Still no solutions for Russians in Estonia to renounce their citizenship

Russia's embassy in Tallinn.
Russia's embassy in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia still does not have a solution for people with Russian passport who wish to obtain Estonian citizenship.

People with Russian passports who live in Estonia are confronted with numerous difficulties.

At the moment it is impossible for them to obtain Estonian citizenship, because Russian Federation does not release them of their citizenship in Estonia and traveling to Russia is not an option to them.

Estonian state does not have a solution in this case, as Estonia does not allow dual citizenship.

Furthermore, people living in Estonia with Russian passports may find themselves in a bind if their Russian passports expire and they need to renew their residence permit cards in Estonia.

Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) told ERR that the Estonian government has limited options under the current circumstances.

"Estonia does not allow dual citizenship; we cannot grant a second one if the first country of citizenship has not released them. As a result, there is little we can do; Russia bears sole responsibility insofar as it does not facilitate the release procedure," Läänemets explained.

The minister said that a person having dual citizenship, one of which is Russian, poses a significant security concern given the current state of Estonian-Russian relations. Therefore, dual citizenship is not a viable solution for Estonia.

In mid-January, Russia's embassy in Tallinn announced that it temporarily halts processing applications to renounce Russian citizenship. The embassy blamed the halt on Estonian authorities and promised to resume normal operations, including citizenship issues, in February.

Looking to other countries for solutions

Läänemets said that the state is not abandoning the deadlock situation.

"We have discussed this issue at the Ministry of the Interior and researched the related international practices. There are countries in the world that allow people to renounce the citizenship of another country. Such practices exist throughout the world, including in Europe," Läänemets confirmed.

However, Estonia has the additional complication of being a bordering country with Russia, which differentiates Estonia's case.

"This is a shame, as the number of Russian citizens who renounced their citizenship last year has been 1.5 times higher than the year before. I am sure that there are many individuals would prefer to renounce their citizenship this year as well," the minister said.

"Estonia cannot help those who must travel to Russia to renounce their citizenship; this is a problem Estonia cannot resolve," said Läänemets.

No one will be expelled when their Russian passport expires

Nothing will happen to a person who has a long-term residence permit in Estonia if their passport from another country expires, because there is no link between the two documents," Läänemets said.

Estonian residence cards are also issued on the basis of birth certificates.

"If someone has a Russian passport and it expires, it is worth contacting the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and they will most likely be issued with an identity card issued to non-citizens," the minister said.

"Most probably, those people who already had documents issued in Estonia will be able to renew them, regardless of whether their Russian passport has expired or not," Läänemets said.

The situation is more complicated for Russian citizens who have recently arrived.

"We have procedures to apply for a residence permit. Those who came here on a whim might not receive it, as many applicants have been denied thus far," the minister said.

"However, there are instances where it is possible for a newcomer to apply (for a residence permit) if they meet all of the requirements. I would advise them to contact the PPA, explain their situation, even if their passport has expired; officials will evaluate their case on an individual basis," Läänemets explained.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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