Do you have to physically stay in Slovakia to apply for Slovak citizenship by descent? In this article, we explain the current legal situation.
By law, every applicant for citizenship by descent must be a resident of Slovakia. This condition is always checked by the authorities examining citizenship applications.
Normally, residency means physical residency. As a non-EU foreigner, you need to justify your application for residency. The law recognizes only limited grounds, most typically employment or business activities (the Slovak Living Abroad Certificate allows its holders residency without having to state any reason). If you demonstrate one of these grounds (with a lot of paperwork), Slovak authorities grant you a temporary residency. Once you have residency, you must show up and spend some time per year in Slovakia. Subsequently, you can, without a doubt, apply for citizenship by descent if you are eligible. Once the citizenship is granted (within two years), you can deregister the residency, and keep your shiny Slovak citizenship.
There is currently no special rule exempting those eligible for citizenship by descent from the above system of residence permits.
However, the law grants authorities broad discretion to exempt applicants for residency from some of the typical requirements, including physical residency, when they see fit. The question thus is whether the Slovak authorities will be willing to exercise this discretion in cases of eligible applicants for citizenship who do not plan to physically stay in Slovakia at all.
At the moment, little is known about the practice that the authorities will establish (the law is from April 2022). Despite official requests, they are so far unwilling to issue official guidelines. As a result, Slovak consulates abroad give contradictory instructions to individuals.
That being said, there are precedents in other areas giving some hope that the authorities could be flexible. Namely, the authorities are known to have exercised discretion in favour of individuals who lost Slovak citizenship and wanted to regain it. There are known cases of such applicants who succeeded in obtaining Slovak citizenship without physically staying in Slovakia. The authorities used exceptions to accommodate their special situation.
The main question is thus simple: how accommodating will the authorities be with people with Slovak heritage who qualify for citizenship by descent? Once we know the practice, we would let you know. By then, every attempt to succeed without residency is, in our view, experimental. It might work out, but there are really no guarantees.