GLENDALE–A recent visit to Armenia by Lincy Foundation Vice-President and the Publisher of the Glendale-based California Courier had more in store for him than a busy schedule of meetings and appearances. While in Armenia, Harut Sassounian became a citizen of Armenia–one of the first to receive dual-citizenship under a new law ratified in February 2007.
Sassounian, who is also the Executive Director of the United Armenia Fund, has traveled to Armenia countless times since 1989. This last visit, however, was very special.
“I knew about the law,” Sassounian said, “but I didn’t know that the government has started enacting it.”
After hearing that, in fact, mechanisms were in place for this process, Sassounian decided to apply in Armenia.
He explained that the process required the completion of a lengthy application, background checks, medical forms and other information. Before the completion of his trip, he was granted citizenship, perhaps becoming the first Diasporan-Armenian to receive citizenship based on this new law.
Sassounian explained that this was not the traditional “10-year” residency that is granted or sometimes bestowed to by government official. “I am a full-fledged citizen,” he explained.
On February 26, 2007, the Armenian parliament overwhelmingly approved the bill on dual citizenship, which allows members of the Diaspora to hold citizenship.
An announcement issued Wednesday by Armenia’s Consulate General in Los Angeles indicated that Armenian embassies and consular mission were not accepting applications for dual-citizenship.
Armenia’s Consul General in Los Angeles, Armen Liloyan, told Asbarez that no one had yet applied for dual citizenship in Los Angeles, adding that now that the processes and mechanisms for that application have been directed to the consular offices, he welcomed all Diasporans to take advantage of this provision.
Armenia’s Ambassador to the US, Tatul Markarian, echoed Liloyan’s statemen’s and added that no one has yet received dual citizenship, effectively making Sassounian the first Diasporan to receive dual-citizenship.
Liloyan explained that he and others in the Consulate will be making the rounds on various Armenian television programs to promote dual-citizenship and answer the public’s questions about the process.
He also explained that this provision is mainly for Diaspora Armenia’s, adding that former Armenian citizens who are living in the Diaspora can apply for re-instatement of their citizenship, which he said was a simple logistical process.
The dual-citizenship law stipulates that people of Armenian descent over the age of 18 can apply for Armenian citizenship and must have a three-year permanent residency in the country.
The applicant must be able to speak Armenian and have familiarity with the country’s constitution. Citizenship may be granted to couples, where one of the spouses or their children is citizens of Armenia.
The bill denies Armenian citizenship to people whose activity may damage the country’s national interests. Dual citizenship law allows for participation in the elections, with proof of residency. However, dual citizens cannot seek elected office. Dual citizens may hold ministerial posts, but cannot run for parliament or president.
People with dual citizenship may serve in the Armenian army, but they are exempt from it if they have served 12 months in the armed forces of the country of their primary citizenship or 18 months as alternative military service. It also says citizens of Armenia who have received a second citizenship would not be exempt from mandatory service in the Armenian armed forces.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which was the main proponent of the right to dual nationality, welcomed the adoption of the bill and on that day its deputies celebrated it with an improvised reception promptly held in their parliament offices.
"This law is an opportunity to consolidate our nation," then ARF faction member Ruben Hovsepian, said. "This legislation will allow Armenian living in different countries to consider themselves full-fledged citizens of Armenia," he said.
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian also has welcomed this provision.
In an interview with the Tehran-based Huys newspaper in October, Oskanian stressed that dual citizenship will allow the dispersed Armenian population around the world to strengthen its ties with the homeland.
Oskanian said dual citizenship would allow Armenia to strengthen its resources and maintain its position in the ever-evolving world.
“One part of our new resources will come from Armenia and the other part from the Diaspora,” added Oskanian.