Citizenship Shouldn't Be A Duel of Nationalities

Dual nationality is fraught with huge philosophical questions concerning loyalty and sense of identity. It is also, sadly, a matter of paperwork.

Wanting to be impartial in a decision that will be Vita's and Benedict's own, we sought only to awaken in them the rich cultural heritages of both their motherlands and, meanwhile, gave them dual nationality.

But even though I am his mother, I can neither take Benedict out of the country as British because the Russian authorities refuse to give him a visa on the grounds that he is Russian, nor on his Russian passport, without his father's written authorization and proof that I am his mother, since foreigners aren't allowed to take Russian citizens out of the country.

So, as promised, here is the latest Russian response in a saga being closely monitored by alarmed parents in the same position:

"Refusal of the UVIR officers to issue a visa is legitimate since they proceeded from the fact that the child is a Russian citizen. Evidence of this is that the child was added to the passport of the Russian citizen by the Russian Embassy [in London]. The Russian law forbids adding foreign children to Russian passports. ... Russian law does not recognize dual nationality."

The letter, from the Russian Foreign Ministry, then suggests that "both parents should make a mutual decision on the child's citizenship. It is important to note that the procedure for renunciation of Russian citizenship should be completed before the child is granted British citizenship."

Russian law states both that Russia "does not recognize dual nationality," and, a few pages later, "does not forbid anyone from having two nationalities" with the proviso that within five years of turning 18 a child must chose whose subjects they are.

Apart from showing scant understanding of the border guards' rule book, the letter from the Foreign Ministry also implies that the Russian Embassy in London illegally added Benedict to his father's passport because, having just been born in Britain to a British mother, he was already British when receiving his Russian documents. Herein lies some of the confusion. If you're born British or American, for example, you are not "granted" your nationality; you automatically inherit it at birth.

So Benedict doesn't need to apply for British nationality, which means he has no need to renounce the Russian nationality that he has already been granted. The sheer muddle of the Foreign Ministry's response, as well as the absurdly ambiguous law, illustrates that Russia has not begun to grapple with the relatively novel question of dual nationals, but in apparently challenging us to make a decision, Russia is in danger of foisting its own identity crisis onto increasing numbers of potential loyal citizens.