the document was issued.
If you don’t have all of the records proving your ties to your Lithuanian ancestor, it is likely you can obtain them through the archives in Vilnius by using a local attorney to help you.
Do I Qualify to Be a Lithuanian Citizen by Descent?
First, you need to make sure you qualify to apply. If one of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents is/was Lithuanian (even if she/he wasn’t born in the country), you’re generally able to apply.
More specifically, if your ancestors were Lithuanian citizens before June 15th, 1940, and had been deported or left occupied Lithuania in the period lasting till March 11th, 1990, you’ll be eligible to apply and claim Lithuanian citizenship.
If the ancestor in question left Lithuania before February 16th, 1918, you will not be eligible to apply.
However, if they left but had Lithuanian ethnicity, you could be eligible to apply if you track down their birth certificate or baptism documents certifying that they had declared their ethnicity as Lithuanian.
And when we’re talking about ancestors leaving Lithuania, they must have left to settle anywhere except another location in the former Soviet Union.
In other words, if your descendants left to go and live in Ukraine, you won’t be able to apply.
After you’ve established you could be eligible to apply for Lithuanian citizenship by descent, you’ll need to put together the bundle of paperwork.
In addition to all of the usual suspects, e.g. your passport and such, you will need to prove the connection that your ancestor had to Lithuania.
You will do so by presenting:
- A Lithuanian passport/ID of your ancestor(s) issued between 1918 and 1940 or before 1990
- Documents attesting military service in the Lithuanian Army
- Their birth certificates
- Proof of school, work, or residence in Lithuania (not necessary if all of the above documents are present)
As you can tell, this is no walk in the park. Imagine having to dig around for documents that are 100 years old.
The Simplified Citizenship Procedure
There is a simplified procedure for those who wish to become Lithuanian citizens and renounce their current citizenship.
In that case, you’ll just need evidence of your Lithuanian origin, and a birth certificate or baptism documents proving the Lithuanian ethnicity stated will usually suffice.
You will need a clean criminal record and an affidavit declaring that you’re a Lithuanian citizen to take advantage of the simplified procedure.
Plus, you will need to get a residence permit in Lithuania first, and only then apply for Lithuanian citizenship while in the country already.
This is clearly a way for someone with Lithuanian roots to come back and settle in the country for good – which might or might not be what you want to do.
The Catch in Obtaining Second Citizenship in Lithuania
Lithuania’s proximity to both Germany and the former Soviet Union creates some interesting angles in the Lithuanian Citizenship Law.
As we already mentioned in the section above, if your Lithuanian ancestors left the country prior to Soviet Occupation in 1940, you will need to prove that they left for political reasons, such as escaping persecution.
This requirement doesn’t apply to those with families that left during the occupation (1940-1990) of Lithuania, because the government realizes that leaving was a reasonable thing to do.
If your ancestors left prior to the occupation, you may still be able to qualify for citizenship, but only single Lithuanian citizenship and you will not be able to maintain dual citizenship.
While Lithuania is considering making some exceptions to this policy, you will typically need to renounce your previous citizenship.
Indeed, the Lithuanian government has gone back and forth on whether to allow dual Lithuanian citizenship in recent years.
They have also wavered on whether to allow ancestral citizenship cases at all. If your ancestors left due to political reasons, however, it is much easier to make a case that you should be allowed to maintain dual nationality.
After all, if occupation would not have occurred, your family probably never would have left and you could have been born in Lithuania.
Should You Get Lithuanian Citizenship?
With the uncertainty around dual citizenship, it’s normal to be worried.
But if you’re able to get your Lithuanian citizenship by descent and keep your first passport, you should definitely go for it.
When it comes to additional citizenships, we always say you should pay attention to two things:
- The potential risks. Would you be taxed in the country of your new citizenship? Would you be liable to serve in the army? These and more questions and the answers to them should be weighed up when it comes to all types of citizenship, not just one by descent.
- How easy it is to renounce. If further down the road you find yourself hating your second citizenship or you find that it’s actually hindering your progress to a better life as a Nomad Capitalist, you need an exit plan. Luckily, Lithuania makes it pretty easy to renounce your citizenship: pay 44 euros, fill out an application, and your case will be considered within 3 months.
All things considered, we think that Lithuania is an excellent place to get citizenship in.
Not only will it get you a European passport, which opens up tons of doors in terms of life, work, investment, and so on, but you’ll also become the holder of a strong European passport.
See the Lithuanian passport’s ranking in our Nomad Passport Index.