Answers Raise Questions In Child's Visa Dispute

Last year, I wrote about the problems getting Benedict a visa for his British passport -- a situation which means that only Sasha can take him but of the country. Although the Russian constitution allows dual nationality up to the age of 18, this cuts no ice with OVIR officials, who say since he is Russian he can't have a visa.

Many readers of this column were concerned -- there are more and more of us Russo-Western families around -- and officials at the British Embassy kindly offered to try and clarify the situation.

They explained that Benedict was put on his father's Russian passport at the Russian Embassy in London, and he also has a British passport. The embassy wrote to the Foreign Ministry's consular department: "... the family applied to the Russian visa registration authorities for a visa for the baby on the basis of the mother's visa but were told that this was not possible and that the child was in any case Russian.

"The refusal of the visa registration authorities to issue a visa ... means the mother is unable to travel anywhere outside the Russian Federation with her baby unless the father also travels. The couple are concerned that mother and baby might need to travel at short notice at a time when the father is unable to leave the Russian Federation ... [for example] for medical reasons.

"The embassy would be grateful if the consular department would clarify this situation and advise how the family might obtain a Russian visa for their baby."

So here's the clarification, precisely as it was sent:

"The Foreign Ministry ... has the honor to inform that subjects raised are wider than just a private case and are of a more general character the point of which is citizenship of the child.

"The consular department is unable to answer whether it was legitimate to add the child to the father's passport because there is no indication ... who issued the birth certificate, if it was ever issued. (Try getting a passport in any country without a birth certificate.)

"It is not clear why the family addresses the Russian Embassy, while they are in the UK, and on returning to Russia asks the British Embassy for assistance. The consular department is ready to assist in the above matter and would be grateful if the embassy would provide more detailed information ... about the legal status of the persons."

So far the only lesson, sadly, is that we had to give him Russian citizenship, as well as British, and should have given the baby just the Western citizenship.

Russia needs to work out it's attitude to what are bound to be increasing numbers of binational children. Otherwise, the children will opt to be aliens in their own country -- which will be Russia's loss.