Last Tuesday, Slovakia’s cabinet approved their proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act (no. 40/1993), finally addressing a sensitive issue in the small Central European country of restoring former Slovak and Czechoslovak citizens who were stripped of their citizenship in 2011.
Embedded in this proposed amendment lies a little-regarded provision which may have a big impact on the castle-dotted country of four and a half million, as well as the greater European migration community. The bill includes an offer of citizenship by descent up to the third generation (great-grandchildren) of former Czechoslovak and Slovak citizens.
The offer of citizenship has no Slovak language proficiency requirement, nor any history or cultural familiarity test. It is currently undetermined whether the applicant will have to be present in Slovakia to apply.
Under normal circumstances, Slovakia offers an enviable passport with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 181 countries, as well as residency and work authorization throughout the European Union (EU).
A parliamentary vote in Bratislava is expected by the end of March and the amendment is expected to be handily approved.
Professionals in the Worldwide Slovak-Diaspora Following Closely
While detailed information regarding this expected citizenship expansion has yet to proliferate greatly throughout the international migration services industry, some ethnic Slovaks in the United States are watching closely and wading into the political discussion from across the Atlantic.
Leading the way in advocating for this bill’s passage on behalf of the Slovak diaspora is “One Slovak Family.” This group is comprised of Slovak professionals (including the authors of this article) who have galvanized to unite the Slovak diaspora and advocate for the passage of this proposed citizenship amendment.
One Slovak Family’s leadership core of immigration experts and university professors have been in dialogue with allies in the Slovak government, news media, and Slovak cultural organizations with a stake in the proposed legislation.
Ethnic Slovaks worldwide have also organized themselves into a Facebook group called “Slovak Living Abroad Certificate & Slovak Citizenship” to share information on this exciting development.
Slovakia for Business?
Since the 2000s, Slovakia has been known as the “Central European Tiger” thanks to restriction-loosening reforms that have helped attract foreign investment and complete its transition to a functioning, free-market democracy. Many foreign firms have established branches in Slovakia and the last three years, in particular, have seen Slovakia enjoy a slow but steadily growing buzz among those in the “digital nomad” community exploring options for foreign incorporation. In big business, the automotive industry, in particular, is credited with driving much of Slovakia’s recent economic growth.
As governments around Europe look for new ways to stimulate business growth, which has been hampered by the pandemic, more nations are experimenting with new solutions such as liberalizing descent-based migration and courting the fast-expanding “digital nomad” community. Slovakia estimates that about one million Slovaks and their descendants live outside of Slovakia. Attracting even a fraction back to Slovakia could prove crucial in helping the region economically.
The Upshot for Migration Professionals
With an estimated 800,000 members, the United States has the largest Slovak diaspora in the world by far, followed by the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Canada. We predict that interest will continue to be most keen amongst Slovaks from non-EU states, (including the newly-single UK) who desire ultimate freedom of movement and to stay in Slovakia and the EU.
Migration professionals should now add Slovakia to the list of countries to screen clients for when exploring options for a coveted second passport. Extra attention should be given when screening individuals from the Slovak-dense American states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Due to the generous extension of eligibility to the third-generation descendant, potential applicants may earn eligibility through any one of up to fourteen direct ascendants. Given that even a single Czechoslovak or Slovak great-grandparent could be a qualifying relative, these authors conservatively predict that at least 20% of future qualifying applicants will not be aware of their eligibility. Migration professionals should be prepared for a number of these clients to initially present as potential investment or employment-based migration prospects.
Determining finer points of eligibility will require a delicate legal analysis due to the last 110 tumultuous years in the region including a split from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, two world wars, communist dictatorship, and partition from big brother Czechia.
After the parliamentary vote in March, we will analyze the citizenship amendment in its final form and publish a follow-up article for our readers.
Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald is a Los Angeles-based immigration attorney at the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti and an adjunct professor of immigration law at Nevada State College.