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Birthright Citizenship

means. If a declaration was made, but not all the conditions giving a right to opt were fulfilled, the citizenship is not acquired. If all conditions were fulfilled and the declaration can be proved, although no document exists, the citizenship is nevertheless acquired. The authorities do not have the possibility to avoid the acquisition of citizenship because of, for example, reasons of public policy or state security.

In some countries, a person who uses her or his right of option must make a written declaration. The authorities control whether all the conditions are fulfilled, but they are also able to reject the option for reasons of public security or lack of integration (defaut d’assimilation (FRA 21-4; cf. BEL 12bis(2), ITA 6, NET 6). It is obvious that this kind of option is much weaker than the first category mentioned. It is therefore not surprising that, generally speaking, countries which have this second type of option rights often grant this right to considerably more persons than countries where the first type of option rights exists. One could also describe the second type of option rights as a quick naturalisation procedure where the discretion of the authorities to refuse the acquisition of citizenship is limited.

Other countries do not use the term ‘option rights’, but provide for the possibility to register as a citizen if certain requirements are met. If the authorities do not have any discretion in respect of the registration, such a right to register as a citizen is in fact an option right of the first mentioned category. If there is discretion of the authorities, it can be classified as an option right of the second category.

In this context it also has to be mentioned that a few countries, such as Austria, use the construction of a legal entitlement to naturalisation (‘Einbürgerungsanspruch’): if certain conditions are fulfilled naturalisation has to be granted on the application of the person involved. The authorities’ discretion is reduced to zero. Such an entitlement comes close to the option rights of the first mentioned category. If the naturalisation can still be refused for reasons of public policy or similar general reasons, the entitlement can be compared with the option rights of the second category.

When looking at provisions for acquisition of citizenship iure soli after birth (see right-hand side of Table 4), the French provision stands out. Children born in France to foreign parents born abroad acquire French citizenship ex lege when they reach the age of majority (FRA 21-7). They may lodge a declaration of option in order to acquire French citizenship earlier. From the age of 16 years they can make such a declaration themselves; their legal representative may lodge an application with the consent of the minor once the minor has reached the age of 13 years. The applicant has to fulfil the following conditions: he or she must reside in France and must have lived there for at least five years (see also FRA 21-11).

In Ireland there are no specific ‘ius soli after birth’ provisions, but there is already a general entitlement to acquisition of Irish citizenship for persons born on the Island of Ireland (although conditional upon the residence status of the parents at the time of birth).

Variations of the French declaration procedure to acquire citizenship by virtue of birth and some period of residence exist in Belgium, Finland, Greece (since 2010), Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. In the United Kingdom, a person born in the United Kingdom has the right to register as a British citizen if, while he is a minor his father or mother becomes a British citizen or “settled” in the United Kingdom (UK 1(3)). A person born in the United Kingdom has the right to register as a British citizen after she or he has attained the age of ten years if, as regards each of the first ten years of that person’s life, the number of days on which she or he was absent from the United Kingdom in that year does not exceed 90 (UK 1(4)).

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


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