Armenia Ushers in Almost 200 New ‘Dual Citizens’

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Some 188 people have been granted Armenian citizenship, Alvina Zakarian, head of the Police Department on Passports and Visas told reporters on Wednesday.
Nearly one thousand foreign nationals have applied for dual Armenian citizenship since it was introduced by the authorities in Yerevan late last year, according to Zakarian.
1000 Armenians from the Diaspora have applied for Armenian citizenship ever since legislative changes in 2007 codified an actual law on dual citizenship. Dual citizenship was illegal in Armenia up until 2005, when a constitutional referendum reversed the ban on holding more than one citizenship. Then President Robert Kocharian cited the need to better utilize the economic and political potential of the worldwide Armenian Diaspora.
The president of the republic has the exclusive authority to grant dual citizenship and applications have to be endorsed by the police and a special presidential commission headed by Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian before being considered by the head of state.
According to Zakarian, most of them ethnic Armenia’s, have been granted Armenian passports since the measure took effect last December. Zakarian said almost 800 other applications are currently being considered by relevant state bodies. She added that most of the applicants are citizens of Russia, Georgia, Iran, and other countries with sizable ethnic Armenian communities.
Zakarian confirmed that all prospective dual citizens must be permanent residents of Armenia and that those who have no ethnic Armenian roots must have lived there for at least three years. “For example, an Australian living in Australia is not eligible for our dual citizenship,” unless that person resides in Armenia for three years, she told reporters.
The residency requirement set by the law was clearly intended to allay fears that dual citizenship would allow the Diaspora Armenia’s, who greatly outnumber Armenia’s population, to influence election results and other political processes in the country. During February 2007 debates on the government-drafted amendmen’s to the law, senior lawmakers from the ruling Republican Party demanded that dual nationals be granted voting rights only if they live in Armenia during at least one of the five years preceding a particular election. They dropped the demand after it was rejected as unconstitutional by the government.

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