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Strategies for Ukrainians Abroad to Mitigate Risks Under the New Mobilization Law of 2024

Neringa Bulakiene
5 June 2024

The new law on mobilization will come into force in Ukraine on May 18. It introduces two main requirements for men living abroad:

  • The obligation to update military registration data for men between the ages of 18 and 60 within 60 days of the law's entry into force
  • Obligation to carry a military ID card and provide it when receiving consular services

These regulations have raised a wave of questions and concerns. The questions primarily concern the possibility of conscription of people who are abroad and the consequences for those who do not have a military card — at all or with them. Concerns are related to the risk of losing access to consular services and, consequently, the possibility to extend or issue a residence permit or passport in the country of actual residence. Together with lawyers from Juscutum we have analyzed the most frequent and topical questions for Ukrainians living abroad.

It is important to note that from April 23 to May 18, Ukrainian consulates will not provide services to men from 18 to 60 years old. The suspension is due to the fact that the authorities are determining consular procedures to implement the norms of the new law. Please keep in mind that the information in this article is current as of the date of publication and does not take into account the details of new consular processes that may be announced later.

What information do I need to update and what are the risks?

You must update the following information: which TCC you are assigned to, your current military specialty, your residential address and contact information. If you live abroad, updating this information is not a risk to you under current law. However, if you refuse to update your information, it may result in your inability to obtain consular services, such as a new passport, and may complicate your dealings with government agencies.

Can a Ukrainian citizen who is abroad be drafted into the army?

The Law on Mobilization does provide for the possibility of conscription of Ukrainian citizens who are abroad. However, in practice there are serious procedural obstacles to this. The only legitimate way of conscription now is to send paper summonses to the place of actual residence abroad. However, in practice it is difficult to realize it. An electronic message through the "Dia" portal is not considered a legally proper way of conscription.

If I update my data, can I receive a summons abroad? And can they start a case against me if I don't respond to it?

At the moment, the TCC does not send subpoenas abroad. It is difficult to implement technically, and doesn't make much sense in practice. A subpoena is not mobilization. Having received a summons, a person must come to the TCC, undergo a commission and receive a prescription, unless objective reasons prevent him from doing so. Permanent residence abroad is just one of such reasons.

A criminal case is initiated if a person has already come by summons to the TCC, received a prescription there, and then failed to appear at the place of service. Thus, this paragraph does not apply to those who live abroad.

I have not lived in Ukraine for a long time and have never received a military ticket. Сan I be obliged to come to Ukraine to receive a ticket?

There are cases when a person has not received a military ticket during the draft age due to objective life circumstances, for example, just because he lived in another country. The law does not oblige a citizen permanently residing abroad to receive a military ticket, since this document is issued exclusively by territorial military commissariats on the territory of Ukraine. The absence of a military ticket for such individuals is not considered as an offence.

Does the new law on mobilization introduce additional rules that contradict European Convention on Nationality this convention? 

The new law at the normative level does not contradict the provisions of the Convention. At the same time, in practice, the requirements to update personal data and to have a military ID card may actually hinder the realization of the right to receive documents in accordance with the standards of the Convention. You can try to challenge the refusal to issue identification documents in court. To do this, you will have to go through all court instances in Ukraine and receive a refusal at each level. After that, you can appeal the decision of Ukrainian instances in the European Court of Human Rights.

This is a very long and labor-intensive process, and it is difficult to predict its outcome in the current situation. In case of wars or other emergencies, the states parties to the European Convention on Human Rights have the right to restrict rights and freedoms, but these restrictions must be "strictly necessary considering the urgency of the situation". Whether the ECtHR will find an existing restriction of rights strictly necessary or unnecessary cannot be predicted.

What should I do if I cannot obtain the document required for the extension/issuance of my residence permit from the consulate? 

If you have been refused a document by the consul, you are entitled to apply in writing for an official written refusal. This document can then be used as evidence of your inability to obtain the necessary documents before the migration authorities of the country of residence. With this document, you can seek to have your case considered in a special order - directly in the migration service or through the court, if the first does not meet.

Is it possible not to get a new national passport upon expiration/change of surname if you permanently reside abroad? What are the risks of not having a valid passport?

A citizen is obliged to have a valid passport while staying abroad. However, under martial law, domestic and foreign passports from the moment of martial law and 30 days after it remain valid, even if they have expired or a new photo has not been pasted in them after reaching the age of 25 or 45.

Can I have two passports at once? Does it make sense to apply for the second one right now?

A maximum of two biometric passports can be issued at the same time. The procedure for issuing a new passport does not require the mandatory submission of previous documents. Thus, at the regulatory level, the possibility of issuing two passports is quite legal. But it is impossible to issue a new passport abroad for men now.

Does a passport become invalid if it runs out of pages?

According to the new legislative norms, such a passport must be replaced. However, as we have already mentioned, it may not be possible for men to replace a passport in the current circumstances.

With a passport without loose pages, you will not be able to apply for D immigrant visas or enter another state. But if you are already abroad as a refugee or under temporary protection and there is a possibility to apply for a residence permit directly within the country, you will still have a chance to do so. In Portugal, for example, this approach is quite feasible.

What other consular services will be unavailable to people with unupdated military records or without a military ID card? Will it be possible to obtain a criminal record certificate?

