Chancellor of Justice: Estonian citizenship should be available also for those youngsters whom a residence permit was not applied for under the age of 15

The Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder is convinced that the Citizenship Act[1] is not in the conformity with the Constitution[2], since youngsters who have permanently lived in Estonia, but whom a residence permit was not applied for under the age of 15 or was not renewed in time, are not allowed to obtain Estonian citizenship. According to the conditions for acquisition of Estonian citizenship by naturalisation, a person who wishes to acquire Estonian citizenship should  have lived in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit and should have a residence permit of a long-term resident.

The Chancellor of Justice submitted a proposal to the Riigikogu (parliament) to bring the Citizenship Act into conformity with the Constitution. He argued that applying the provisions enacted in the Citizenship Act § 6 (2), ( 21) and (22) to a person who has factually lived in Estonia for the required period of time, but whom a residence permit was not applied for under the age of 15 or was not renewed in time by a legal representative, is contrary to the general principle of equality settled in the Constitution § 12 (1).

The matter raised from an application in which a person complained that although he has lived in Estonia for all his life, has gone here in kindergarten and school, he did not get Estonian citizenship because his parent had not applied him a residence permit in time. The applicant explained that his parent got Estonian citizenship years ago and the parent assumed that also the child got automatically the Estonian citizenship. The fact that child’s citizenship was left undefined under the age of 15, revealed during the child’s passport application process.

The unconstitutionality of the current regulation has been admitted also by the Government of the Republic while making a decision in 2009 to wider the interpretation of the respective regulations of the Citizenship Act in practice. The Chancellor of Justice found that although the attempt to interpret the law in accordance with the Constitution is worthy of recognition, it does not eliminate the literal conflict with the Constitution and therefore the need to change the law is indispensable. He emphasised that changing only the administrative practice does not provide sufficient solution to the problem, because persons applying the citizenship may not be aware of the wider interpretations of the Government and therefore could not fully exercise their rights.

 


[1] Available in English (latest amendments in June 2006) at http://www.legaltext.ee/text/en/X40001K6.htm.
[2] Available in English at http://www.legaltext.ee/text/en/X0000K2.htm.