Record number stripped of Finnish citizenship

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A Finnish passport can be cancelled under various circumstances. (Tuomas Hirvonen / Yle)
A Finnish passport can be cancelled under various circumstances. (Tuomas Hirvonen / Yle)

 

There are several ways to lose one’s Finnish nationality, including lying on a citizenship application – in which case one’s children may also have their citizenship cancelled. Young dual citizens growing up overseas must also take active steps in order to keep their Finnish nationality.

Fifteen people had their Finnish citizenship revoked last year, the newspapers Karjalainen and Etelä-Suomen Sanomat reported on Monday.

The figure is the highest ever recorded under current nationality legislation, which took effect in 2011. The most common reason for losing one’s Finnish nationality is erroneous or misleading personal information in citizenship applications. Children whose citizenship is paternal can also have it revoked if it turns out their father is not in fact Finnish.

Revocation of Finnish nationality was extremely rare until the past few years. In practice, authorities only take the step in regard to individuals who have recently been granted citizenship or children whose fathers are declared not to be citizens.

A child with a foreign mother and a Finnish father is entitled to citizenship. However if it is later determined that the father was actually non-Finn, the child can lose his or her Finnish citizenship.

“Nowadays there are a few such cases per year,” says Hanna Pihkanen of the Immigration Service.

The most common reason, however, is if officials find out afterwards that someone has lied or withheld pertinent information when applying – for instance providing the wrong date of birth.

One reason for such a subterfuge might be to avoid Finnish military or civilian service, which is required of all men under 30 who take on Finnish citizenship and have not carried out military service elsewhere.

Up to the discretion of authorities

Providing a false name or nationality may also be enough to have one’s citizenship cancelled. However, says Pihkanen, in such cases the decision is not automatic, but up to the discretion of authorities. The essential issue, she says, is whether the person might have been approved for citizenship using the correct data.

In some cases, citizenship can also be revoked from the children of a dishonest applicant.

Pihkanen expects the phenomenon to grow in the future as the number of citizenship applications expands.

Young expats must be proactive to keep citizenship

Besides the aforementioned types of cases, some dual citizens also lose their Finnish nationality if they have lived most of their lives abroad with no close ties to the country. If they do not establish such ties by the age of 22, their Finnish citizenship ends automatically. For young men, for instance, this includes either carrying out military conscription or civilian service, or applying for a waiver of it. Young expatriate Finnish women can also ensure their citizenship by voluntarily taking part in military training, for instance.

Otherwise, it is sufficient to have lived in Finland or another Nordic country for at least seven years or to have received a Finnish passport after turning 18 – or simply to contact a Finnish magistrate or representation abroad and express the wish to retain citizenship, says Pihkanen. And those who do lose their nationality in this way may apply to have it reinstated.

The number of young expatriates whose citizenship lapses due to lack of such contact is unknown, as neither magistrates or the Population Registry keeps a record of them.

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