Estonia relaxes naturalisation rules for children – with questionable impact

On 28 January 2019, the Estonian parliament approved an amendment to the Citizenship Act that enables children born to a parent with undetermined citizenship (the so-called grey passport) to be naturalised as a minor. The condition is that the parents submit an application and prove that the child is released from other citizenship(s). Previously, only children under 15 whose both parents had undetermined citizenship[1], could naturalise as minors. For the current amendment, the age of was raised to 18.

This is one of the two amendments to the citizenship law that are part of the coalition agreement, signed by the Centre Party, Isamaa and the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), when they took office in April 2019. The Centre Party is a center left party who has been the main advocate of the interests of the Russian-speaking community in Estonia, while the two other coalition partners are conservative and more ethno-nationalist, albeit to a varying degree.

The present amendment concerns 1523 minors who have one parent with undetermined citizenship and another with a third country citizenship. 1393 of them are Russian citizens, 33 of undetermined citizenship and 32 Ukrainian citizens[2]. The amendment is expected to foster Estonian national identity among the Russophone minority and reduce the number of residents opting for other citizenships.

The opposition is critical of the amendment. Due to the potential problems with surrendering Russian citizenship, the Social Democratic Party believes that in practice only a tenth of the interested population can take up the offer.

For more information on citizenship legislation in Estonia read our Country Report. Mari-Liis Jakobson is the author of this news item



[1] Undetermined citizenship is the status Estonia granted to persons who were Estonian residents when Estonia regained its independence in 1991, but who (or whose ancestors) had migrated to Estonia during Soviet occupation and thus did not qualify for Estonia’s ius sanguinis based citizenship, and had not acquired any other citizenship. Persons of undetermined citizenship have virtually the same rights as EU citizens, including all civil and social rights, as well as the right to vote in the local elections. While the number of undetermined citizens has decreased steadily over time, there were still around 76 000 grey passport holders in Estonia in 2019 (about 6% of the population).

[2] Explanatory memorandum to Bill 58 SE.