On 10 December 2020, the Parliament of Belarus approved changes to the country’s citizenship legislation, to become effective six months after the amendments’ publication in the country’s Official Gazette. Amendments affect the modes of acquisition and loss of citizenship of Belarus.
Amendments to article 14 reduce the mandatory residence period for ordinary naturalisation from 7 to 5 years of permanent residence. The definition of the qualifying residence has also changed to indicate a) possession of a permanent residence permit and b) no absence from the territory of Belarus longer than 90 days in any calendar year.
An addendum to article 15 also provides for the restoration of citizenship of Belarus for adults permanently residing in the country.
New provisions also grant substantial discretion to authorities to deny naturalisation or restoration of citizenship on the basis of not only criminal conviction but also “a mixed tribunal (court) confirming the participation of this person in extremist activities or causing them grievous harm to the interests of the Republic of Belarus”.
An addendum to article 19, regulating the loss of citizenship stipulates that naturalised Belarus citizens as well as those whose citizenship had been restored may further lose it on the basis of “a verdict of a court of the Republic of Belarus, a court decision in a criminal case of a foreign state, a verdict or other decision of an international tribunal (court), a mixed tribunal (court), confirming the participation of this person in extremist activities or causing him serious harm to the interests of the Republic of Belarus”. This provision does not apply to Belarus citizens by birth. The amendment now allows the deprivation of citizenship even if the person concerned does not have citizenship of another state or guarantees of obtaining it, thus increasing the risk of statelessness.