Citizenship based on Residence (last updated December 19, 2022)
Requirement No. 1: Proof of Residence
You can qualify for Armenian citizenship if you have permanently resided in Armenia for the last 3 years (i.e. the 3 years preceding the application for citizenship). The Citizenship Law does not define the term "permanent resident." In practice, the Police accepts and processes a citizenship application if the applicant has maintained an Armenian residence permit (temporary, permanent or special) during this 3-year period, irrespective of the number of days he/she actually spent in Armenia. However, it is important to leave no gaps between the residence permits. In other words, the Police may reject your application if your status as a resident of Armenia was interrupted (e.g. your first residence permit expires on October 15th but the second permit is issued on November 1st).
Requirement No 2: Knowledge of Armenian Language and Constitution
You will need to pass a test on the knowledge of the Armenian Constitution before the citizenship application is accepted (normally this happens on the same day). It is an easy multiple-choice test with 33 questions, and you need to answer correctly to 17 of them. However, the test is in Armenian, and you will also be asked to fill out an application-questionnaire in Armenian language. Thus you may have to spend some time learning basic Armenian (probably around 20-30 lessons with a tutor) before attempting to apply for citizenship.
Step 1. Citizenship Application
You will need to submit your application in person in Armenia at the Passport and Visa Department of the Police (also known as "OVIR"). The main documents to be presented will be your passport, a legalized and translated birth certificate and your residence permit(s) showing three years of residency. The application process (including taking the test) normally takes one day. However, the documents (passport, birth certificate, etc.) have to be translated and notarized in advance, hence it is recommended to plan to stay in Armenia for 3-5 business days. The processing of the citizenship application normally takes four months (90 business days) and involves agencies such as the Police, the National Security Service and the President's Office. If the Police intends to reject the application it will forward the case to the inter-agency committee on citizenship matters under the Ministry of Justice. In this case, the process may take up to six months.
Step 2. Obtaining a Passport
After (if) your citizenship application is granted by the President you will be notified of it (typically, through a text message) and will be invited to apply for a passport and/or a national ID card. If you are a male under the age of 55 you will also have to register with the military office. For more information on military registration please check the page on citizenship (under #11. Military Registration & Service). It is possible to get the passport and the national ID card in only 1, 3, or 5 business days by paying the corresponding fast-track service fees. You will have to sign the oath of allegiance before you collect the documents. Military registration, if applicable, may take 1-3 business days and it precedes the issuance of document.
Frequently Asked Questions
#1. Can I use a translator or a digital translator app to take the test?
Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to use the services of a translator to take the test. The multiple-choice test on the knowledge of the Armenian constitution is also used to test your knowledge of Armenian. It is assumed that you know basic Armenian if 1) you can take the test on your own and 2) you can fill out the application-quetionnaire in Armenian. Thus, it will not be possible to use a translator or a digital translator app or even any notes.
#2. How can I prepare for the test? How long it will take?
There are tutors who can teach basic Armenian to English-speaking individuals either in person or remotely via online lessons. The duration of such preparation will depend on its intensity (number of lessons per week) and also the abilities of the student. On average it is likely that around 25 online lessons will be needed and, depending on the intensity of the training, they may take one to three months. Please note that the Armenian language has its own alphabet (script).
#3. Are the questions always the same and is the order of the questions the same each time? Or are they mixed up?
The 33 questions are the same. To the best of our knowledge, the questions are always in the same order.
#4. Is the test taken on the same day on which the application is filed? When will I know the results of the test?
In practice, yes, the test is administered on the same day, immediately before the the application is accepted. However, please note that the law allows the Passport Office to schedule the test within two business after the filing.
You will be told the results of the test immediately after taking it.
#5. How will I take the test? Am I required to speak Armenian?
The test is taken on paper. You will mark the correct answers with a blue ink pen.
In principle, you are not required to be able to communicate verbally in Armenian. We have a letter from the Passport Office that confirms that both elements of testing the knowledge of Armenian (i.e. the Constitution test and the appliction-questionnaire) are in writing and, therefore, the official administering the test should not expect you to converse in Armenian.
#6. How many times shall I visit the Passport Office?
Normally, one visit to the Passport Office is sufficient to take the test, fill out the application-questionnaire and file the documents. If your application is approved (3-6 months after the filing) you will probably have to visit the Passport Office a second time to complete the formalities (military registration, if applicable, oath of allegiance, collecting the passport and the ID card). This second step can also be completed at the Armenian embassy (consulate) in your country but it is advisable to check this directly with the embassy (consulate).
#7. What are the military duty obligations?
All male citizens aged 16 to 55 are required to register with the military office. Males aged 18 to 26 may be subject to mandatory two-year military service. Therefore, if you fall within this age category you may want to postpone applying for citizenship until you reach the age of 27. For more information on military registration please check the page on citizenship (under #11. Military Registration & Service).
#8. How can the family members acquire citizenship?
Your adult children (above 18) need to go through a separate naturalization process by showing a separate legal basis for the application.
The applicants will need to pass the test on the knowledge of the Armenian Constitution before the citizenship application is accepted. The test is in Armenian, however, as they are exempted from language requirements, they are allowed to take the test with the assistance of a licensed translator.
#9. When can the citizenship application be rejected and what is the process for appealing the rejection?
Please note that if you successfully take the Constitution test and your documents are accepted by the Passport Office it does not mean that your application for citizenship will be automatically approved. There are several agencies involved in the process which may oppose to the application (Police, National Security Service (NSS), President's Office and sometimes the Inter-Agency Committee on Citizenship Matters). While the final decision on granting or rejecting the application is issued by the President's Office it seems that the position of the NSS that has more weight. The NSS is not a transparent institution and they do not publicize the criteria according to which they evaluate the cases. However, it is reasonable to assume that they check the background of the applicant through various security databases and consider other circumstances such as the applicant's citizenship and ties to Armenia.
If the application for citizenship is rejected the applicant will normally be notified of this with a text message. In other words, there will be no formal letter explaining the reasons behind the rejection. That being said, the Law on Citizenship provides for only one legal ground for rejecting a citizenship application, namely, a "reasonable suspicion" that the applicant may harm the national security, public order, health or morals, or the rights, freedoms, or good reputation of others.
The applicant will have two months to appeal the rejection in court. The complaint will be formally filed against the President's Office. However, the judge of the administrative court will engage other agencies involved the process, including the NSS, to understand the reasons behind the rejection. If the NSS is unable to justify its position that the applicant poses a threat to the national security, etc. it is likely that the court will rule in favor of the applicant and will order the President's Office to grant the citizenship. That being said, it is not certain how the judge(s) in question will interpret the term "permanent residence," namely, whether that term implies that the applicant had to physically spend a certain number of days in Armenia.
LL.M. Georgetown University
New York Bar | Armenian Chamber of Advocates
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