Lithuanian Citizenship for Jews
Under what conditions can descendants of Lithuanians obtain Lithuanian citizenship? Obtaining this citizenship depends on your family connection to the state of Lithuania and when your ancestors lived there. A Lithuanian passport can be obtained on the basis of a family connection on either parent’s side, including great-grandparents. For background, this article also briefly covers the history of Lithuanian Jewry up to the eve of World War II. For hundreds of years, Lithuanian Jews were a pillar and guiding light for European Jewry and for the entire Diaspora.
Lithuania is of course a member of the European Union; so the bearer of a Lithuanian passport has the right to live, work, and travel freely throughout the member states. Our law offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv specialize in emigration from Israel and obtaining European passports, including from Lithuania. With our years of professional experience in the field, we can help you obtain Lithuanian citizenship if you are in fact eligible under Lithuanian law.
Lithuanian citizenship for Jews – who is eligible?
One way to acquire Lithuanian citizenship is on the basis of restoring citizenship. Citizenship will be restored for an applicant whose ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, or any one of these) were Lithuanian citizens before 15 June 1940, or if the applicant himself was a Lithuanian citizen before that date. Many Jews lived in Lithuania before the second World War and the Holocaust. Their descendants, in Israel and throughout the world, are entitled to receive the citizenship of their ancestors.
Lithuania was established as an independent state in 1918. The first law passed regarding Lithuanian citizenship, however, was passed as a temporary law on 9 January 1919. According to the law of this date, the following are considered Lithuanian citizens:
- Those who always lived in Lithuania or whose parents and grandparents lived in Lithuania from long ago.
- Children of those mentioned in the preceding section, who did not always live in Lithuania, but returned to Lithuania to settle there.
- Those who lived in Lithuania for at least ten years before 1914 and:
- Owned property
- Had a permanent place of employment.
- Children of Lithuanian citizens, as long as they were not adopted by a foreigner
- A wife or widow of a Lithuanian citizen
What documents are required for descendants of Lithuanian Jews to obtain citizenship?
Under the current citizenship law, documents that constitute proof that the applicant was a Lithuanian citizen before 15 June 1940 include:
- Lithuanian and foreign passports issued before 15 June 1940.
- A foreign Lithuanian passport issued for diplomatic assignments or for Lithuanian consular institutions after 15 June 1940.
- Documentation of service in the Lithuanian Army or participation in the Civil Service.
- Birth certificates or other documents indicating Lithuanian citizenship.
- Identity documents issued in Lithuania before 15 June 1940. Alternately, identity documents issued on the basis of documents issued in Lithuania before that date.
If none of the above documents are available, you will be required to furnish documents related to studies, work, or residence in Lithuania which were printed before 15 June 1940, as well as a foreign passport and other documents.
How to maintain a previous citizenship when receiving Lithuanian citizenship
Lithuanian citizenship can be obtained in exchange for giving up previous citizenship in another country, or even without being required to give up the other citizenship (that is, one can hold Israeli citizenship in addition to Lithuanian). To restore Lithuanian citizenship but maintain a previous citizenship, it is not enough to merely prove that a family member was a Lithuanian citizen before 15 June 1940. In order to keep dual citizenship, the applicant must prove the following circumstances:
- He or she left Lithuanian territory before 11 March 1990. This means that the applicant or his parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents, or at least one of them, left between 15 June 1940 and 11 March 1990. The emigration was in accordance with a decision by the authorities or the court under the ruling regime, following opposition to the regime, political or social persecution, or other reasons related to the circumstances of leaving Lithuania.
- Provide document which prove they left Lithuania before 11 March 1990 (meaning the applicant or his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, or at least one of them, left Lithuania, and their fixed residence was outside of Lithuania on 11 March 1990). Note that this instruction does not apply to people who left Lithuanian territory after 15 June 1940 for territory of the former Soviet Union.
An application to restore Lithuanian citizenship must be written in the Lithuanian language. The documents attached to the application are to be translated to Lithuanian. If they are written in another language, they are to be certified in accordance with regulatory procedures (by an apostille stamp or by a legalization procedure). We will of course be happy to provide a notarized translation into Lithuanian.
The documents are to be submitted to the migration department in Lithuania or to the Lithuanian consulate in a foreign country.
A brief history of Lithuanian Jewry
Local census data indicates that Jews were in Lithuania at least from 1388, and possibly earlier. Historians indicate that the Jews may have been descendants of Khazars who settled in the country in the 10th century, or possibly German Jews who arrived in the 12th century. A third theory suggests that the main influx of Jews to Lithuania took place at the beginning of the 14th century, when the Grand Duke Gediminas opened his kingdom to merchants and craftsmen in order to promote economic development.
Once Christianity became the official religion of the Lithuanian kingdom in 1386, subjects of other religions, including Jews, faced discrimination in political, economic, and religious spheres, including the right to own property (which was permitted to Jews only in the city of Trakai).
According to local population registries, there were about 6,000 Jews in the kingdom in 1389. This number grew to 76,474 in 1764 and 263,000 on the eve of World War II. The Lithuanian Jewish community was one of the hardest hit in the Holocaust. About 91-95% of its members murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices. Immediately after the war about 20,000 Jews remained in the country, and today about 3,000 Jews live there.
However, a significant portion of the history of Jews in Lithuania also belongs to the Karaites. Members of this Jewish sect were not harmed in the Holocaust, since they demonstrated that their roots were Tatar rather than Jewish. When they presented their Tatar-Turkish language, the Nazis lost interest in exterminating them, considering them not to be Jews. The Karaim language, however, is a Turkish language with Hebrew influences, and at one time it had three dialects in Eastern Europe, all spoken by Jews.
Lithuanian citizenship for Jews of Lithuanian extraction — Contact an emigration attorney
Our law offices are committed to providing efficient, professional service to its clients, including those seeking to emigrate to Lithuania. We only take on clients with a real chance to succeed in their chosen path to emigration. Likewise, our offices also operate abroad, where they have acquired extensive experience and enjoy a high rate of success. For any question regarding Lithuanian citizenship for Jews, contact us at the telephone numbers below or by email.