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Birthright Citizenship

There are different ways of establishing a family relationship between a child and the father: by legitimation, by recognition or by judicial establishment. We discuss these three options below (see Table 2 for an overview).

3.1 Legitimation

In most countries a child, born out of wedlock but ‘legitimated’ by a subsequent marriage between the mother and the father, acquires ex lege the citizenship of the father by legitimation. Almost all countries require that the legitimation takes place whilst the child is still a minor (e.g. FRA 20-1). In some countries legitimation is mentioned as a separate ground for acquisition (see AUT 7a (1); CYP 114; DEN 2; FIN 11; HUN 3(2); NET 4; SWE 4; SWI 1(2)(a); UK 47(1)). In other countries, this ground for acquisition is covered by the general provision that children acquire the citizenship of a parent if the family relationship with this parent is established whilst the child is still a minor See e.g. BEL 8; CRO 4(1); EST 5(1)(1); FRA 18, juncto 20 and 20-1; LAT 2(5), 3; LIT 8(1), 9; LUX 1(1); MAL 5(1) and (2); MOL 11(1)(a); NOR 4(1); SLK 5(1)(a); SPA 17(1)(a); compare also IRE 6(2) juncto Status of Children Act 1987, Sect. 5).

In Austria, an additional rule is of importance: legitimation is a ground for acquisition of citizenship, but if the minor is already over 14 years of age, his consent and the consent of his legal representative to the acquisition of citizenship is required (AUT 7a(2)). Under certain conditions a required consent can be replaced by a decision of the court in the interest of the minor involved (AUT 7a(5)). Iceland prescribes the consultation of a minor from the age of twelve (ICE 2(2)).

3.2 Recognition

Many countries provide expressly that recognition of a child born out of wedlock by a man has as a consequence the acquisition of the man’s citizenship. Again, most countries require that the recognition takes place during the child’s minority (compare POR 14). In Germany, the recognition must have taken place before the child reaches the age of 23 years. In some countries, recognition is mentioned as a separate ground for acquisition of citizenship (See 4 (1) GER; 2 GRE; 3 (2) HUN; 2 (1) ITA. See also 2a NOR and 2 (1) TUR). In some other countries, this ground for acquisition is covered by a general provision.

In Denmark (DEN 1) and Sweden (SWE 1(2)) a child born out of wedlock obtains exclusively ex lege the citizenship of the father if he is born in Denmark or Sweden respectively. A child of a Swedish father born out of wedlock outside of Sweden acquires Swedish citizenship if the father registers the child as a Swedish citizen (SWE 5), restrictive in international comparative perspective, but still considerably more generous than the previous Swedish legislation (see SWE 1 and 2a, old; compare with FIN 28(2)).

In Iceland, a child born abroad of an unmarried woman and an Icelandic man acquires Icelandic citizenship on application of the father before the child reaches the age of 18 years. The father has to consult the child if he is over 12 years old. If the father submits, in the opinion of the Icelandic authorities, satisfactory evidence concerning the child and his paternity, the child acquires Icelandic citizenship on confirmation from the ministry (ICE 2). In the Netherlands, since 2009, recognition does have ex lege citizenship consequences, if the

RSCAS/EUDO-CIT-Comp. 2010/8 - © 2010 Authors


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