Thanks to my Slovene ancestors who left their homeland for a new life in America, I’m a proud citizen of two great countries. In this post I’ll try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about obtaining dual citizenship through ancestry.
What are the Requirements of Slovenian Citizenship?
As we get started, a huge disclaimer: the following is based on my family’s personal experience as Americans claiming Slovene citizenship in 2011 and 2016. Your application will depend on rules that are subject to change. For the latest requirements start on the website of the Slovenian Embassy in Washington. Under “consular services” the citizenship page lists the following under Part 3, “Exceptional Naturalization (Article 13 of Citizenship of the Republic of Slovenia Act)”:
1. Slovenian descent (up to the second generation in direct descent).
2. A multiannual active connection with the Republic of Slovenia.
3. At least 5 years of activity in Slovenian associations, schools of Slovene language or Slovenian expatriate, emigrant or minority organizations. The applicant should provide the recommendations of the relevant organizations confirming his active connection with the Republic of Slovenia.
Download the application form and sign the permission to copy personal documents. This is just the beginning of the lengthy quest to assemble all of the paperwork you will need. Don’t be surprised if it takes months to get ready to send in your application, along with a Money Order for the consular fee: $389 USD at the time I wrote this post in 2020. They don’t accept checks or cash.
What is considered “second generation” Slovenian descent?
If you have a parent born in Slovenia, you are the first generation born in the US. If you have a grandparent born in Slovenia, you are the second generation. This rule has changed since my son (third generation) applied in 2011, when up to fourth generation descendants were considered for citizenship. By the time I applied in 2016, applications were limited to two generations.
What documents do I need to apply for Slovene Citizenship?
Birth Certificates: An official copy of your birth certificate and everyone in the line of your Slovene ancestors. No, they do NOT accept photocopies of what’s in your family album. You must write to the applicable agency where you were born for an official copy with a seal. Be prepared to pay some fees and registered shipping, as some agencies will not ship ID documents through regular post. We opened a UPS account for this purpose.
For my son’s case, we assembled official birth certificates for him, his parents, and his US-born maternal grandparents. Although two of his great-grandparents were born in what is now Slovenia, we were unable to find the birth certificate for my son’s great-grandmother. Fortunately, one documented direct Slovenia-born ancestor (my son’s great-grandfather) was enough in this case. You are also permitted to send in “other documents” indicating Slovene origins (more on that later).
Marriage Certificates: Again, you’ll have to contact the issuing agency for an official copy. My son’s application included marriage certificates for his parents and grandparents in the US. At the time, we had not located the Austrian marriage certificate for his Slovenia-born immigrant great-grandparents, but they were listed on his grandparents’ marriage certificate as being the parents of the groom.
Criminal Background Check: We wasted time getting local and state background checks. When the Slovene application asks for a “state” document, they mean the country of the United States, not one of the 50 states. The only acceptable document is an FBI certificate of no criminal record, not older than three months. This requires a legible set of fingerprints. I had to do this multiple times because the FBI says my fingerprints are difficult to read. You may wish to speed up the process by paying a additional fee and going in person to an approved “FBI channeler” who will process your fingerprints electronically and submit an expedited application. As my application made its way through the Slovene bureaucracy, my background check expired and I had to start the background check process all over again.
Passport: You must send in a copy of the biometric page of your US passport, along with an apostille from the US State Department. You also need to request an apostille for your criminal background check. You’ll notice that apostilles are also required for the birth and marriage certificates from the relevant agencies.
Why do my citizenship documents also need an Apostille seal?
Apostilles authenticate the seals and signatures of officials on public documents such as birth certificates, court orders, or any other document issued by a public authority so that they can be recognized in foreign countries, like Slovenia, that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty. It’s basically an additional page that should be attached to the relevant document. This means more fees and shipping charges as you send in the original documents to request apostilles and have them returned securely to you.
How do I prove my active connection to Slovenia?
This requirement has been stiffened to require active membership of at least 5 years in a Slovene-American activity or association. So if you have longtime membership in a group like the Slovenian Union of America, you’re in luck. Academics can join the respected Society for Slovene Studies. You’ll need a recommendation from the group, stating that you are an active participant in good standing for the required amount of time prior to your application. The SSS kindly provided letters for us in both English and Slovene, but you’ll have to get official translations of anything submitted only in English.
