Facilitated schemes for naturalization of the members of diasporas and international law

Author Name

Óscar A. Lema Bouza

Author Address

European University Institute [email protected]


diaspora, nationality, naturalization, facilitated naturalization, genuine link


Nationality is ‘the most pervasive legal bond between a state and an individual’. Although most persons acquire nationality at birth, naturalization is also a common way to do so. In this paper I answer the question of what limits international law imposes on naturalization, particularly on the facilitated schemes applied to diasporas.

By recognizing a person as a national, a state formally acknowledges a tie which creates rights and duties for the person and the state, as well as for states vis-à-vis other states. More and more states are enacting laws to enhance their ties with their diasporas. In such a framework, states can use nationality to affirm their normative competence, directing their laws only at nationals abroad. Therefore, nationality is often used to establish a formal link with diaspora populations, and itis a crucial aspect of diaspora policies.

Although nationality was once considered ‘the last bastion of national sovereignty’, international law now imposes some limitations and the states do not have absolute discretion. The most well-known is the requirement of a ‘genuine link’ between the national and the state. In this paper I analyze how these limitations impact the regulation of naturalization for diaspora policy. In particular, I examinethe legitimacy of schemes facilitating the acquisition of nationality by members of diasporas, particularly those whocould have lost their genuine link with the motherland long ago, such as the Sephardic Jews in Spain and Portugal. In an era of growing monetarization of passports, and possible instrumental use of nationality, this paper’s conclusions also have broader implications, as the key aspect remains the existence of a genuine link. This renders the paper relevant not only for understanding diasporas, but also for studying nationality in general, and the new interest that international law is showing in it.


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