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"I didn't know I was a dual citizen": Adoptive families in Finland stumped by citizenship letters

Adoptive families in Finland say they are mystified by letters from Local Register Offices informing them of dual citizenship.

Amanda Öst, adopted to Finland from India at the age of three, said she didn't know Finland also considered her an Indian national until the Local Register Office sent her a letter at the age of 22 informing her she had retained her Finnish citizenship as a dual citizen. Image: Jarkko Heikkinen / Yle

Adoptive families in Finland say they are struggling to understand why Local Register Offices are sending notifications of Finnish citizenship to 22-year-olds who were adopted to the country as children. The letters generally outline that an adoptee has retained their Finnish citizenship while also possessing the nationality of their birth country.

Every year the Population Register Centre identifies dual Finnish citizens turning 22 years old. It then sends a list over to the Local Register Office in Northern Finland which is charged with examining whether an individual can prove ties to Finland as outlined by the Nationality Act.

"I didn't know I had Indian citizenship"

When Amanda Öst turned 22 she was shocked to receive a letter from the Local Register Office stating that she had retained her Finnish citizenship because officials could prove she had strong ties to Finland.

Öst was adopted from India at the age of three and has lived in the western town of Pietarsaari ever since. She told Yle she assumed she became a Finnish citizen at the time of her adoption and was not aware that Finnish authorities believed her to be an Indian citizen until the letter arrived. To this day, she is not entirely sure whether or not she actually is an Indian national, as Interpedia, the agency which managed her adoption, could not provide any clarity on the matter.

More questions than answers

The Finnish Association of Adoptive Families told Yle they decided to carry out a survey on adoptees' purported dual citizenship after receiving numerous inquiries from confused families.

The questionnaire drew 140 responses. Mostly, families could not fathom that Finland automatically identified adopted children as nationals of their birth country. Families were also interested in understanding the rights and obligations associated with a second citizenship.

Working together with a number of other actors in the field of international adoption, the Finnish Association of Adoptive Families is now seeking funding to pull together an informational package on citizenship issues.

"We need to figure out what birth country citizenship means in terms of travelling to that country, buying property, or for military conscription," explained Anu Uhtio from the Finnish Association of Adoptive Families. "Finding the right official to talk to can be difficult, especially if Finland no longer has an adoption agreement with that country."

The Finnish Association of Adoptive Families said that so far they were not aware of any adoptees in Finland losing their Finnish citizenship at the age of 22.