My son and I also sent in certificates of attendance at Slovene Language School over several years prior to applying for citizenship. We also had letters from Slovene relatives, thanking my family for care packages we sent them through the Red Cross in the 1960s. These can be submitted under the category of “other evidence.” Under that same heading, we submitted a copy of the Ellis Island immigration record for my son’s great grandmother. Frančiška Anžur identified herself and her three kids as ethnically “Slovenian” when she stepped off the ship in 1911.
How do I get official translations of my citizenship documents?
Your native-speaker Slovene buddy or relative cannot help you out here. It must be done by an official court translator in Slovenia. For this reason — and to make sure your application doesn’t get lost in the shuffle — I highly recommend hiring a lawyer in Slovenia. We searched online and found a highly qualified and efficient lawyer in Ljubljana. After negotiating a price and signing a contract with her, we signed a power of attorney (“pooblastilo”) for her to submit applications on our behalf.
We paid additional expenses for a researcher to find the birth/baptism certificate (krstni list) of Johann Anžur, my son’s maternal great-grandfather, born in Kresnice in 1876. The lawyer also arranged for a court translator for the English-language documents. Be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars on the entire process. Don’t underrate the importance of having your application looked after by someone who understands the Slovenian legal system. Once my son’s citizenship was approved, it was less expensive to submit my application because I was already documented as the granddaughter of one Slovene citizen and the mother of another. You can read more about my family’s story in this post.
You’ll save a bit of money if you can locate your Slovene ancestry records yourself. A good place to get help is the Slovenian Genealogy Facebook group. More details on searching for your records in a future post.
What happens after my Slovenian citizenship application is approved?
You’ll be notified by postal mail when your application is approved. In my case, it took about 8 months from the time I authorized the attorney to send in my documents. The next step is to take the oath of citizenship, which must be done in person. I was able to make an appointment at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Washington DC in combination with a business trip. Other options are the consulate in Cleveland OH and in San Francisco, where special consular hours are held once a year. My son, who was studying in Poland, made the trip to Ljubljana to take his oath.
When I arrived for my appointment, I was impressed by both the efficiency and friendliness of the consular staff. We shared a good laugh when they asked me if I could read the full-page oath in Slovene and then they offered an English translation. I recited the text in front of Slovene, EU and American flags, thinking of all my immigrant ancestors had sacrificed to make this moment possible.
According to the embassy officers, I wasn’t the first “new” citizen to get teary-eyed while signing my name to the “prisego” document. Trying to be a good Slovene, I nearly nullified the whole process by trying to write my last name as my ancestors did — with a ž instead of the Americanized z. A few months later I was issued an EMSO number, a Slovene ID that is required when applying for a Slovene passport. My Slovene passport has the Americanized spelling of my last name.
Now that I’m a citizen, do I have to live in Slovenia?
Your citizenship documents recognize that you were Slovene from the moment you were born. The rest of your life? Well, that’s up to you.
My son started the citizenship process when he was in graduate school in the EU. Becoming an EU citizen allowed him to skip the paperwork involved with a foreign student visa and to eventually settle in Europe after his studies were completed. There was the additional bonus of qualifying for reduced or almost free university tuition. A serious benefit for Americans struggling with high-cost colleges and/or student loans!
Taxes and medical care are other considerations. Consult a tax attorney about your personal situation. If you’re old enough to qualify for Medicare in the US, it doesn’t apply in Europe. Your personal health history may determine if Slovenia’s national health care is a realistic option for you.
When traveling, I use my USA passport for entering and leaving the US. I present my Slovenian passport when I enter or leave the EU, or travel across European borders. As an EU citizen you won’t be subject to the three-month limit for Americans visiting the countries in the Schengen zone as a tourist. My Texas-born husband is not a dual citizen and is still limited to 90 days at a time.
For now, I’ve decided to remain classified as a Slovene living abroad in the US, but I make a serious effort to be a good citizen of both countries. I’ve made the commitment to learn the Slovene language, although it’s a struggle. I also study up on Slovenian politics so I can cast an informed vote by mail whenever they send me a ballot. I even met the president of Slovenia! Although the citizenship process was long and frustrating at times, it was nothing compared to what my immigrant grandmother must have endured when she said goodbye to her homeland forever and boarded a ship in Antwerp. My family’s new adventure in Slovenia is just beginning.
Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for a fun way to learn about Slovenia’s 10 war for independence in 1991, check out “Tito’s Lost Children” by my son, writer Andrew Anzur Clement. It follows an adventurous band of teenagers during the real events in the breakup of Yugoslavia. Download the book on Amazon here and read on any ebook device.
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