Consular services, apart from issuing passports, include:

  • Performing notarial acts (issuance of powers of attorney, certification of signatures, etc.);
  • Registration of acts of civil status (marriage, divorce, etc.);
  • Issuance of certificates of criminal record and other legally important certificates

All these actions cannot be performed if the requirements of the new law on mobilization are not met.

As for the certificate of no criminal record, men from 18 to 60 years old at least until May 18 can not issue it abroad. Theoretically, the certificate can be ordered through the portal "Dia" or through another person by power of attorney in the service center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Ukraine. In practice, this possibility for men of military age may be limited.

I was getting a military ticket, but I lost it/left it in Ukraine. What should I do now?

If you permanently reside abroad and do not have a military ticket, it may be difficult to restore it. Military tickets are issued and replaced exclusively by territorial manning centers at the place of permanent residence in Ukraine. No duplicates of military tickets are issued abroad. If you find yourself in such a situation, you need to apply to the consulate with a request to send a duplicate of the military ticket, indicating the circumstances of its loss. The military authorities in Ukraine, based on the archival data, will issue a new military ticket, which will then be sent to the consulate.

It is not known whether it is possible to request such a service in Ukrainian consulates now. The only service that is definitely available before the lifting of the temporary ban is for the execution of documents required for return to Ukraine.

Would it be possible to renounce citizenship?

It is possible to renounce citizenship, but you will only be able to apply once consular services are resumed. To do so, it is likely that you will need to update your military records. Keep in mind that it is not technically possible to renounce your citizenship if you do not have permanent residence in another country. The procedure to renounce citizenship itself takes up to a year.

Is it better to update or not to update your data?

So, let's summarize once again, everything that is threatened by the inability to obtain consular services:

  • Inability to issue/extend residence permit in the host country and related migration risks;
  • Obstacles in performing notarial acts, registration of civil status acts and execution of other legally significant documents;
  • Difficulties in performing property or asset transactions in Ukraine due to lack of proper legalized documents;
  • Potential difficulties in executing powers of attorney for property management, representation of interests, etc.

If, after the lifting of the temporary ban on consular services, you are unable to provide a military ID card or update your military registration data for any reason, then consular and notary services (including the sale of apartments) will become unavailable to you. If you are denied a document necessary to fulfill the migration requirements in your country of residence (residence permit or citizenship), you have the right to ask for a written refusal and try to get the migration authority to consider your case as a special one either administratively (through the migration service itself) or judicially. You can also try to challenge the refusal to issue identification documents in the ECtHR, but as we have already explained above, this is a very long and costly process.

It is important to realize that there is no court practice on both scenarios yet. Such cases will definitely appear in the near future, but it is impossible to predict what position the court of a country where you will try to obtain a residence permit with an incomplete package of documents will take. Neither can you know in advance what position the ECHR will take. This means that if you do not yet have legal status in the country where you currently live, you need to get a residence permit as soon as possible. This also applies to those who are in Europe on the basis of temporary protection status. It is not known how long this status will be renewed for, and you should not rely on it in the long term.

If you are considering renouncing your citizenship in the future, consider your options for obtaining a second passport in advance. Lack of citizenship puts you in a disadvantageous legal situation. If you want to obtain a second citizenship as soon as possible, you can apply for a passport from a country whose roots you have and which grants citizenship by national origin. This option is only suitable for those who actually have such roots. Do not seek the services of companies that promise to "find" proof of your national origin in any country. As a rule, these are fraudulent schemes and the use of forged documents. Yes, this way you can really get a passport, but the consequences can be very serious.

The second quick option is to consider citizenship-for-investment programs of Caribbean countries or Vanuatu. In any case, it is wise to update your data, immediately request the necessary documents from the consulate and deal with the issue of obtaining a second passport or residence permit.

What to do now?

It is unclear how long the temporary ban on providing services to men at consulates will last. The options for the development of events may be different. In an ideal scenario, the ban will be lifted on May 18 and then it will become clear how exactly consulates will check that you have complied with the requirements of the new law, for example, updated your military registration data. But it can also be that the decision will be delayed, in fact blocking men abroad all opportunities to receive consular services with the exception of processing documents to return home.

If you have an expired passport, it makes sense for you to apply for an official refusal to issue the document to the consulate so that you have a justification for your lack of an identification document in hand.

As soon as consulates start to fulfill requests from men, we recommend that you do the following (you will need to update your military credentials and have your military ID card with you):

  • Obtain all possible legally relevant documents and certificates that may be required in the future (on criminal record, civil status, etc.);
  • If possible, issue notarized powers of attorney for representation of interests, management of property in Ukraine, if you have not already done so;
  • If necessary — start the procedure of registration of a second passport to have a backup;
  • If necessary — apply through the consulate to the military commissariat in Ukraine to solve the issue of issuance/reinstatement of a military card;
  • Carefully keep all available identity documents that help to prove its identity (driver's license, military ticket).

We will update the material as soon as new information for Ukrainian citizens living abroad becomes available. Meanwhile, we suggest you read one of our related articles to get a deeper understanding of this tricky landscape and how Migronis professionals can help you navigate it. Check our article "The best ways to obtain a passport and residence permit in 2024 – a guide for Ukrainians," to have a secured plan B.

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